Environment

Is Canada's Migratory Bird Population Decreasing?

Human activities have heavily influenced the migratory bird population in the country with the populations of some birds falling below bounds.

Canada's Migratory Birds

The migratory bird populations in Canada have experienced dramatic changes over the years. Human activities have served as the primary force driving such changes. In most cases, the changes have not been in favor of the birds and migratory bird populations have exhibited a sharp drop in numbers.

Of the 368 migratory species recorded in Canada, 208 species, representing 57% of the total, have population sizes that are not a cause for immediate alarm. However, the proportion of these species with acceptable population size varies between the distinct ecological groups. From the data below, we can clearly see that populations of species belonging to the waterfowl and forest bird categories are more stable than those of the grassland birds and aerial insectivores. Both these classes have a lower proportion of species within the acceptance limits of population size.

Why Saving These Birds Is Important?

Migratory birds in Canada have some very important roles to play. The birds attract a large number of tourists to Canada. Bird watching is a popular activity for bird lovers residing in Canada or visiting the country. Millions of Canadians welcome birds into their backyards and feed them. Birds help to control insect and rodent populations in the country. One of the vital functions of nature, the pollination, and dispersal of plants and their seeds, respectively, is facilitated by these birds. Thus, the birds play an important role in maintaining the ecological balance.

Factors Threatening The Migratory Bird Population Of Canada

Migratory birds traveling for hundreds of kilometers in search of food and shelter are often subjected to many risks. Some of these include:

Habitat Loss: The habitat of the migratory birds is shrinking steadily. Clearance of forests for agriculture and animal grazing, logging activities, beach tourism, shrimp aquaculture practices, etc., are all factors promoting the loss of migratory bird habitat.

Hunting and capture of birds: Pleasure hunting of birds often goes unregulated and birds are also trapped to be traded in the illegal pet industry. Both factors are causing a decline in migratory bird populations.

Pollution: The quality of air, water and terrestrial habitat available to the birds is incredibly vital to their survival. Toxic pesticides, industrial chemicals, etc., are polluting the natural resources on which these birds depend.

Incidental take: Birds also die while migrating due to collisions with wind mills, power-lines, towers, and windows of tall buildings. Cats also kill a large number of birds.

Climate change: Climate change can have the worst effect on migratory bird populations. Changing weather patterns will change the food availability. Thus, migratory patterns will be unable to match the changes in food availability and this will make the birds suffer. Stronger storms and sea-level alterations will also threaten bird populations.

Conservation Of Birds In Canada

A variety of measures needs to be adopted to conserve the migratory bird population of Canada. By the late 19th century, indiscriminate hunting of many bird species in Canada nearly drove them to extinction. Alarmed at the sudden loss, government authorities and sections of the public understood that the birds needed to be protected. This led to the signing of the Migratory Birds Convention by the US and Canada in 1916. Since then, the populations of many species have recovered dramatically.

Is Canada's Migratory Bird Population Decreasing?

RankEcological groupBelow Bounds (number of species/populations)Above Bounds (number of species/populations)Within Bounds (number of species/populations)Insufficient Data (number of species/populations)
1All MBCA species151920853
2Forest birds360612
3Waterfowl1093910
4Other waterbirds1904118
5Shorebirds310145
6Grassland birds18040
7Aerial insectivores21081

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