Bird Protection Quebec celebrates 100 years
Bird Protection Quebec celebrates its 100th birthday this year. Noted ornithologist Steven Price of Bird Studies Canada was a keynote speaker at a January 9 conference given in NDG. About 100 turned out to hear Price give a slide show about the surprising history of migratory bird conservation. He also showed how new technology is helping us to track the precise migration paths of birds, bats and other creatures.
Only one person in the room guessed who the two gentlemen were in an old black-and-white photo just prior to the signing of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. The guy in the top hat was US president Woodrow Wilson standing together with King George V (representing Canada). That treaty ushered in a new era of multinational wildlife conservation efforts.
“This was in the middle of the First World War,” Price reminded listeners. “It was a messy time, but these world leaders found it important to sign this treaty.” Passenger pigeons—once so numerous they darkened the skies during migration—had just gone extinct, Carolina parakeets and Labrador ducks were on the way out, and Snowy egrets were being decimated by commercial hunting. Canada and the USA had to cooperate to preserve their wild bird populations. Perhaps surprisingly, sports hunters were invaluable allies in ending commercial hunts and protecting vital bird habitat.
Changes in bird populations over the past forty years have seen an overall decline of about 10 percent, but while birds of prey and waterfowl have increased in numbers, migratory birds and insect eaters have seen precipitous declines. Some 40 percent of bird species in North America are now on the “watch” list, especially those that overwinter in the tropics.
New technology has microchips replacing the banding of birds. The Motus coordinated hemispheric tracking system for all migratory bird species uses tracking chips so lightweight that even butterfly and dragonfly migrations can be tracked. Much of what we know about migratory birds also comes from what Price calls “citizen science” with ordinary birdwatchers contributing their observations to those of scientists.
As we learn more about migratory birds, they continue to astound experts. Price noted that migratory birds can move very fast: “We used to think that their migrations took weeks, but it often only takes a few days,” alluding to Red Knots (a sandpiper) flying from northern Quebec to Delaware at speeds averaging 32km/hr. This knowledge also helps identify areas crucial to bird nesting and migrations; commercial development projects can then be pushed into less sensitive areas.
Bird Protection Quebec has activities running throughout 2017 including a Great Backyard Bird Count in February, Sugaring off in April, a field trip to the bird sanctuary in Philipsburg (on Vermont border) in May with another field trip in June to Piedmont (an hour north of Montreal), September sees a picnic at Parc des Rapides in LaSalle while there is an anniversary dinner in November. Bird watching is among the most popular outdoor activities in Canada.
Bird Protection Quebec: http://pqspb.org/bpqpoq
Main phtoto caption: Steven Price of Bird Studies Canada speaking to Bird Protection Quebec at Kensington Presbyterian Church on Jan. 9. Photo ©John Symon
By: John Symon – mtltimes.ca