Dark-eyed juncos are familiar winter visitors at most bird feeders in the Pacific Northwest. (Black Press Media file)

Despite reports of decline, birds flocking to national parks in Canadian Rockies

Recent studies suggest overall bird population has slid by three billion since 1970

It turns out tourists aren’t the only ones who love the national parks in the Canadian Rockies.

Despite recent studies showing bird populations are declining in many areas of North America, scientists with Parks Canada have found that most songbirds are doing well in Banff, Jasper, Waterton Lakes, Yoho and Kootenay national parks.

“Our populations are stable to increasing,” Jesse Whittington, a wildlife ecologist with Banff National Park said in an interview.

Whittington was a lead author on a paper published in November in the journal Ecosphere that looked at broad trends in bird populations in the five mountain parks in Alberta and B.C.

“Our study had three main objectives: We wanted to know how our bird populations are changing over time and how has climate change affected our bird populations, then how can we make our bird monitoring more efficient.”

Whittington said scientists have been monitoring bird populations in the five mountain parks since 2007. Equipped with audio recorders, they hike into specific sites every spring when birds are most vocal.

“We analyzed bird trends for 64 species from 544 sites,” he said. “We detected over 34,000 bird songs.

“Over that time, we found that 91 per cent of the bird species (were stable or) increased their range over 10 years. That was really good to see.”

Two other recent studies have found numbers for most bird species are dramatically dropping. One report concluded overall numbers have declined by three billion since 1970 — about a 30-per-cent drop.

Whittington said their study looked at whether specific birds — such as dark-eyed juncos, white-crowned sparrows and yellow-rumped warblers — were present or absent at each site.

“It’s pretty hard to estimate the actual number of birds we have in Banff National Park, so we looked at whether their range was increasing or decreasing over time,” he said. “Range contraction and expansion is correlated with increases and decreases in population size.”

Whittington said the study also looked at what role climate plays in the trends.

“All birds have what’s called a climatic niche, so they have this temperature range that they do best (in).”

READ MORE: Climate change threatens extinction for most birds, especially in Canada, report says

The Parks Canada scientists discovered that most birds expanded their range during warmer and drier springs.

Whittington said some might think that means climate change is good for bird populations, but he suggested it’s likely related to the location.

“Certainly in the mountain parks, it’s a pretty rugged environment. It’s cold and relatively inhospitable.”

Whittington said it would be interesting to compare their results to other locations outside the protected areas. To that end, they are making their research available to other scientists.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

BirdwatchingNatureWildlife

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

52,000 reasons to walk in the cold

Nelson CARES raises over $52,000 at Coldest Night fundraiser

Supreme Court of Canada will hear Sinixt appeal May 12

B.C. has appealed Indigenous hunting case through several levels of court starting in Nelson in 2016

COLUMN: Fighting for the right to read whatever you want

A column on the first children’s book to deal with LGBTQ matters

Shuttle service at Trail hospital will remain for now

“ … shuttle service will remain in place while work on the new drop-off area … continues.”

VIDEO: Feds warned agricultural sector near ‘tipping point’ due to blockades

Canadian Federation of Agriculture points to lack of propane and feed due to Coastal GasLink dispute

B.C. terminates contract with hospice society refusing assisted death

Delta Hospice Society loses hospital service fund of $1.5 million

UPDATE: 14 arrested at blocked rail line in northern B.C., police say

But a Gitxsan hereditary chief says 14 were arrested, as fight over natural gas pipeline continues

Hospital parking fees needed, but changes to payment system possible, health minister says

B.C. health minister Adrian Dix says hospital parking doesn’t need to be so stressful

Protecting privacy key to stopping spread of COVID-19, B.C. health officials say

The number of coronavirus cases in B.C. remains at seven

IHOP to host seventh annual National Pancake Day

IHOP will be offering free short-stack pancakes in support of BC Children’s Hospital on Tuesday

Do you talk to your spouse about money? 42% of Canadians don’t, poll suggests

Politics, sex, religion top list of taboo subjects for Canadians

Okanagan animal sanctuary seeks to fit frostbitten baby goat with prosthetic leg

Fundraiser started to help Zuri, newest resident of Twin Hearts Animal Sanctuary

Most Read