Queens County research group looking for rare birds

Brittany W. Verge brittany.verge@theadvance.ca
Published on July 16, 2014

The Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute (MTRI),  wants members of the public to keep their eyes and ears out for some rare birds in Nova Scotia.

The birds the institute is looking for are six kinds of land birds considered “species at risk.”  Those birds include the Canada warbler, rusty blackbird, olive-sided flycatcher, eastern wood-pewee, common nighthawk and the chimney swift.

MTRI is looking into these particular birds because of a worry of extinction.

“We’re studying these birds in particular because they’re heading down the path of extirpation or extinction,” says Laura Achenbach, Landbirds at Risk Project co-ordinator for the institute. 

Extirpation means the species may eventually not be found in Nova Scotia, but there may be populations elsewhere.

Several of the birds researchers are looking for are not considered endangered in Canada, but are an endangered species in Nova Scotia.

“The eastern wood-pewee is classed as 'vulnerable' according to the Nova Scotia Endangered Species Act, but the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) doesn’t list them at all,” says Achenbach. “SARA classes the rest of our study species as 'threatened' or 'special concern,' but, in Nova Scotia, the Canada warbler, rusty blackbird, and chimney swift are endangered.”

Achenbach says the birds have not coped as well with changes to their habitats as other birds in Nova Scotia have.

“A lot of their decline has to do with habitat loss – clear-cutting, urbanization, agriculture, so if we fully understand the habitats they need, and where they are, we can think about protecting or at least monitoring those areas,” says Achenbach.

MTRI is looking for as specific a location as possible when reporting a sighting of one of these birds.  A GPS coordinate is ideal but knowing the area on Google Earth or providing a civic address is fine too.  A general time and date is also helpful.

“We’d also like a brief habitat description, such as if there’s a fresh water nearby,” says Achenbach. 

Achenbach says the institute has been reaching out over social media, providing workshops to the public, and publishing brochures to create awareness around this project.

“(The birds) are special, just like every other species we share the planet with, but they’re having a little bit more trouble dealing with the effects of their human neighbours than some other species,” says Achenbach. 

The birds also have an impact on humans.

“Four of our species eat flying insects like mosquitoes,” says Achenbach. “Wouldn’t everyone in Queens be much happier with more of these birds around so they can sit outside without being eaten alive?”

Achenbach says the website allaboutbirds.org is useful for finding information about the species.

To report a sighting, email landbirdSAR@merseytobeatic.ca