With Spring Migration Monitoring complete, the LSLBO has begun our MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship) program. MAPS is a continent-wide program studying bird populations in order to conserve them and their habitats. By banding during the breeding season, population features such as productivity (young fledged) and survival (adults returning to breed) can be estimated. By knowing what stage of the life cycle is limiting a population, conservation efforts can focus resources where they are needed, such as increasing breeding success.
Pictured: American Robin eggs. Picture taken in South-west Slave Lake, May 17, 2019.
Over the past month birds have been establishing territories, making nests, and laying their eggs. Ducklings and goslings are a common sight on ponds and wetlands locally and some songbirds, such as American Robins, have already fledged their first set of young and are getting ready to lay more eggs.
Birds and their nests are protected federally by the Migratory Birds Act and provincially by the Wildlife Act. These acts make it illegal to disturb or destroy a bird’s nest. If you are doing any landscaping, it is important that you do your due diligence and thoroughly check the area for nests before you do any clearing. Remember all levels of the forest are useful for birds. If you find an active nest, wait until the birds have finished their breeding activities.
Pictured: American Robin nestlings from same nest in Slave Lake, June 2, 2019.
The nearest wildlife rehabilitation centre is WildNorth in Edmonton. They are already receiving many birds from nests that were accidentally destroyed and this stretches their resources thin. Nestlings need to be fed all day and it is difficult to match the diet the parents feed the young. Improper care and diet for even a day during this important developmental period can have life-long consequences.
Well-meaning people unintentionally kidnapping young animals also drain resources with some rehabilitation centres reporting that up to 80% of the baby birds they receive have essentially been kidnapped. These are often birds that are out of the nest, but not yet ready to fully support themselves or to fly. By leaving the nest (fledging), birds get more room to move and grow and they are safer from predation. Parents still keep a careful eye on their babies once they have left the nest and will continue to feed and care for them for days or even weeks.
Pictured: American Robin fledgling in south-west Slave Lake, summer 2018. Photo credits: Gordon Perkins.
People often come across these young birds and assume the bird must be injured or abandoned by its parents. This is not true. The parents are often nearby waiting for you to leave so they can safely feed their baby. If you find a young bird that cannot fly yet, often the best way to help it is to leave it alone. Always check with a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, such as WildNorth, before you attempt to help wildlife.
Although most baby birds you may find this time of year do not need direct intervention, there is still an easy way you can help them: keep your pets inside. Cats specifically kill between 100 to 350 million birds in Canada every year with many of these kills during the summer. When you prevent your pets from harming wildlife, you are helping to conserve them.