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

Slightly cooler weather in Kelowna over long weekend

Chance of flurries on Saturday after bright and sunny week

4 inmates at Okanagan Correctional Centre granted early release due to COVID-19

The move, which impacts offenders serving intermittent sentences, is to prevent spread of virus

Canadian police to make home visits to enforce mandatory quarantine for travellers

Police forces have been asked to help verify Canadians are complying with the Quarantine Act

COVID-19: No more international flights at Kelowna International Airport

All international flights at YLW have been suspended, airport to operate just nine flights a day

Reality TV show about bodybuilders still filming in West Kelowna amid COVID-19

Five bodybuilders from across the country flew to Kelowna to move into a house for a reality TV show

WATCH: Wine bottle turret turns heads in Kelowna neighbourhood

The turret has been in the area since 1993

UPDATE: Coronavirus concerns prompt event cancellations across the Okanagan

This is a running list of events cancelled across the Okanagan

Princeton woman sits out pandemic in ‘cheese heaven’

‘We are surrounded here by fruit orchards and the blossom are starting.’

Okanagan drive-in movie theatre plans to open amid COVID-19

Enderby theatre making a number of operational changes to further enable social distancing

Hitchcock classic a parable for our times

‘You fools, stop thinking of yourselves, think of the boat’

COVID-19 world update: U.S. to start antibody tests; drones enforce lockdown in Italy

Comprehensive update of coronavirus news from around the world

Lower Mainland hunting store sees 200% increase in firearm sales

Co-owner of Wanstalls says increase due to a variety of reasons

People needing addiction services feeling ‘abandoned’ during pandemic

The province is trying to increase access to addiction care through a phone line of experts, doctors

Most Read