Is our COVID-19 seclusion good for the birds?

Published: April 3, 2020

Photo by Mircea Costina/Shutterstock

Not everyone is sorry to see us confined to our homes. Just ask the birds singing in the trees outside your window, no longer compelled to communicate over the sounds of urban hustle and bustle.

And the baby boom that some are predicting nine months from now in humans might happen a bit sooner in wildlife, given that so much of our human intrusion is significantly reduced, giving animals the greenlight to breed like, well, rabbits.

Nicola Koper, University of Manitoba professor of conservation biology and a cottager on Manitoba’s Bird Lake, is anticipating an increase in wildlife sightings and a decrease in wildlife mortality, particularly traffic-related mortality. “We’re probably going to see less traffic-related mortality of humans too.”

She urges those of us stuck in our homes to pay attention to what’s outside our windows.

With less human-caused noise, birds don’t have to adjust their song in order to be heard by other birds, says Koper. “That’s good for them because singing louder takes more energy, and if they don’t have to repeat themselves, that saves energy as well.”

And with spring about to…spring, it’s a great time to take note of newcomers to the neighbourhood. Lots of birds are making their way back to Canada right now, including species of ducks, geese and raptors, and that will continue to shift as migration season carries on into May.

Those who want to put themselves, or their kids, to work, can participate in some citizen science by taking note of what species are showing up. “Because we have so much less traffic and less human activity, we might see really different bird communities in urban centres than in other years,” says Koper. “That data can help answer questions about what are the impacts of travel restrictions and this global lockdown on wildlife communities.” Koper recommends a few apps or websites, including Cornell University’s All About Birds, iNaturalist, and eBird.

And when we get the green light to return to our cottages, Koper advises all of us to take a good look around to ensure that we’re not harming anything that has made nests among our tools or equipment, or within our long grass.

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