Migratory birds with wings


With the return of warmer weather, Quebec is also becoming the scene of a seasonal migration of several dozen species of birds, some of which display their most beautiful colors in preparation for reproduction. This period is always eagerly awaited by ornithologists, because of the diversity of winged fauna that can be observed in different regions of the province.

Former director of the Tadoussac Bird Observatory, Pascal Côté is passionate about analyzing weather radar images “for fun” in order to determine the pivotal moments of spring migration. It mainly uses American radars, which present more complete data than those of Canadian radars, whose images are filtered to show only precipitation.

This is how he was able to see a large “volume of birds” on the move in the American states bordering the southern border of Quebec on Thursday evening, he wrote on his Facebook page “Follow the migration by weather radar”.

“The radars make it possible to determine which are the best nights for bird migration”, he explains to the To have to. Concretely, this technological tool provides crucial information, such as the direction and strength of the winds. This makes it possible to determine the favorable times for migrations for the different species, from small passerines to large raptors.

“Birds wait for favorable winds to migrate north, whether they are short or long distance migrants. This allows them to reduce the effort, and therefore the energy demand, to make their migration. It’s demanding to migrate, so if they can choose favorable days, with a surge of winds from the south, we really see a wave of migration, ”explains Mr. Côté. And the birds most often opt for night flights, which allows some to protect themselves from their predators, while others use the starry skies for orientation. These strategies have not, however, prevented a marked decline in the number of birds in North America in recent decades, due to human activity.

Dozens of species

At the end of April, after a night conducive to the movements of this winged fauna, an experienced ornithologist was able to identify several dozen species of birds in Mount Royal Park in Montreal the next day. “Sometimes you can easily see 70 to 75 species in one area. It’s really interesting. Recently, several dozen golden eagles, the most imposing bird of prey in Quebec, were also observed in an area near the town of Huntingdon.

If you open your eyes these days, especially in the Montreal region, you can see several species that are only passing through the region, underlines Pascal Côté. “There are at least twenty species of warblers that are on their way to the boreal forest, and therefore will nest further north. There is currently a diversity of species that we will not find in the Montreal area the rest of the year. Even those that nest in the area are more visible, because the foliage of the trees is not yet at its maximum. »

We can also hear more species of sparrows, the northern cardinal, whose male has bright red plumage, but also the house finch or the very common house sparrow. These birds are indeed in the breeding season, hence their vocal hyperactivity in the spring. “When you hear singing every morning, you know that the breeding birds are back,” confirms Pascal Côté.

And spring too.

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