3 May 2010 – The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) has recommended that Bobolink be added to Canada’s list of species at risk. Last assessed by COSEWIC 10 years ago, it was also recommended that the status of Lewis’s Woodpecker be upgraded from Special Concern to Threatened, owing to population declines stemming from ongoing loss and degradation of its forest habitat. Two species (Whooping Crane and Acadian Flycatcher) were reconfirmed as Endangered, while Sprague’s Pipit was reconfirmed as Threatened, and Flammulated Owl was reconfirmed as Special Concern.
Over 25% of the Bobolink’s breeding range is in Canada. It met COSEWIC’s criteria for Threatened status owing to significant population declines (88% since 1968) that are due to habitat loss and degradation, high levels of nest failure resulting from increasingly intensive agricultural operations, and threats faced on its wintering grounds in South America. A familiar species across eastern North America, the Bobolink joins a lengthy and growing list of other birds, plants, insects, and other wildlife that are designated as at risk and that depend on grassland habitats.
Jon McCracken, BSC’s Director of National Programs, co-chairs COSEWIC’s Birds Specialist Subcommittee. “The addition of a hitherto common species like the Bobolink is particularly worrisome, but perhaps should come as no great surprise. As with nearly every other grassland species in North America, the declines are widespread and severe.”
Select this link to read COSEWIC’s press release. More detailed information about all the species assessed at the COSEWIC meeting, including plants, insects, mollusks, amphibians, fishes, birds, and mammals, can be found on the COSEWIC website.
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Vaux’s Swift Watch – Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program
Spring is the prime season for migratory birds and just before nightfall small acrobatic birds may be plummeting into a brick chimney near you. If you witness such a sight the Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP) wants to hear about it. FWCP’s Vaux’s (pronounced “voxes”) watch program is gearing up for the arrival of swifts in May.
In spring the Vaux’s swift makes its northward migration using communal roosting sites en route. However biologists have little knowledge of these sites and without that knowledge there is little chance to protect critical habitat. What is known is that brick chimneys – residential and commercial – are favoured resting stops as the swifts refuel and head from the southern United States and Mexico.
“We have very few reports of chimneys being used by Vaux’s swifts in the Basin even though swifts are seen in this region,” says FWCP senior wildlife biologist John Krebs. “In fact we are aware of only two active roosting sites; at St Eugene Mission near Cranbrook, and at Nelson’s Evangelical Covenant Church. There must be other locations out there and it is really important that we find them.”
The Vaux’s swift is North America’s smallest swift and is relatively easy to identify. At dusk they gather in the darkening skies, wheeling around for 20 or 30 minutes before swooping dramatically into a brick chimney or hollow tree trunk.
“They are quite a sight because communal roosting sites can accommodate from several tens of birds, to many thousands,” says FWCP public representative Gerry Thompson. In 2008 Thompson made nearly 30 massive Vaux’s swift nest boxes that have been distributed in various parts of the Basin.
The southern portion of the Columbia Basin provides important habitat for Vaux’s swifts as many breed in the forests of the Interior Cedar Hemlock zone. More than half of their global breeding sites occur in B.C. In addition to roosting in larger chimneys, Vaux’s swifts also nest in smaller chimneys from June to August. Very few nest sites have been documented for this species but they are likely to occur in brick chimneys. Towns with older houses and historic buildings are most likely to support nesting birds.
Historically the breeding and roosting sites consisted of hollow trees often found in old growth forests. With the creation of regional reservoirs and changes in forestry practices, however, such habitat has become more limited. In fact most recorded breeding and roosting sites are now in man-made brick chimneys; as more brick chimneys are converted to steel or aluminum, even this manmade habitat is in decline.
The FWCP, which works on behalf of its program partners BC Hydro, the B.C. Ministry of Environment, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada to conserve and enhance fish and wildlife impacted by the construction of BC Hydro dams, is requesting reports of Vaux’s swift roosting and nesting sites.
(note from Irene “There should also be Black Swifts in your area but they are much bigger with longer tails. Easy to ID if you see them together .. otherwise takes a bit of figuring but the short tail is definitely Vaux’s. Do you have any old buildings with large brick chimneys in your area? Check them out at dusk if you want to find a roost site.”)
Please in-put any data you wish to provide on bird sightings. We are compiling a bird list for this area for other birders to use.
I also provide data on birds that are nesting in this area to the BC “Breeding Bird Atlas”. Visit http://www.birdatlas.bc.ca/ for more information on this project. If you send the information on nesting birds to me I can file it with them, or consider joining the effort and you can send the data directly to the Atlas.
There are three websites that I have found useful for bird identification. The Weaselhead Society in Calgary runs a beautiful website at http://blog.talkaboutwildlife.ca/ . Bird songs are available on their website as well as picture and descriptions. The website http://www.whatbird.com/ has a search engine in it that accepts input on bird descriptions and gives you back possible bird identifications. This is unique in my experience. For practicing bird identification through song, visit http://www.natureinstruct.org/dendroica/ This site is free and is worth the trouble of the sign in procedure. There are multiple pictures and bird songs for each species and the songs can be presented without the pictures for practice.
I have provided links to each site on Chirp as well as above.
We welcome all questions about birds.