🐦 Wild Bird Watchers Bulletin: September Edition

It sure didn’t take long for September to get here and with that comes the Fall migration. Billions of birds leave their northern breeding sites and head to their wintering grounds. Some birds like American goldfinches go to the U.S and Mexico but other birds that are Neotropic species head all the way to Central and South America. These include the Baltimore orioles, Ruby-throated hummingbirds, Rose-breasted grosbeaks, Indigo buntings and many varieties of warblers and thrushes. Songbird migration is one of natures most fascinating mysteries. Why do these birds instinctively fly so far and through such hardships to nest in Northern Canada? The banding of birds along with micro-transmitters have allowed scientists to discover many incredible facts about migration including that some species literally return to the same tree each spring.

Here are some amazing migration facts:

At least 4000 species of birds are regular migrants which equals about 40% of the total numbers of birds in the world.

The tiny Ruby-throated hummingbird flies up to 6,000 km one way for their migration. Part of this includes an incredible effort to cross the Gulf of Mexico which is nearly 1,000 km itself! They fly at a speed of about 48 km per hour.

Blackpoll warblers weigh just 12 grams and make an incredible journey. They fly all the way to the east coast first before continuing south which adds thousands of miles to their flight.They then fly continuously over the Atlantic Ocean for 3 days straight before they land in Colombia or Venezuela.

Songbirds fly at an altitude of 500-2,000 ft compared to geese and vultures that fly anywhere from 29,000 to 37,000 feet high!

Birds instinctively know how to get to their destinations by following the stars, the sun, and using the earths magnetism. Songbirds mostly fly during the night and rest and eat during the day.

Many of the smallest songbirds fly a total distance of 25,000 km one way during migration. They average a flight speed of 48 km. At this speed it takes them about 533 hours to reach their final destination. They fly an average of 8 hours per day which means their flight time is about 66 days!

FALL FEEDING TIP: Wild birds eat a lot at this time of year. Whether they migrate or stay here for winter, birds will add 50% of their body weight to prepare. High calorie foods to offer include black oil sunflower, shelled sunflower, insect suet, and nuts. A great way to offer nuts is with seed logs and cakes. These are compressed blocks of seeds, nuts, and even mealworms that attract many species of birds like chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, jays and even unusual visitors during the fall migration like warblers. Many ground-feeding birds will soon arrive like Dark-eyed juncos and varieties of sparrows like White-throated, Harris, and Fox sparrows. Offering white or hulled millet is a real treat for any of these species and is a great boost of energy for them as they move on.

Cup of Destruction or Conservation?

Have you ever thought of how your coffee consumption can be contributing to the decline of many species of migratory songbirds? Canadians place number 12 on the scale of coffee consumption per capita. In 2010, a survey showed that 65% of Canadian adults drank coffee daily at about 2.8 cups per day. Quebec drinks the most at 71% with the Prairies in 2nd place at 64%.

The combined amount of land dedicated to coffee plantations is 25 million acres and is grown primarily in Africa and South America. Coffee trees are small and grow under the canopy of other trees that provide a great amount of habitat for birds, butterflies, and bats. Many of the migratory birds that spend their summers here in Manitoba, make coffee plantations their winter homes. Some of these species include American Redstarts, Baltimore Orioles, Swainson’s Thrush, and the Chestnut-sided Warbler just to name a few.

Traditionally, coffee is a shade grown tree but the demand for cheaper coffee has literally caused thousands and thousands of acres of forest to be destroyed. New varieties of coffee known as ‘sun coffee’ and ‘technified coffee’ have been created so the coffee can be grown without shade and of course produce a higher yield. In Latin America, seven million acres of natural, shade grown coffee has been reduced to just a few million as the sun coffee plantations take over. Once the natural way of growing is altered, the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides begins. The deforestation also causes soil erosion and the depletion of nutrients damaging the whole ecosystem.

Many coffee plantations are small family-owned operations where the habitat is unaltered and the populations of birds and other wildlife is plentiful. The trees provide food and habitat and this benefits the farmers as the birds are their natural insect controllers. Supporting these types of plantations is extremely important to help what’s left of natural coffee farms rather than corporate destruction zones.

The Preferred Perch is proud to be a long-time supporter of Shade-grown, bird-friendly coffee. Our coffee comes from these small plantations that are family owned and the natural way of growing coffee has been preserved. The coffee varieties are third party, triple certified meaning they are, bird-friendly, certified organic, and truly Fair Trade.

You may spend an additional $100 per year based on 2 cups a day to support triple certified coffee but you are contributing to protecting important natural habitat and ensuring many of these threatened or endangered species and spaces thrive. Making this premium coffee part of your morning routine will bring a smile to your face knowing you are supporting such an important conservation effort while you enjoy one of the finest cups of coffee available.

See our great selection of coffee including everything from mild to dark, espresso and even decaf available in whole beans and ground.

Who’s That Bird?

We have had many people coming in for help to identify a bird that has been rather prolific these past couple of weeks, the Pine Siskin. These little finches are not as colourful as other finches and really look more like a tiny sparrow to beginner birders. They are brown and have very streaky plumage with yellow edging on the wings and tail. Pine siskins get their name from their great appetite for the seeds from pine trees, spruce, cedar, and hemlock.They are always on the hunt for seeds and can also be found eating them on deciduous trees like alder, birch, and maple but they also seek out seeds from weeds like dandelions, ragweed, and thistle. Pine siskins are very unpredictable in their presence at birdfeeders. They are found throughout southern Manitoba most of the year but are always following the natural food sources. In winter, they can be found in massive flocks and when they descend to birdfeeders it can be quite a sight. Some winters they are barely seen and in others they can be an irruptive species where numbers are high. It appears this will be that kind of season based on numbers already. These little birds enjoy Nyjer seed in finch feeders along with black oil sunflower and shelled sunflowers. Like most songbirds, Pine siskins are on decline. It is estimated their entire population has declined by 80% since 1970 and they are considered a ‘Common Bird in Steep Decline’ according to the Continental Concern Score which is put out by Partners in Flight, an avian conservation database. Keeping feeders clean should always be part of your routine but especially if you experience an irruption of birds like what can happen with Pine siskins. Having feeders that are easy to clean make all the difference in keeping it easy to do. To clean your birdfeeders using a mix of dishsoap and vinegar is a good combo to clean and disinfect feeders. Watch for these tiny birds at your feeder this month and happy birding!

Arctic Terns are a small bird measuring 13-14 inches in length, weigh 3-5 ounces, and make the longest migration of any animal in the world. They fly approximately 90,000 km from northern Arctic areas to the Antarctic where they spend their winters. This journey takes about 2 months to complete and they migrate in large groups called colonies. Arctic Tern colonies fall completely silent before migration is about to begin, a behaviour called ‘dread’. After a period of time of practicing dread, the entire colony lifts off and leaves all at once.