Bird Habitat Module

About
Since the 1970’s, bird communities of the St. Lawrence Plain region of southern Quebec and eastern Ontario have changed substantially. Use this visualization to see which birds have become more or less common in the region and what affect this has had on the soundscape of six different habitats.
 
How to
Switch between tabs to see which birds are characteristic of each habitat.
You can toggle between the birds commonly found in the 1970’s and the 2010’s by clicking on a button above each tableau.
Click on each bird to learn its name and hear its call.
Use the player bar beneath each tableau to listen to a recreation of the habitat’s soundscape.
 
Data
Information on bird population trends was taken from the Breeding Bird Survey of Canada for the Quebec sample of the Lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Plain region (see below). We used their statistics on the average annual percent change in abundance to decide whether a bird would be more commonly found in the 1970’s, the 2010’s or both. A bird appearing or disappearing from either time period is meant to represent an increase or decrease in its population through time, respectively.

Compare which birds were most characteristic of the 1970’s and today in each of six habitats.
Click on the ‘i’ icon in the right side of the window for more information.



 

Did you know that cardinals weren’t always as common as they are today? In fact, their populations have increased substantially in our region thanks in part to the expansion of the suburban landscape. Backyard bird feeders help to sustain cardinals along with a host of other birds, including song sparrows, grackles, starlings and goldfinches.


 

Most woodpeckers in our region have remained relatively stable since the 70’s or have increased in numbers thanks in part to forest regeneration. Competition for nest holes from European Starlings may, however, threaten their survival. To support woodpecker conservation, consider keeping dead or dying trees on your property since they act as an important food and nesting resource for these birds!


 

Edge habitats are often areas rich in biodiversity since they represent the intersection between different ecosystems living in close proximity to one another. Some birds like the Common Yellowthroat, the Eastern Phoebe and the Yellow Warbler are as characteristic of edge habitats today as they were in the 1970’s. By comparison, the Gray Catbird is in decline possibly due to the development of coastal areas where it overwinters in the south. In the case of Cedar Waxing, which feeds on fruit, it has become more common because of the planting of trees like mountain ash and serviceberry in local backyards! The Indigo Bunting is also more abundant in part due to a warming climate that’s driving its population northward!


 

The birds typical of the forest have changed little since the 1970’s. Crows, robins and veeries were as common then as they are today. Blue jays have increased in numbers locally but have decreased regionally due to attacks from dogs and cats. Chickadees, however, seem to be more abundant across their range thanks to an increase in forest edge habitat and the prevalence of bird feeders. Local declines in the Great Crested Flycatcher may be due to competition for nesting cavities from other birds and squirrels.


 

The open fields of today are much quieter places than they were 40 years ago. Many of the birds that typify this habitat type have virtually disappeared from our region, including the Barn Swallow, Bobolink, Chimney Swift, Least Flycatcher and Purple Martin. The exact causes are still under study, but population declines are likely the result of a combination of habitat loss, insect population decline, pesticide use and climate change threatening birds in both their breeding grounds and wintering grounds.


 

The wetlands of today may be much noisier places than they were in the 1970’s, filled with the honks of Canada Geese stopping over from their annual migration or perhaps the squawks of herons, ducks and gulls. All these birds have become more common in our region largely due to human activity. For example, geese feed on lawn grass in parks and golf courses while gulls prefer garbage at open landfills. Birds like the Killdeer, however, have undergone steep declines, being particularly vulnerable to pesticide poisoning and collisions with cars and buildings.