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Early migration of several birds in the East

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The Canada goose is one of the species that returned to the region earlier this year due to the milder winter.

  • Mathieu Berger (View profile)Mathieu Berger

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Several species of " birds decided to return home earlier than usual due to the milder winter experienced in Eastern Quebec. This phenomenon of early migration is observed both in Bas-Saint-Laurent and in Haute-Côte-Nord and Gaspésie at present.

The director of the Rimouski Bird Observatory, Mikaël Jaffré, notes that he has observed this trend generally in Eastern Quebec this year, particularly with regard to seabirds and different species of passerines. .

We actually have, compared to the average, an observation of precocious species which arrive even earlier and in greater numbers than others. #x27;habit, he says.

The situation is, however, hardly surprising, according to him. This is completely expected from the moment when it is a little less cold, when the snow cover is reduced or has disappeared for a short time. There are species that wait for these signals to start their migration, explains Mr. Jaffré.

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The grackle has also been seen earlier in the region in recent weeks, both in Bas-Saint-Laurent and in Haute-Côte-Nord.

Among the species that have decided to show up in the region earlier than expected, Mr. Jaffré says he notes the presence of geese, buntings, red-winged blackbirds and grackles. He adds that this phenomenon particularly affects birds that migrate over shorter distances.

There are short distance migratory birds that will be more dependent on environmental signals and when the signal seems to show that it is time to go north, they arrive here. When there are long-distance migrants, they will have more fixed dates, he adds.

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This phenomenon of early migration is also observed in Haute-Côte-Nord. For example, we had the Canada goose which had not been observed so early in the year, at the beginning of March. These are record dates for this kind of species, but also for black bird species, notes the director of operations at the Tadoussac Bird Observatory, Alexandre Terrigeol. p>

Mr. Jaffré, who is also the director of Horizon nature Bas-Saint-Laurent, adds that this trend has been observed for several years already.

In the very long term, we can still expect that the behaviors migratory birds be redesigned according to climate change.

A quote from Mikaël Jaffré, director of the Rimouski Bird Observatory

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A nonpareil passerine, a bird that does not normally come this far, was seen in Sainte-Luce in December 2023. He even managed to survive the winter, according to Mikaël Jaffré. (File photo)

The key to allowing birds that arrived earlier to survive is access to food. And with winter not having said its last word, the feeders act as an oasis for birds accustomed to milder winters.

Feeders make it possible to maintain birds that would have made a bit too daring a bet to stay too far north and who, as a result, would not naturally have the ability to find food.

A quote from Mikaël Jaffré, director of the Rimouski Bird Observatory.

And he has a convincing example to support his words. In December 2023, a small exotic bird, the nonpareil passerine, made an unusual appearance in Sainte-Luce. This bird, considered to be the most colorful in North America, usually lives in the southeastern United States. And in winter, it normally migrates even further south, such as Mexico or Cuba.

However, not only was he able to adapt to a winter to which he is not accustomed, but he above all managed to survive, according to Mr. Jaffré. The winter was not that harsh. The feeder where he was faithful was fed all the time, so the bird survived. He was seen again in recent days, he assures.

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Mikaël Jaffré is the director of the Rimouski Bird Observatory.

That doesn't mean all the birds will survive, Jaffré cautions. Mother Nature may have the last word. If there is a significant cooling in the next two weeks, there are two snowfalls coming and food is very difficult to find, maybe this will finally happen. will have been a losing bet for this year and there will therefore be a high mortality of individuals who chose to arrive earlier, he indicates.

But in the long term, the choice for certain species to migrate earlier in the spring could be the right one. In a context where the climate is warming, these tend to be winning bets in the long term because they will arrive more quickly at the breeding sites, explains Mr. Jaffré.

However, the negative impact is likely to be felt more on birds that travel long distances. Long distance birds, we imagine, on the beaches of Central America or in the forest, they will not necessarily feel that here, it is a little milder than at home. x27;habit. And when they arrive on their usual date, in April, May or June, the vegetation will perhaps have already developed further and they will be late in their development, concludes Alexandre Terrigeol of the Bird Observatory of Tadoussac.

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