Songbirds on their way to extinction?

According to the latest update of "The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario" the list of songbird species in Ontario that are declining is staggering. "Population trends are generally positive for birds of prey, but biologists are expressing concern about the fate of grassland birds and those that feed on flying insects," says a statement from the organizers of the survey that led to the first update in 20 years.

Larger birds of prey have benefitted from a reduction in pesticide usage in the past 20 years but the population of smaller migratory songbirds has been affected dramatically and it may well be the result of urban sprawl which has removed millions of prime natural areas from the ecosystem, and as well as a "mysterious"decline in insect populations which may be related to changing global weather patterns attributed to increases in global warming.

Project co-ordinator Mike Cadman says that "Bald eagles have increased four-fold province-wide – even more so in the south – and peregrine falcons are back from the brink (of extinction)," Those recovering from near extinction include three species of swans, Canada goose and Wild Turkey.

"Unfortunately, the future seems much bleaker ... for some other species," said Gregor Beck, co-editor of the atlas that was updated this year. "For grassland species and birds that eat flying insects, the trend is very worrisome."
Populations of some species, including the common nighthawk Chordeiles minor, whippoorwill Caprimulgus vociferus, chimney swift Chaetura pelagica and 6 types of swallow have dropped 30 to 50 per cent in the past 20 years. The nighthawk and swift Apus apus were recently designated as "threatened" species in Canada.

The biggest declines in small bird populations occurred in the south western region of Ontario according to many groups involved in the atlas, including Ontario Nature, Bird Studies Canada and the Ontario Field Ornithologists, along with the federal and provincial governments.