This year’s Manitoba IBA assistant

My name is Patricia Rosa and I will be working as IBA program assistant thanks to Urban/Hometown Green Team funding.

I am currently working on my PhD in Natural Resources and Environmental Management at the University of Manitoba’s Natural Resources Institute. Prior to coming to Winnipeg, I completed a Master’s in Avian Behavioural Ecology and a Bachelor’s in Animal Physiology at Université de Montréal (yes, I speak French!).

I was first initiated to bird research in aviaries during my Master’s where I looked at how social factors affected mate choice and food preferences in Zebra Finches.

Fun Finding: Copycats are lazy!

Female Zebra Finch that were lazier foragers were more likely to copy the choice of others when it came time to choose a mate or a new food source1.

The scale of my research has definitely expanded since my days in the aviaries! My current research consists of a large-scale, multi-year study assessing effects of oil infrastructure and anthropogenic noise on grassland songbirds (e.g. Baird’s Sparrow, Sprague’s Pipit, Vesper Sparrow)2,. Over the course of four field seasons, my colleagues and I conducted avian transect surveys, used a very sophisticated method to find and monitor nests (i.e. drag a rope across the prairie to flush the parent off the nest, then proceed to carefully dig around the grass to locate and mark it for monitoring), and took nestling measurements and fecal samples from our most abundant species, Savannah Sparrow and Chestnut-collared Longspur, to determine if there are physiological disadvantages to growing up in a noisy area.

Fun Finding: Singing in the noise

When confronted with the challenge of singing in the presence of loud drilling noise, Savannah Sparrows and Baird’s Sparrows altered their songs to attempt to compensate for this interference, but opted for different strategies: Savannah Sparrow sang at higher frequencies, while Baird’s Sparrow sang at lower ones3.

Since grassland bird populations have endured steep constant declines and vast amounts of their habitat has already been lost, my research goal is to isolate potential negative effects driven by oil development to inform management decisions and the implementation of effective mitigation measures.

What I hope to achieve through my work with the IBA program

Tremblant.jpgI am eager to learn more about Manitoba-specific issues related to bird habitat protection. I am also excited at the prospect of building dynamic relationships between people and nature to protect Manitoba bird habitat, and actively participate in conservation and educational efforts. One of the best parts of working with birds is that they are so ubiquitous and accessible, and therefore, a great means to get people initiated to wildlife monitoring and its importance!

What are my favourite birds?

My favourite songbird is the Chestnut-collared Longspur. It is not only one of the most vibrant birds in the prairie, but also has a delightful flight-call display where it squeaks along as it flutters up and down.

My favourite shorebird is the Marbled Godwit. Despite being dive-bombed by them on several occasions in the past, I am always pleased to hear their goofy calls!


1Rosa, P., Nguyen, V., & Dubois, F. (2012). Individual differences in sampling behaviour predict social information use in zebra finches. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 66, 1259-1265. DOI: 10.1007/s00265-012-1379-3

2Rosa, P., Swider, C. R., Leston, L., & Koper, N. (2015). Disentangling effects of noise from presence of anthropogenic infrastructure: Design and testing of system for large‐scale playback experiments. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 39, 364-372. DOI: 10.1002/wsb.546.

3Curry, C. M., Antze, B., Warrington, M. H., Des Brisay, P., Rosa, P., & Koper, N. (2017). Ability to alter song in two grassland songbirds exposed to simulated anthropogenic noise is not related to pre-existing variability. Bioacoustics, 1-26. DOI: 10.1080/09524622.2017.1289123.