We are so lucky to be right in the middle of the migration path for so many birds! It certainly makes migration season an exciting time of year. I thought we could take a quick fall migration journey with a few of the species that have triggered areas of Manitoba to become IBAs. I have picked just a few examples from different habitats and types of birds, but there are so many others that also go on amazing migratory journeys each year.
You can use eBird.ca to track bird movements as they are sighted by citizen scientists throughout the year. Here I focused on the large picture of fall migration, but you can also zoom in to see specific locations and habitats that birds are using through satellite imagery (assuming the location entered by the observer is precise). You can make you own maps on eBird’s Explore Species Maps. Each image can be clicked to make them full screen for easier viewing.
Chestnut-collard Longspur – Grassland habitat
IBAs: Southwestern Mix-Grass Prairie and Ellis-Archie/ Spyhill
The Chestnut-collard Longspur is a medium distance migrant. The individuals that spend their summers on Manitoba’s southwestern prairie region overwinter in the short-grass prairie and desert grasslands of the southern U.S.A. and northern Mexico. While in the breeding season they nest in pairs, during fall migration and in the nonbreeding season large numbers of individuals will flock together.
Hudsonian Godwit – Northern Manitoba
IBAs: Nelson River Estuary and Marsh Point and Kaskattama River Mouth
In southern and central Manitoba we generally only see the Hudsonian Godwit as it migrates to its breeding grounds each spring. This makes sense as this Godwit is a long-distance migrant – heading from southern South America to the Arctic breeding grounds each year. We tend not to see Hudsonian Godwits on fall migration because they follow a circular migration route. In the spring they follow a more westerly migration route which can take them over Manitoba, while in the fall they go to eastern North America before heading south. Many shorebirds in the Americas have a similar migration pattern. I spent some time in 2015 volunteering as a bird monitor in the Patagonia region of Argentina, and was lucky enough to see a couple Hudsonian Godwits. It was neat to see a bird that might have migrated over Manitoba so far from home.
IBAs: Netley-Libau Marsh; Nelson River Estuary and Marsh Point; Churchill and Vicinity; Oak Lake/ Plum Lake; Whitewater Lake; Southwestern Mix-Grass Prairie; Delta Marsh; North, West and East Shoal Lakes; Oak Hammock Marsh, and Riverton Sandy Bar The Rusty Blackbird breeds throughout the boreal region in Canada and Alaska and migrates to spend the winter in the east-central and southeastern U.S.A. In the fall Rusty Blackbirds can be seen mixing with migrants of other blackbird species, as well as American Robins and Blue Jays.
IBAs: Kinosota/ Leifur and North, West and East Shoal Lakes
The Red-headed Woodpecker is a short distance migrant. Manitoba is on the northern edge of its breeding range, and we see Red-headed Woodpeckers in the south and central parts of the province. In the winter they make the (comparatively) short journey to central and southeastern U.S.A. The yearly dynamics of the location and timing of fall migration are impacted by the abundance of hard mast (seeds of hardwoods – like Oak with acorns).
You may have noticed that the four species I’ve chosen to highlight above are federally listed as Species at Risk, and two of them are provincially listed under the Endangered Species and Ecosystems Act. Seeing how ranges shift during, before and after migration really brings home that threats these species face can vary widely. This means cooperation on conservation measures is also imperative between regions, countries and continents that are lucky enough to share these birds.