Soaring into the city: Manitoba research finds pandemic is beneficial for birds
Though the pandemic has been a hard time for many people, one species has been reaping the benefits of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders – birds.
New research out of the University of Manitoba shows that, during the pandemic, many common bird species have been spending more time in cities in North America.
“So they actually moved from areas that were more rural into our cities and areas within tens of kilometres of highways and airports when we removed the traffic,” said Nicole Koper, a professor of conservation biology at the U of M.
She noted the number of birds overall didn’t increase, but rather that after a week or two of lockdown, birds started moving back into areas that they may typically avoid because of the traffic.
HOW WAS THE RESEARCH CONDUCTED?
Koper said she normally goes out into the field to do research, but wasn’t able to do so because of the pandemic. Instead, researchers used the Citizen Science database, where volunteers from all over the world provided their bird observations.
“So many people have participated in it,” Kpper said. “And that allowed us to look at birds all the way across North America, from Alaska down to Florida, and use millions of observations of birds to see whether they were seen in the same places during the pandemic in comparison to where they were seen from 2017 to 2019.
WERE THERE ANY EXCEPTIONS?
Koper said that the majority of birds did seem to benefit from the decrease in traffic brought on by the pandemic, but there were some exceptions, including the red-tailed hawk.
She said the research shows that these types of birds have moved away from roads during the pandemic.
“I think maybe what’s happening there is the red-tailed hawks are pretty happy to feed on roadkill if it’s available, and if there’s less roadkill during the pandemic, because there’s less traffic, then it would be less useful for red-tail hawks to hang out near roads,” she explained.
WHAT CAN WE TAKE AWAY FROM THIS?
If anything can be taken away from this research, Koper said that people should continue to try to use the strategies they adopted during the pandemic to cut back on traffic.
“I think applying some of the skills that we learned, like working from home occasionally, having more virtual meetings instead of flying to visit our colleagues, and also things like funding public transportation more, those are all things that would help reduce traffic,” she said. “And they would help biodiversity, help reduce our carbon footprint and they would also save us money in the long run.”
- With files from CTV’s Maralee Caruso.
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