Media Release


Eagles soar while Swallows sputter

New Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario reveals surprising trends for bird species in the province

Toronto, Ontario, January 29, 2008 - A ground-breaking new atlas is revealing major trends about the health of Ontario's bird populations. Compared to just twenty years ago, many bird species have declined precipitously whereas others have made remarkable come-backs. 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.

"Results from the atlas show population trends are literally all over the map," said Mike Cadman, project coordinator for the Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario. Many of the increases result from conservation activities. "For Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon and Merlin, news is pretty much all positive because these raptors are recovering well since pesticides like DDT were banned in the 1970s. Bald eagles have increased four-fold province-wide - even more so in the south - and peregrines are back from the brink."

"Interestingly, most of Ontario's biggest birds have also increased dramatically in the twenty years since an earlier atlas was conducted," added Cadman. "Three swan species, Bald Eagle, Sandhill Crane, and most dramatically Canada Goose and Wild Turkey have all increased tremendously."

"Unfortunately, the future seems much bleaker at the moment for some other species," said Gregor Beck, atlas board chair and co-editor. "For grassland species and birds that eat flying insects, the trend is very worrisome. Formerly widespread birds like Common Nighthawk, Whip-poor-will, Chimney Swift and 6 species of swallow are becoming scarce at an alarming rate. Most of these species have seen a 30-50% decline in two decades and the Nighthawk and Swift have recently been designated as 'threatened' species in Canada. Birds of grasslands, wetlands, and scrublands are declining significantly in the Carolinian region between Toronto and Windsor."

"Results from the atlas will be put swiftly to use to help protect birds and ecosystems," said Caroline Schultz, Executive Director of Ontario Nature, a project partner. "The loss of grassland habitat to intensive agriculture, for example, is having a negative effect on species like the endangered Northern Bobwhite and the more common Bobolink. The fact that the biggest overall declines are in southern Ontario highlights the need for conservation efforts here. Atlas data will help identify patterns in population change and chart recovery routes."

Another extensive atlas survey will be conducted from 2021 to 2025. "Hopefully by then conservation actions will have helped some species currently in decline to rebound," concluded Beck. "We look forward to more success stories like the Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon."

For further information, please contact:

Mike Cadman, 519-826-2094, cell: 519-820-2462, Gregor Beck, 519-586-9361, cell: 647-285-2966, Caroline Schultz, 416-444-8419 ext. 237,

Please visit the Ontario Nature shop if you would like to order your own copy of the Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario.

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