Birds are coming back and there might not be enough food: RBG head

Royal Botanical Gardens say some birds have started arriving more than a month early, which could result in a shortage of food.
Theysmeyer said the most surprising appearance so far at the RBG was that of the Tundra Swan. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)

It felt like springtime in February.

The sun is shining and the birds are chirping, but that might not be such a good thing.

The head of natural lands at Royal Botanical Gardens says he's holding his breath waiting to see how this year's warm winter affects Ontario's ecosystem.

"It's definitely strange times," Tys Theysmeyer said. "[It seems] spring has started in February for almost the first time."

But what does this mean for the many species of bird that migrate north come springtime?

RBG staff have seen birds arriving a week or more ahead of schedule, including the Tundra swan.

Theysmeyer said his team at RBG is paying close attention to flora, especially with such warm temperatures.

"We'll be watching to see if things start to flower," he explained. "You can lose a whole year of seeds of a particular species if the frost comes around at the wrong time."

As it relates to insects, Theysmeyer says he expects to see them start to emerge early in another two weeks, something he says could be detrimental to Ontario's bird species.

'Cootes Paradise has never been so full in my 25 years here'

The early arrival of some bird species is especially worrisome, Theysmeyer said, because there's a good chance the migrating birds will not intersect.

Hamilton Conservation Authority said it's too early to tell what impact the warm winter will have on Hamilton's wildlife.

The warm winter has also had a huge impact on water levels, Theysmeyer said.

"Cootes Paradise has never been so full in my 25 years here for this time in March," he said.

Typically, the RBG's Fishway opens in mid-March, which allows fish to move from Lake Ontario to spawning grounds.

"The Fishway itself is opening probably on Tuesday," he said. "It'll be the second-earliest opening to date."

Only time can tell what Mother Nature has in store for Ontario, but Theysmeyer says a lot of what's to come will depend solely on water.

"If it goes warm like this the real concern is by the time you get to July, we might be extremely dry as a result of using water in the spring," he said. "That'll be the real telltale."

Clarifications

  • The story was modified to reflect several inaccuracies regarding bird migration.
    Mar 04, 2017 5:57 PM ET

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