British Columbia

Backyard bird-watching picks up in B.C. as neighbourhoods get quieter

In Northern B.C., residents have been seeing and hearing more birds than usual —  as Northern flickers hammer away at chimneys and chickadees chirp away by windows. 

British Columbians taking the opportunity to work on wildlife photography with more birds being heard

Red-breasted sapsuckers as captured by Walter Thorne in Terrace, B.C. (Walter Thorne)

Streets and skies around the world are quieter these days as humans stay home in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19. For wildlife, that means safer spaces to roam. 

In northern B.C., residents have been seeing and hearing more birds than usual —  as northern flickers hammer away at chimneys and chickadees chirp by windows.

For many it means seeing birds in a way they never have before, and snapping photos of them. 

Here are some of the images captured by northern British Columbians:

A northern flicker, like the one you may hear hammering away on the side of your house. (Loretta Fricke Sunberg)

Northern flickers, like the one pictured here, are protected by the Canadian Migratory Bird Act, so even though you may want to get rid of it as it pecks on your house or a nearby tree, you can't. 

According to ornithologist Ken Otter, males drill holes into siding, stucco or wood to create a cavity that could act as a nest.

"They'll often do a lot of little starter holes just trying to decide where they're going to eventually nest. So it can actually create a lot of holes in the sides of buildings," Otter said.

Other experts say if the birds have built a nest, they cannot be disturbed. However, if they are just making holes, homeowners can use deterrents like fake owls, raptor calls and protective material to discourage the birds from pecking at homes or buildings.

A pair of curlews, captured by Heather and Taylor Sapergia in Prince George, B.C. (Heather and Taylor Sapergia)

Curlews, which look sort of like large sandpipers, may also be a more common sight for northern British Columbians. 

"They're congregating into some fields because there's a few fields with open ground," Otter said.

A common redpoll is one of the many birds residents of B.C., may see hanging around their backyards. (David Greenberg)

In an interview with Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk, Otter said birds can thrive in urban centres because of access to food and warmer temperatures, which are caused by reflective surfaces.

But the noise pollution in cities tends overlap birdsong, so typically, humans don't get the opportunity to hear their neighbourhood birds. 

"There is a very big field of research looking at how noise pollution impacts birdsong and there's quite a bit of interest this year simply because there's so much less traffic, which is the primary source of noise pollution in cities, as to how that will impact the birds," Otter said.

Researcher Cara Snell wants to know how less noise pollution will impact the songs of chickadees. (Cara Snell)

The drastic reduction in noise pollution in urban areas has inspired one of Otter's students, Cara Snell, to take on a research project looking at how the change in noise affects chickadees' songs. 

"I think it's really important just to have an understanding of how humans impact the world around us and our environment and the wildlife," Snell said. 

She hopes that whatever she learns will help inform people on how we can mitigate the impact of human activity on birds. 

With files from Daybreak North and Radio West