PEI

5 birds to watch for this spring on P.E.I.

As the Island begins to wake up following a cold winter, some familiar feathered friends will be making their way back to P.E.I. just in time for spring. 

Bobolink, alder flycatcher and the Canada warbler

Bobolink populations have decreased by 80 per cent since the 1970s. This species and other grassland birds are negatively affected by intensive agricultural practices such as the draining of wetlands, the increased use of pesticides, the removal of hedgerows and field margins and the cutting of hay before chicks leave the nest. (May Haga/State of Canada's Birds)

As the Island begins to wake up following a cold winter, some familiar feathered friends will be making their way back to P.E.I. just in time for spring. 

Dan MacAskill is the editor of Island Naturalist, a newsletter published by Nature P.E.I. He grew up in Parkdale around a freshwater marsh. "I started birding in the backyard behind our house," he said. Here are just some of the birds he's looking forward to this spring. 

1. Bobolink 

This bird should appear on the Island sometime around the middle of May, MacAskill says. It is a grassland bird that unfortunately has been identified as a threatened species with the committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada,  an independent advisory panel to the federal minister of environment.

You can typically spot them in hay fields on the Island, he says, and are known to have a "very melodious song." 

"It's quite a beautiful bird," MacAskill says. 

Over the last 30 years, the species has seen a significant decline in its population. While the bobolink has been listed as a species of concern, there is an initiative through the Alternative Land Use Services program which aims to encourage farmers to conserve its natural habitat, MacAskill says.   

2. Canada warbler 

Fun fact: Canada Warblers fly more than 4,800 kilometres from their winter homes to their breeding grounds in the U.S. and Canada, according to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.  (Jayne Gulbrand/Shutterstock)

Colourful and energetic, Canada warblers are one of the last warblers to arrive north in the spring and one of the first to leave in the fall to return to its South American winter grounds. It's known for its steely gray and yellow colours and is sometimes called the "necklaced warbler" thanks to the bold black necklace that it wears across its chest. 

Fun fact: Canada warblers fly more than 4,800 kilometres from their winter homes to their breeding grounds in the U.S. and Canada, according to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. 

Like the bobolink, it is also unfortunately considered to be a species of concern, MacAskill says. 

3. Flycatchers

Islanders can expect the alder flycatcher to touch down by the end of May, Dan MacAskill says. (Jukka Jantunen/Shutterstock)

The alder flycatcher is so similar to the willow flycatcher that they were once thought to be the same species, according to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. 

The main way to tell them apart is their differing songs. If you happen to catch a quiet flycatcher and aren't sure which one you're admiring, wing shape, their bill and tail, might be other helpful ways to distinguish which bird you've stumbled upon if they're not in the mood to sing you a tune, according to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.  

Islanders can expect the alder flycatcher to touch down by the end of May, MacAskill says.

4. Ruby-throated hummingbird

Many people put out bird feeders on their properties to encourage the ruby-throated hummingbird to make frequent visits to their homes, MacAskill says. (Ramona Edwards/Shutterstock)

This bird, with its vibrantly coloured throat, is one of the most sought after birds around homes across the Island, MacAskill says. They're expected to make their first appearances over the first few weeks in May. 

Many people put out bird feeders on their properties to encourage the ruby-throated hummingbird to make frequent visits to their homes, MacAskill says. They feed on nectar and are attracted to a variety of wild flowers. They're also known to use tree sap as an alternate source of food, he says. They're typically known to stick around on P.E.I. until September. 

5. Barn swallow

True to their name, you could find barn swallow nests in almost exclusively human-made structures like barns, according to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.  (Submitted by Dwaine Oakley)

These birds are known for the way they gracefully dart over fields, barnyards and open water in search of insects. 

The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology describes them as having long tails, which set them apart from other swallows in North America. They often fly low — just a few inches from surfaces of water or the ground. True to their name, you can find their nests in almost exclusively human-made structures like barns. 

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