Freez­ing rain a threat to early mi­grat­ing birds

Ottawa Citizen - - CITY - TOM SPEARS ts­pears@post­media.com twit­ter.com/TomS­pears1

The ice storm is likely to kill some early mi­grat­ing birds while forc­ing oth­ers to hun­ker down against the twin threats of cold and lack of food.

It came at just the wrong time, said birder Bruce Di Labio. On Satur­day, he was start­ing to see some early ar­rivals among in­secteat­ing species: eastern phoebes, yel­low-rumped war­blers and tree swal­lows.

In any other year, this would be the right time for them to ar­rive.

“But then, boom! This wave of freez­ing rain,” he said Mon­day.

“I don’t think we’ve had this freez­ing rain in mid-April very of­ten. Sure, we’ve had 20 cen­time­tres of snow. That’s one thing. But freez­ing rain — birds have a lot more dif­fi­culty be­cause ev­ery­thing is cov­ered with ice,” he said.

“I’m cer­tain there is go­ing to be a small die-off of the in­sect eaters,” he said. “And it’s not just one day. Re­mem­ber how nice Fri­day was? And then Satur­day the cold starts to set in, and not just cold in the day. It’s cold overnight.

“I feel sorry for the swal­lows, be­cause a lot of these birds ar­rive low on their fat sup­ply ” af­ter fly­ing thou­sands of kilo­me­tres, he said. That means they need to eat to re­build their strength.

“You try and find an in­sect in the past cou­ple of days. It’s pretty tough. I was watch­ing tree swal­lows on Satur­day over along Moodie Drive. They were ac­tu­ally land­ing on this pond on the ice ... to pick up in­sects.

“A few species of birds are al­ready nest­ing and have birds in their nests,” he said. This in­cludes great horned owls, with ba­bies, and Amer­i­can wood­cock, with eggs.

“Hope­fully the young are small enough that the adults can pro­tect them from the freez­ing rain and then the (or­di­nary) rain, be­cause they could eas­ily get sat­u­rated with wa­ter.”

Warm weather and sun­shine are ex­pected to re­turn Wed­nes­day.

ER­ROL McGIHON

Wooden util­ity poles snapped in half at the Train­yards shop­ping area on Mon­day.

McGIHON ER­ROL

Rachel Hau­raney has her um­brella pop as she walks in the wind and rain along Lau­rier Av­enue.

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