Bird Ecology and Conservation Ontario
Newsletter No. 19, April 2020
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Title image_BECO News
We hope you are all staying well during this challenging time. Like everyone else, BECO's spring plans have changed due to the current public health crisis. In a normal year, we would be spending a lot of our time in the field by now, with Ontario's migratory songbirds returning and the breeding season getting underway. Due to the pandemic, all of our field projects are on hold. But, we're still hard at work from our home offices! 

Although so much of the world is on pause, life in the bird world continues as migratory species race to make the most of the breeding season. Birds are returning to their nesting sites, just as they would in any other year, and will go about the challenging task of raising young with the same fervor as they always do, oblivious to the challenges human society is facing. Even though we may not be able to get out into the field to collect data and observe these captivating species this year, the certainty that their world continues, at its frenetic pace, is reassuring as we are faced with so much uncertainty about what our future will look like.

Our best wishes go out to everyone during this trying time.
We also have some exciting bird news to help brighten up your day, on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day!

Read on to find out about some of the work we've been focused on in recent months...
Two new BECO research papers published
Male bobolink_Kaila Ritchie
A male bobolink in a pasture.
Photo: Kaila Ritchie
BECO's second research paper about bobolink has been published! Based on field research conducted in the Ottawa Valley (2017) and in the Luther Marsh Wildlife Management Area and nearby farms (2018), this article assesses the effectiveness of several survey methods to determine when bobolink finish breeding. The date bobolink finish breeding can vary by more than a month across nearby fields. In fields set aside for conservation, field surveys can be used to ensure breeding is finished before agricultural activity begins. The paper was published in the April issue of The Journal of Wildlife Management.
Read the abstract →
To read the full article, you can request a free copy from ResearchGate.
Barn swallow structure_Timothy Fernandes
A barn swallow structure built in 2015 for the social cues experiment.
Photo: Timothy Fernandes
Our barn swallows and social cues research was also recently published in The Canadian Field-Naturalist. This research investigated the effectiveness of using social cues (broadcasts of vocalizations and decoys) to attract barn swallows to new nesting structures. We found that broadcasts of barn swallow vocalizations increased prospecting at new structures—more birds visited the new structures—but did not impact the number of nests built. Although barn swallows nested successfully in the new structures, many of the structures were not used for nesting.

To our knowledge, this is the first peer-reviewed article published about nesting structures built for barn swallows. Our results are disappointing from a conservation perspective because we were unable to attract more birds to nest in these new structures. However, because many of these structures are being built across Ontario and in other jurisdictions, getting this information into the body of published literature is an important step so other researchers can use and build on our research to improve conservation actions for this threatened species.
Read the article →
A new website about grassland birds
Eastern meadowlark_Emily Damstra

This past fall and winter, we worked on a project that's a bit different from the normal scope of our work. Over the years, we've found that the farmers we work with are always interested to learn more about the birds nesting in their fields and are sometimes surprised by how many species nest on the ground in grasslands. We've also found that hayfields and pastures are frequently undervalued by the general public for the wildlife habitat they provide.
We wanted to find a way to communicate information about the bird life in agricultural grasslands and conservation information more broadly to the agricultural community and the general public. So, we worked with a scientific illustrator to create an illustration of bird life in agricultural grasslands and over the past few months we've been working on turning this illustration into a website with information about the birds that nest in this ecosystem and conservation practices to support these species.

We're excited to announce the launch of BECO's new grassland birds website!
See the website →
**Please share your thoughts by completing the feedback survey on the website**
BECO's response to COVID-19
BECO is a small organization that does not operate a central office space. As such, staff continue to work remotely from their homes and are taking all recommended precautions to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Since the declaration of this global health crisis in early March, BECO has responded by cancelling all in-person events and moving meetings online. All field work and field activities have been postponed. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and to prioritize the health and safety of the community. Therefore, we will not be conducting any field research until the situation improves and such activities are deemed safe and acceptable by the health and safety guidelines of relevant jurisdictions.
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