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Less human activity makes for ideal birdwatching conditions, says Winnipeg expert

A Canada Goose moves goslings along a lawn. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

One positive side effect of coronavirus physical-distancing measures is that Manitobans have the opportunity to take a closer look at the environment around them — and right now, that environment includes a lot of birds.

“With things being quieter and with us humans just having fewer places to go right now and looking out our windows a little bit more, we’re seeing what’s always there,” Barrett Miller of environmental, education and recreation centre FortWhyte Alive told 680 CJOB.

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“But also with a quieter city, animals — birds especially — are feeling a little bit more comfortable in the mix.

“We’re also right at peak bird migration season right now, so everything that flew south for the winter is on its way back north through Winnipeg or stopping in Winnipeg.”

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Taking advantage of these conditions and getting into birdwatching, Miller said, is easier than you might think.

“Start a bird feeder in your backyard to just attract the species that are already in your neighbourhood and get to know those four or five visitors that come all the time,” he said.

“You don’t need a big investment in gear, you don’t really need binoculars to start out. A simple guidebook and a desire to learn more and you’re on your way.”

READ MORE: Humans self-isolating due to coronavirus a ‘bonanza’ for Manitoba wildlife

The easiest birds to spot, he said, are colourful, insect-eating songbirds like warblers, as well as ducks and geese. With sunny summer days on the horizon, you’ll soon be able to watch way up in the sky for migrating birds of prey like eagles.

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Sherrie Versluis of Winnipeg’s Preferred Perch told 680 CJOB that it’s easy to attract birds to your yard so you can watch them from the comfort of your own home, but there are a few things to keep in mind.

“The important things to look for are feeders that are easy to clean. Feeders need to be cleaned at least a couple of times a year. You want to make sure that they have drainage… and that it’s very accommodating because we get so many different sizes of birds,” she said.

Also, if you want to keep your neighbourhood birds safe, make sure you rein in your cats, she said.

“Unfortunately, they are one of the top three leading causes of decline of songbirds. It is such a correctable thing because cats don’t need to be roaming,” said Versluis.

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“I love cats; many people do… but it is estimated that about three million birds a day are killed by free-roaming cats, so that’s pretty significant.”

Another major killer, she said, is something as simple as a window.

“Migratory birds are not familiar with our structures here. It’s very rare that a native, year-round bird hits windows — it’s these new birds that are arriving, and they’ve got territory on their mind, reproduction.

“They see their reflections in the window, thinking that they’re flying into trees or the sky.”

Versluis said there are a number of products you can apply to the exterior of your glass — even homemade versions — that will help steer birds away from a deadly collision.

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FWA ready for warm weather push – Mar 28, 2017

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