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Bird migration and unseasonable weather


Ducks have begun breeding earlier than usual this year
Ducks have begun breeding earlier than usual this year

Cheryl Santa Maria, staff writer

April 9, 2012 — While migration and breeding habits are largely influenced by changing seasons - and the length of available daylight - birds, geese and ducks have begun to migrate earlier than usual, and the weather may be the cause.

Experts are studying unseasonable weather and the impact it could have on birds
Experts are studying unseasonable weather and the impact it could have on birds

From record-breaking snowfall to unseasonably mild conditions, it has been an interesting year, weather-wise.

And the unusual conditions have had an impact on just about everything.

Ice wine production is down in Ontario. Allergy season has started early in many places and, over in the U.S., a dry and windy climate has increased the risk of forest fires.

Birds have also been thrown for a loop.

According to Michael Anderson, Senior Conservation Advisor for Ducks Unlimited Canada, spring-like conditions have prompted some species to begin breeding and migrating ahead of schedule.

"There is ample published scientific evidence that suggests that all kinds of birds in North America are arriving at grounds earlier than they used to," Anderson says.

"A challenge arises when a particular insect or flower that a bird feeds on is not available due to the mis-matched timing."

While some species - like European songbirds - rely on a stable environment, others are more adaptable.

Waterfowl do not appear to be affected by fluctuating temperatures or a change in migration patterns -- but experts are waiting to see how this season pans out, as more and more birds return to their old haunts weeks ahead of schedule.

"We've seen geese, ducks, killdeer, robins and red-tailed hawks, to name a few," Anderson says.

"And we've seen other things as well. In some places, the aspen has started flowering almost a month ahead of schedule and in others, frogs emerged early.

And all of this just attests to how unusual the spring has been so far."

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