BPBO 20 Year Report: 2002-2021

Executive Summary

This report presents an analysis of the first 20 years of operation of the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory’s bird migration monitoring program at the Cabot Head Research Station. Since 2002, bird migration has been monitored through banding, census, and observation both in spring and fall at the northeastern tip of the Bruce Peninsula, Ontario. From 2002 to 2021, over 1.5 million birds of 254 species have been detected, with considerable variation in specific species abundance and frequency. More birds, both in species richness and abundance, are detected in spring than in fall, even if fall populations are reinforced by young. It could result, in part, from the strong geographic funneling effect of the Bruce Peninsula in spring. In 20 years, a total of 62,593 birds of 123 species have been banded, with slightly more birds banded in fall (33,088 individuals of 108 species) than in spring (29,505 of 113 species). In fall, 89% of birds captured are hatch-year (HY) birds, similar to results from other bird observatories in the Great Lakes area. It also appears that Cabot Head could be used extensively as a stopover habitat in fall for some species but with important yearly variations, possibly related to food availability.

Recaptures of birds banded both at Cabot Head and elsewhere have revealed some extraordinary insights on individual lives. For example, a Pine Siskin banded on August 9, 2011 in central British Columbia was recaptured at Cabot Head on October 3 of the same year, a straight distance of 3,132 km done in less than two months. An adult Red-eyed Vireo banded in spring 1998 at the Cabot Head Lighthouse (across from the current banding station) was recaptured only once in spring 2006 at Cabot Head. This bird was thus at least 10 years old at the time, a record longevity. Although the exact routes of its migration are unknown, this single bird likely flew over 100,000 km in its lifetime back and forth between the Great Lakes and its wintering grounds in the Amazon basin.

The Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory, through its bird migration monitoring program at Cabot Head Research Station, has established a sound long-term data set, from which interesting results have emerged, and will continue to serve in the future, as unforeseen conservation challenges appear, as new statistical methods are developed, and as new questions in ornithological research arise.

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