Study shows big drop in common Manitoba birds

September 24, 2008

IT might be time to rethink our name for the common grackle.

The seemingly ubiquitous noisy black bird is one of 20 common North American birds whose numbers have plummeted by at least 50 per cent in the past four decades, according to a report from BirdLife International.

Many of the boreal and grassland birds on the conservation partnership’s list are native to Manitoba, such as the evening grosbeak, the loggerhead shrike and the boreal chickadee (not to be confused with the black-capped chickadee).

“It’s alarming to see such big declines in such common bird species,” said Sarah Wren, a conservation biologist with Nature Canada.

Some of the information in the report, available online at, is taken from a 2007 analysis by the Audubon Society. That analysis looked at numbers taken during an annual bird count and breeding survey.

“All of those species that are mentioned in that report are in trouble, and when they’re in trouble they tend to be in trouble across the board,” said Christian Artuso, a local avian biologist and co-ordinator for Bird Studies Canada.

A common bird is defined as a species with a worldwide population of at least 500,000, and a range of at least one million square kilometres.

In Manitoba, trouble areas for common species include the boreal forest, grasslands and wetlands regions.

Wren said the problems stem from habitat loss and habitat degradation. Factors include logging and oil and gas activities in the boreal region.

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