Let’s hope migratory birds who summer in Ottawa decide to stop at a few outlet malls on their way back.
Biology and ecology expert Adam Oliver Brown said birds who don’t winter in the city, begin returning here based on the hours of daylight, and are at risk of returning too early.
Animals which hibernate are not at risk of waking too early — they simply don’t wake until the warm weather returns.
As a result of an extended hibernation, it appears animals aren’t breeding either.
Heather Badenoch of the Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary said they have yet to receive any orphaned animals. For the past three years, their first drop-offs all happened on March 15 — two squirrels and a porcupine.
“It’s complicated,” said the University of Ottawa lecturer, who has lent his expertise to both TVO Kids and The Nature of Things. “There is no one rule, different animals follow different cues.”
Migratory birds are attuned to daylight — something which Carlingwood resident June Laderoute can attest to — the senior says she’s counted 25 robins outside her apartment building over the past month.
“There’s a little patch of lawn where there’s no snow,” she said. “That’s where they are.”
Brown suggests their future is grim.
“There’s nothing people can really do for them,” he said. “Apart from putting grubs out in your backyard.”
He said the late arrival of spring has put several species “out of phase.”
Since there is no warmth, there are no leaves, buds or insects — the birds have no food. It’s an example of why experts worry about climate change and how easily relationships can fall out of synch.
While Brown isn’t an ornithologist, he said there is evidence to suggest migratory birds have the ability to slow their return when the weather isn’t favourable, to doddle or take the scenic route, if you will.
Aside from robins, Brown said there are “dozens” of bird types which are in peril from a too-early return. He said there will be dead birds as a result, though most Ottawans won’t see any unless they’re out in the woods or the Greenbelt.
Ministry of Natural Resources staff, based in Kemptville, said they were unable to answer questions within one day and wouldn’t commit to an interview.
To report a wild small mammal orphaned or in distress contact call the RVWS at 613-258-9480. For birds, call the Wild Bird Care Centre at 613-828-2849.