There are 291 species of birds known to breed within the province. Of these 204 species that breed in The Land Between. But over 300 species visit this area. Despite such a large number of bird species that can be seen here, the amount of bird watchers in The Land Between is relatively low. Birding appears to be a “dying” art…but perhaps we can reinvigorate it!
According to Lang Research Inc. (2006), people who view wildlife are slightly more likely to be female (52.9%) and are between 25-54 years old. Of this age range, most are within the 35-44 and 45-54 age range and are more likely to be married with dependent children (LRI, 2006) (CCC, 2011). As of 2013, 25% of Canadian households had bird feeders or houses on their property, and houses with children were 29% more likely to have them (Statistics Canada, 2013). If the household is located within a major urban area, the household is 16% less likely to purchase bird-related products than those in a less urban area (36% vs 20%) (Statistics Canada, 2013). That said, Statistics Canada noted that in households with people aged 25-44 and with no younger or older people, only 12% of these households provided food or shelter for birds (Statistics Canada, 2013).
With wildlife viewing being the second most common outdoor activity in Canada (Birdwatching making up 7.5% of these people), why is it that the number of birdwatchers are so low and the average birdwatcher is middle-aged?
I personally think that it has something to do with the lack of outreach, that we as dedicated birders provide to non-birders. It could also be something to do with the distractions of modern technology or the diminishing amounts of and access to nature. That is why we here at The Land Between are making an effort to reach out and attempt to get people of all ages into the awesome hobby of birdwatching. Not only is it a fulfilling pastime but the region as a natural refuge, provides ready access to so many birds.
Like many other kids growing up, I found myself hooked on collecting things, playing hide and seek, as well as those fun “spot-the-difference” or find the hidden object games we’ve all played at some point or another. Quite frankly, bird watching is no different than those childhood games we all loved. It’s a matter of finding things in nature, sometimes playing hide-and-seek with that tricky Warbler, or sometimes its being able to check off a species observation on your life list. Of course, people bird watch for various reasons; some, to photograph the beauty of our flighted friends, some to see how many species they can find in various areas or over various lengths of time, and some to broaden their understanding and appreciation of the natural world. Whatever your reason to bird watch, it remains an easy to do hobby that opens the world to us.
The daunting task of learning to identify the birds around us can be quite the deterrent for some people who are interested in entering the hobby, but it shouldn’t be the reason they don’t join. That is why we are making an effort to get people into birding within The Land Between. Currently, we have a video on our website of birding basics, as well as a slideshow on how to identify the 25 most common bird species within our bioregion. We are working on a large, “how-to-identify”-video of all of the common and uncommon bird species in The Land Between, which should be on our website in the coming months. After that, we will create another video on the identification of the rare bird species. Phhheww it is a lot of work…but we hope that it can support your interest and help you develop the identification skills you need over many years!
Additionally, we have created a life checklist for The Land Between. To help keep track of what birds are observed, birders use what is called a “life list”. Quite simply, it’s a checklist of species- a form that we use to track whether or not we’ve seen the target bird species. Therefore, to help you keep track of the birds you see in The Land Between, we’ve created a comprehensive list of all 305 species that regularly occupy The Land Between, all in an easy-to-carry field-ready booklet. This checklist breaks down the species into families and is a tri-fold guide so it’s easy to store in a backpack or pocket. Carrying and completing a checklist not only helps keep track of the species you’ve seen, but it transforms birdwatching into a challenge to “complete the list” which can inspire you individually or that you can use as a team contest.
Creating such a list took time! To make the list first, we had to look through all of the 500 or so bird species reported in Ontario, and then narrow them down to species observed within The Land Between. From close to 500 birds, we calculated nearly 350 species for the region. Next, we had to look at observation dates and numbers, to determine whether the observation was a one-time rarity or regularly occurring species. If the species had not been observed within the last 20 years, it was not included on the checklist. This ensured the checklist was smaller and more accurate, which brought us down to 305. As well, if the bird had been spotted recently, but numbers of observations (known as “counts”) were less than 20, the bird was considered a rarity (such as with the Carolina Wren, which is a more southern species that rarely occurs here in The Land Between). These rare birds were given a red dot to indicate their uncommonness. The checklist was then assembled and designed. It is now available for download on our website or for purchase from our online store (if you desire stock quality paper)!
Birdwatching is a rewarding hobby that stimulates your eyes and ears to open to the world around- even in urban areas, birds abound! Before I became an avid birdwatcher, I was not mindful of them, simply because I did not know what species they were or what behaviours they had. However, after learning to identify a few of them and learning a bit about their patterns and movements, I can now understand the “language of birds”- I can foretell if the weather is changing, if there is an owl nearby because of the cackling of crows, that there may be a wetland over the hill, and I can also tell if something is “amiss” in the woods- all from the species and behavior of the birds. Birds can help us interpret and understand the natural world around us. For me, the allure of birdwatching isn’t simply to gather the most species for my life list or to be the best in terms of identification, but it is the joy of learning, exploring and sharing the experiences with others. Sharing the joy in connecting to nature and others is the simple reason we are working to create a more beginner-friendly tools that are easily accessed.
If you are a new birder, or are interested in learning more about the birdwatching world, please don’t hesitate to watch our videos, visit our website to learn more about what The Land Between has to offer, or book an excursion with us. You can also contact us if you have questions related to birding that you want answered. If you’re a veteran birder or have suggestions for ways to make birdwatching more accessible to people, we’d love to hear from you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with all of your tips and suggestions!
We hope that you use and enjoy our new birding life-list/checklist, and that your binoculars are clear and your enjoyment soars!
Written by Xavier Tuson
Carolinian Canada Coalition, EarthTramper Consulting Inc. and Pier 8 Group. [CCC] 2011 (May). Birding in Southwestern Ontario, Premier Birding Destinations and Tourism Marketing Opportunities, Product and Regional Marketing Plan. Prepared for the Southwest Ontario Tourism Corporation.
Lang Research Inc. [LRI] (2006). TAMS 2006. Canadian Activity Profile, Wildlife Viewing While on Trips. Prepared for: Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation, Quebec Ministry of Tourism, Travel Manitoba, Canadian Tourism Commission, Tourism Saskatchewan, Atlantic Canada Tourism Partnership, Alberta Tourism, Parks, Recreation and Culture, Department of Canadian Heritage, Tourism British Columbia, Parks Canada Agency, Government of Yukon, Government of Northwest Territories.
Statistics Canada. 2013. Canadians and Nature: Birds, 2013. <https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/16-508-x/16-508-x2015001-eng.htm>. Accessed 12 Dec 2020