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Songbirds Use New Hampshire as a Stopover

Birds that migrate through New Hampshire, such as the Yellow Warbler, are threatened by changes to their nesting habitat in Canada. Photo credit: Boreal Songbird Initiative
Birds that migrate through New Hampshire, such as the Yellow Warbler, are threatened by changes to their nesting habitat in Canada. Photo credit: Boreal Songbird Initiative
May 20, 2013

NASHUA, N.H. - From their beautiful songs to their stunning colors, birds are putting on their best displays this time of year. It is the spring migration season, and more than half the birds at backyard feeders and soaring across the sky right now are headed north to the Canadian boreal forest. This is the largest intact forest on Earth, and literally billions of birds migrate there through the U.S.

Dr. Jeff Wells with the Boreal Songbird Initiative said most of the flying is done at night, so people do not realize how massive the migration is.

"It's like a river of birds that flows north and splits up into smaller streams and tributaries as they're migrating. Tens of millions, hundreds of millions, are moving daily," Wells said.

About 3 billion of North America's land birds and 26 million waterfowl, including the Barrow's goldeneye, breed in the boreal forest.

Many of the birds are at risk as the forest faces new threats - and some species have already seen significant declines, Wells warned.

"It is under threat from mining, forestry, oil and gas, hydro - lots of different factors," he said. "And it is being affected by climate change."

The birds also face challenges as they make their way north, Wells noted. For instance, the white lights on tall buildings and towers that are meant to warn pilots can actually attract and confuse songbirds, leading to collisions with the structures.

Wells suggested tracking bird migration journeys on the Boreal Songbird Initiative website, www.borealbirds.org.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NH