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For the Birds: Massachusetts Watches Migratory Songbirds

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

BOSTON - From their beautiful songs to their stunning colors, birds are putting on their best displays this time of year in Massachusetts. It's the spring migration season, and more than half the birds seen at backyard feeders and soaring across the sky right now are headed north to Canada's boreal forest, the largest intact forest on Earth, and the nesting grounds for many of North America's birds.

According to Wayne Petersen of the Massachusetts Important Bird Areas program, development, natural intrusions and climate change are threatening the forest.

"Anything that is going to in a major way begin to undermine or disrupt that habitat is ultimately - potentially, at least - going to have impacts on migratory birds that use it as a summer nesting area," he warned.

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

Dr. Jeff Wells, with the Boreal Songbird Initiative, also warned that many of the birds are at risk as the forest faces new threats.

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

Wayne Petersen said Bay Staters can help boreal songbirds along on their journeys by keeping pet cats from stalking them and by planting natural cover, among other things.

"Bird feeders are certainly things that people can do. By dispersing and dispensing feed in an appropriate way and of the right type, that can be useful," he said. "And then natural planting, using shrubs and things that produce berries that are natural."

You can track your favorite birds' migration journey on the Boreal Songbird Initiative website: BorealBirds.org.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - MA