Help wanted for 2 bird conservation projects in B.C.

·3 min read
Long-billed curlews, like the one pictured here in San Diego, Calif., fly north in the spring and are the subject of a birdy study currently underway in Prince George, British Columbia that is in need of volunteers.  (Shutterstock / Thomas Morris - image credit)
Long-billed curlews, like the one pictured here in San Diego, Calif., fly north in the spring and are the subject of a birdy study currently underway in Prince George, British Columbia that is in need of volunteers. (Shutterstock / Thomas Morris - image credit)

If working for free doesn't ruffle your feathers, then the birds of British Columbia could use your help.

There are currently two conservation projects happening in the province and researchers are asking for public participation counting birds. On the South Coast, Environment Canada is asking for help tracking glaucous-winged gulls, and in the Prince George area, Birds Canada needs volunteers to count long-billed curlews.

Glaucous gulls are grey and white seagulls found abundantly along the Salish Sea coastline. Scientists have tagged over 180 of them with coloured leg bands to better understand how the birds are faring and are asking anyone who spots a gull that has been tagged to report back.

"We want to get a better idea of their survival rates, which, of course, is a key demographic trait that determines how healthy the populations are," said Environment Canada research scientist Mark Hipfner, speaking Monday to On The Island.

Shutterstock / Marc Bruxelle
Shutterstock / Marc Bruxelle

Hipfner said a tagged gull will have many different coloured bands on it and the exact combination is important for researchers.

The best way to help, he said, is to snap a picture of the accessorized bird and send that, along with the date and location of the sighting to this link, so researchers can then compile and study the submitted data.

Hipfner said gull health can be an indicator of human health because their habitat and diets — gulls eat seafood — have some overlap.

When scientists were baiting the birds to catch and tag them in the first place, there was also some snack food overlap.

"We tried a range of natural foods, things like salmon scraps, but we actually found that the most effective bait was Cheezies," said Hipfner with a chuckle.

Counting curlews

Further north and inland in Prince George, B.C., the long-billed curlew is back in town to breed after wintering in the U.S. and Mexico, and Birds Canada is looking for local volunteers to count how many of the unique-looking bird are hanging around.

Long-billed curlews are the largest shorebird in North America. They are about the size of a chicken, sort of cinnamon in colour, and their bills can measure more than 20 centimetres long. They like grasslands and are prone to hang out in farmer's fields.

David Bradley, B.C. director for Birds Canada, says there is a short window where the curlews can be counted before they start nesting to breed, so counting needs to be wrapped by May 8.

WATCH | A long-billed curlew is caught on candid camera by Birds Canada researchers:

Volunteers are needed to count between now and then. They will be assigned to a roughly 25-kilometre stretch of roadside in the Prince George area with stops every 800 metres. At each stop, volunteers watch and listen for five minutes for curlews and record each time they detect one.

"There hasn't been an assessment on the population of the species for almost 20 years now, and that really needs to be updated," said Bradley, speaking Monday on Daybreak North.

He said Birds Canada is compiling the data for the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife, which is an independent advisory panel to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Interested volunteers are asked to contact Birds Canada on Twitter and the non-profit will provide route information and other details. The Birds Canada B.C. office can also be reached toll free at 1- 877-349- BIRD (2473)

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting