Urban and suburban growth accounts for most of the natural habitat lost in eastern North America in the last 30 years and our cities continue to grow. The parks and protected areas inside and outside our cities are vital to the conservation of biodiversity but they will never be enough on their own to sustain all species. Therefore, we need to learn how to build cities that can also be productive habitat for other species.
We have only a basic understanding of how urban development affects native bird populations. Citizens, planners, and developers will all benefit from having access to rigorously collected and quantified baseline observations. The Ottawa Breeding Bird Count is the first survey of its kind in Canada and only the second in all of North America (a similar survey has been conducted in Tucson, Arizona since 2001). We know that the diversity of native birds generally declines as development increases but people need to live somewhere and we have little information that can help us balance our needs with those of other species. Since cities will continue to grow, we need to find a way to manage and direct that growth so that it provides the best possible habitat for native species.
Get some friends together and join our bird song identification course in the spring. If you're willing to try a census plot or take on a point count route, you can take part in our free course. Adopt a point count route (or two?) and put the skills you developed doing counts for the atlas back into practice. Come out to our training workshops in the spring to improve your bird, nest, and or song identification skills, learn to do point counts (it might be easier than you think). Make a note of every bird nest you happen to find, record the information on our website, and then check the nest again in a few days to see what has changed. There is an opportunity to help out with the OBBC for birders and non-birders alike. If we pool the knowledge, skills and observations of many caring citizens we can take a large step towards creating cities that include diverse and healthy ecosystems. Over time, we will strengthen the connection that all city dwellers feel to the natural world and improve our quality of life.
Like to hear more? - Download a CBC radio interview from the launch of the OBBC in 2007 (.mp3 file ~ 22MB)
or - a hear another interview about the joys of learning to identify bird songs (.mp3 file ~ 5MB)