If you keep your eyes peeled this Thanksgiving Weekend you’ll likely see more birds than just the steaming turkey on your dinner plate.
Jacques Bourgeois of Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre says this is one of the best and last times of year to see a wide variety of birds flying through the prairie skies.
“Typically, thanksgiving is the biggest bang before they all leave,” he states. “If people want to take advantage of them, this is the weekend to do it because after this nice weather, the temperature will start dropping and then the birds will start heading south.”
Bourgeois says the shorebirds have already left most corners of the province and the songbirds are next.
“All of the small little birds that were in your backyard this past year, right now we have a massive influx of them as they are just coming through, but they will be leaving us shortly.”
When the songbirds have vacated, various species of geese will take their queue and begin their own migration routes to the warmer parts of the world.
“We’re seeing tons and tons of snow geese, something we haven’t seen for a few years now,” comments Bourgeois. “We were driving up the marsh and the fields were just white, there were so many of them you’d think a snowstorm just blew through.”
He notes that not all geese spend their holidays in the same place. The birds nesting in central and southeastern Manitoba will simply hop across the border into Minnesota, the ones nesting in Churchill will fly down to Missouri, and the ones that call the Arctic home will fly all of the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. Bourgeois says the snow geese will be followed by the Canadian geese who will then be followed by various birds of prey.
“Bald eagles are usually the ones who come after the geese so it’s a good time to see them,” he adds. “Keep in mind that it is not the cold that drives the birds south in the first place, it is actually the lack of food.”
Though most will be long gone before the first blizzard, some avian species will remain. Bourgeois lists snow buntings, snowy owls, and chickadees as the star attractions of the coming winter months.
“Black-capped chickadee will actually grow bigger brains in the winter so they can remember all of the locations where their food is stashed,” Bourgeois shares. “They have evolved to survive the freezing temperatures.”
Bourgeois encourages birding enthusiasts to grab their binoculars, fill their feeders, and enjoy the show while it lasts.
“Stock up on birdseed if you haven’t done so,” he advises. “Now is a really good time to help them along the way!”