Monday, January 19, 2009

What Next for Boreal Birds?

As noted before on this blog, tar sands mining to produce oil threatens the survival of bird species that breed in Canada's boreal forest.

The report says that almost all the world's biggest oil companies are involved in tar sands extraction in an area of north eastern Alberta which supports at least 292 species of breeding birds.

Among globally threatened species are Rusty Blackbird Euphagus carolinus and Sprague's Pipit Anthus spragueii (both Vulnerable), and Olive-sided Flycatcher Contopus cooperi (Near Threatened). The only wild, migratory population of Whooping Crane Grus americana (Endangered) nests at Wood Buffalo National Park to the north, and migrates over the tar sands region, occasionally stopping over at boreal wetlands.

Many of the most abundant songbirds and waterbirds of the Americas also breed in the "bird nursery" of the boreal forest, and are already suffering declines because of logging, and degradation of their migration staging sites.
Energy policies that reduce dependence on petroleum – not just "foreign oil" – would do much to protect birds threatened by tar sands development.

Update: Thanks to John Carlson for this clarification in the comments: "Hi John, Just wanted to point out that the Sprague's Pipit, although vulnerable and found in Alberta, is not a boreal bird threatened by tar sands oil development, but a grassland bird threatened by conventional oil and gas development in the southern portion of the province."