- June 7, 2023 - Biosphère
Parc Jean-Drapeau, the setting for the Biosphère, is an ideal place to observe migrating birds in the spring and in the fall, especially for early risers!
According to the eBird site, a simple and easy-to-use worldwide database, 243 bird species have been sighted at Parc Jean-Drapeau in recent decades. Shore birds, ducks, perching birds, birds of prey and Canada geese are within our reach. Let’s get out our binoculars and our cameras, and keep our eyes and ears open!
Islands with diverse habitats
There are many bird species living in or visiting this spot, thanks to the diversity of ecosystems and the presence of water, which offer birds shelter and food. For example, a pair of Cooper’s hawks have been nesting for a few years in Mont Boullé’s 100-year-old maple stand. These birds of prey primarily hunt other birds, in full flight, as well as small mammals.
Lac des Cygnes, at the west end of Ile Sainte-Hélène, is bordered by grass beds that provide ducks with the possibility of finding everything they need to breed. The St. Lawrence River, meanwhile, rich in fish and aquatic invertebrates, allows osprey to dive and seize prey in their claws, and the great blue heron and black-crowned night heron to feed on its banks.
if you pay attention you can see and hear a number of perching species all over Sainte-Hélène and Notre-Dame islands, like the black-capped chickadee, the goldfinch, the northern cardinal, the scarlet tanager, the blue jay, different species of warbler, the white-breasted and red-breasted nuthatch, the red-winged blackbird and the American robin.
You may also observe the European starling, a species introduced from Europe in the late 1800s. An interesting fact: the 200 million starlings in North America are all descendants of a 100 or so birds released in Central Park in New York by someone trying to introduce all the bird species mentioned in Shakespeare’s works to the continent.
The European starling is now considered an invasive species. It occupies nesting sites of native species. With its great adaptability, the species can accurately imitate the vocalizations of many bird species – and even human sounds!
Another easily spotted species at Parc Jean-Drapeau is the ring-billed gull. These gulls, which nest in one of the biggest colonies in Canada, on Île Deslauriers 25 kilometers east of the Biosphère, are the subject of a surprising documentary scheduled to be screened in the coming year at the Biosphère.
You can’t miss observing the Canada goose, sometimes even with its chicks. Since the 1970s, the population has increased so much that part of it is resident now, meaning it nests in southern Québec rather than in Arctic Québec, as the great migrations we see sailing through the skies do. Canada geese are opportunistic herbivores, which look above all for a temperate climate, grass to eat and proximity to water to protect it from certain predators, like foxes.
To learn more about migrating birds, listen to the podcast series (in French only) on the Space for Life website: Migrations d’oiseaux.
If you like a challenge and want to contribute to scientific knowledge about birds, there are a number of citizen-activities in Québec, and at different times of the year. Don’t hesitate to take part.
Birds that inspire artists
Jean Paul Riopelle had a great gift of taking inspiration from nature and geese to create masterly works. As part of the celebrations of the artist’s centenary, the Biosphère, in collaboration with GSI Musique and the Riopelle Foundation, are offering an immersive experience that takes us to Riopelle’s studio. Come discover how migrating snow geese colored his work in the exhibit RIOPELLE – A Bird Wild and Free. In addition, discover the exhibition MIGRATIONS, which is presenting works by 12 young artists from French-speaking countries that invite us to reflect on the way climate change is influencing the migration patterns of humans, animals and plants along with their delicate equilibrium.
Nature in the city contains an unsuspected biodiversity, and I invite you to pay attention to that wealth and let yourself be inspired just as Riopelle was able to do before creating his works. We’re all familiar with the benefits that a walk in the forest or along a body of water brings us. Urban parks are oases of nature that must absolutely be preserved!