This city is for the birds!
Why Regina’s official bird contest is more than a bit of fun
In December, Regina residents will vote for an official city bird. Nominations closed in October, producing six finalists for the bird that best represents the community: Canada Goose, Grey Partridge, Red Breasted Nuthatch, Peregrine Falcon, American Pelican, and Black Capped Chickadee. From November 20–27, each bird was championed as the best choice by a panelist on CBC Morning Edition’s Sask with Stefani Langenegger.
The reason for the current contest began in March 2022, when Regina’s Bird Friendly City committee succeeded in obtaining Nature Canada’s “Bird Friendly City” status for Regina. The only “Bird Friendly City” in Saskatchewan, Regina is committed to making the city a safer place for wild birds.
Nature Canada states that birds play an essential role in maintaining healthy, resilient ecosystems in our communities and across the world. However, over the past 50 years, the North American wild bird population has decreased by more than 25 per cent. Evidence points to human activities as responsible, and so as urban areas expand, cities have an important role to play in protecting and supporting bird populations.
The “Bird Friendly City” designation is part of Nature Canada’s campaign to encourage cities to become safer places for birds. To earn their designation, the City of Regina implemented bird friendly policies and actions to help wild birds thrive in Regina. These actions included establishing a “no-roam” bylaw for cats to reduce the impact of cat predation on wild bird populations, protecting natural areas such as Wascana Centre which supports 276 species of birds, and engaging the community through educational initiatives.
While certification is a badge of honour and a source of community pride, it is also a rigorous standard by which to measure the ongoing impacts and progress of the city’s efforts. Nature Canada encourages municipalities to actively reduce the number of human-related threats to birds, which in addition to cats includes the untreated glass on buildings with large windows, and pesticide use.
If you thought that the loss of a few birds a year due to your living room window was not significant, consider that residential houses are responsible for 90 per cent of the 25 million birds that die annually in Canada from collisions with untreated glass. While municipalities are encouraged to model best practices on their buildings, business and homeowners can make a substantial difference.
CBC News reported on a local Regina incident in 2022, in which approximately 30 migrating cedar waxwings died from striking glass at Eden Care Communities on Broadway Avenue. Wildlife rehabilitation centre, Salthaven West, said that it is common for bird strikes to increase in urban centres during spring and fall migrations.
Local organization, Nature Regina, creator of the official city bird contest, also has a Bird Safe Initiative that addresses this issue by building awareness of bird-window collisions and encouraging citizens to focus on treating their problem windows. The organization offers FeatherFriendly Window Tape and a video on their website that explains how to install it. Where needed, volunteers may be available to assist with the installation.
Eden Care Communities collaborated with Nature Regina to install the window tape on their outdoor decking glass. Volunteer Jeffrey Gamble stated that, “the feather-friendly tape is highly effective, affordable, [and] minimally impactful on your view.” He estimated that the installation of the tape at that single location would save hundreds of birds over the next few years.
Part of the “Bird Friendly City” commitment is fostering community outreach and education to increase understanding and participation from citizens. This is where the official city bird contest fits in. As stated by the City of Regina’s Open Space Services manager, Russell Elrich, to CBC News, picking an official bird is something that “everybody’s got a take on.” The debate over choosing just one bird is an enjoyable way to learn about many species residing in the city.
One contender, the Peregrine Falcon, was defended by Jordan Rustad, the Field Manager and Bander-in-Charge at the Last Mountain Bird Observatory. She explained to CBC Morning Edition’s Langenegger that the falcon has adapted their hunting style and nesting habits to fit some urban spaces.
In Regina, Peregrine Falcons have chosen to nest on top of City Hall. They hunt from heights of up to 3,000 ft., hurtling and striking prey, often in midair. If you haven’t already listened to the six short segments defending the city bird finalists, take time to do so and be amazed by the diverse bird citizens of Regina.
Vote for your choice in December and stay tuned, as the city plans to declare the winner on January 5, 2024: National Bird Day.