Effects of COVID-19-related travel restrictions on migratory birds, including species at risk, in Canada
COVID-19-related travel restrictions may have many unexpected significant impacts, not just on humans, but also on wildlife. This includes many avian species at risk, such as Canada warblers, red-headed warblers, and barn swallows. This of key significance to Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), the federal department that manages and conserves migratory birds and Species at Risk, as travel restrictions might have unintended consequences on the species for which this department is responsible.
Vehicular traffic has a range of direct and indirect impacts on many protected avian species, and COVID‑19 related restrictions of travel might have either positive impacts (due to decreased noise and traffic mortality) or negative impacts (due to increased abundance and activity levels of predators) on each species. It is thus important to monitor species of concern, to identify bird species that may require active management as a result of COVID‑19 travel restrictions, quantify impacts of altered traffic, and develop mitigation strategies to minimize negative impacts where necessary. This will allow us to optimize the conservation of Canada’s wildlife while concurrently ensuring human health and safety.
Conserving Canada’s bird species is important because birds contribute to pest management, seed dispersal, nutrient cycling, and other critical ecosystem services. Monitoring and ensuring the health of our natural world is thus an essential component of ensuring the health security and well-being of Canadians.