A northern (red-shafted) flicker shows its colours. (Peter Hamel)

A northern (red-shafted) flicker shows its colours. (Peter Hamel)

On the Wing: Rats and Important Bird Areas

By Margo Hearne

If it’s not cats, it’s rats. When I answered the door this week, Elliot stood there and told me that a rat had caught a bird by the headfeathers in the Dawson strawberry field.

“I heard all the noise. It was a big tussle with the bird squawking and noisy,” he said. “I chased the rat off and the bird continued to squawk loudly before flying up into a tree. The bird had really long red wing feathers and was just a little bigger than a robin. The rat let it go, but the bird was really loud, there was a lot of struggling and fighting before I chased off the rat!”

I was amazed and said I’d go take a look, so after Elliot left I cut across to the field and, sure enough, there was a northern flicker on top of a low spruce looking somewhat dishevelled but, thanks to its saviour, still alive. There was no sign of rattus. It was definitely a first.

There seems to be more invasive species than ever on Haida Gwaii and I suspect that with all the visitors aboard boats and RVs, it will only get worse. Just this week we learned that although some of the work to rid the outer islands of rats was successful, a Norway rat was recently discovered on one of them. Rattus rattus, the black rat, is being replaced by Rattus norvegicus, the Norway, or brown rat. Not good news at all for indigenous birds and shrews.

There seem to be more problems and very few solutions to the rat population issue and the disastrous use of rat poison in populated areas. There are other ways. It is long past time for government agencies on-island to step up and begin an educational program to help out. If we had more assistance we could work together for the sake of Haida Gwaii’s wildlife.

Krista Kaptein, the Important Bird Area (IBA) coordinator, came to visit this week. At her presentation at the Nature Centre last Monday night she noted that IBAs are identified using internationally agreed upon, standardized, quantitative, and scientifically defensible criteria.

“This gives them a conservation currency that transcends international borders and promotes international collaboration for the conservation of the world’s birds,” she said.

At present there are 83 IBAs in B.C., with 19 of those on Haida Gwaii.

“They are a relatively new concept in Canada, and are not legally protected in their own right,” Kaptein said. “If they are part of a provincial or federal park system then they are somewhat protected, but that’s the only protection they have.”

In contrast, Kaptein said governments throughout the EU legally recognize and strictly regulate most IBAs as Special Protected Areas. In some developing countries, IBAs may be the only protected areas.

“We have a long way to go in Canada,” Kaptein added, noting that of the 19 IBA sites on Haida Gwaii, 80 per cent are coastal, including the stretch from east of Rose Spit right through to Skonun Point.

Nesting semi-palmated plovers, feeding sanderlings, and other birds that roost and feed there need us advocate on their behalf, she said. Along with those sites, the Delkatla Nature Centre monitors sites at Lawn Point and Skidegate Inlet, including the area outside the airport fence at Sandspit.

“Birds need these remote and isolated areas for survival and we can all keep watch on their behalf,” she said.

On the Wing

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cedar Valley Lodge, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers at the LNG Canada Project site in Kitimat. The most recent outbreak among workers at the project site was just declared over. (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
Second COVID-19 outbreak at LNG Canada Project site declared over

The outbreak was first declared on Dec. 16, 2020

CGL has closed down the two lodges affected to everyone except the essential staff. (Black Press file photo)
All COVID-19 cases associated with Coastal GasLink outbreak deemed recovered

Outbreaks occurred at CGL project accommodation sites in Burns Lake and Nechako Local Health Areas

Prince Rupert Branch of BC SPCA has partnered with the Greater Massett Food Bank to provide pet food to guardians in need during the pandemic, Joe Griffiths manager of BC SPCA said on Jan. 6. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Greater Massett Food Bank partners with BC SPCA

Greater Masset Food Bank has recently received more than 800 kg of pet food for those in need

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. turns to second doses of COVID-19 vaccine as supplies slow

Pfizer shipments down until February, to be made up in March

B.C.’s Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training announced funding to train community mental health workers at four B.C. post-secondary institutions. (Stock photo)
B.C. funding training of mental health workers at four post-secondary institutions

Provincial government says pandemic has intensified need for mental health supports

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
No Pfizer vaccines arriving in Canada next week; feds still expect 4M doses by end of March

More cases of U.K. variant, South African variant found in Canada

Health-care workers wait in line at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians who have had COVID-19 should still get the vaccine, experts say

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were found to have a 95 per cent efficacy

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

An empty Peel and Sainte-Catherine street is shown in Montreal, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Poll finds strong support for COVID-19 curfews despite doubts about effectiveness

The poll suggests 59 per cent remain somewhat or very afraid of contracting COVID-19

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

Most Read