in Ontario is dominated by seasonal changes in climate, punctuated by
winter. The majority of bird species that breed in eastern Ontario
migrate out of the region to avoid the winter conditions, but a few
species remain, and others still come to the region, typically from the
north. Many of these wintering species show remarkable adaptations to
their cold, dark and snow-covered environment.
The goal of this
course is to explore the ecology of birds in winter, examining
adaptations of various species to surviving under difficult conditions.
We will consider factors that limit the geographic distributions of
species, particularly at northern latitudes, how species partition
habitat and food resources, mixed-species flocking, the importance of
food caching, large mammal kills, and roost sites, patterns of movement
through the winter, and morphological and physiological adaptations to
winter conditions. We will also consider the impacts of global climate
change on the wintering distributions and ecology of local species.
will learn skills of field identification of birds, recording natural
history observations, designing and conducting field studies, and
analysis and presentation of results. The field course will focus on
the immediate area of the Queen's University Biological Station, but
will include day trips to nearby open water and congregations of birds
(Wolfe or Amherst Island) and to boreal forest (Algonquin, weather permitting).
and come prepared for, extremely cold conditions and deep snow. Hiking
in these conditions can be extremely difficult – students should be
confident that they are in good physical condition.