Exploration

Vulnerable Sprague’s pipit spotted on Roberta Bondar avian migration expedition

Since 1966, the number of Sprague’s pipits in the wild has declined by almost 80 per cent
  • Feb 27, 2020
  • 397 words
  • 2 minutes
roberta bondar attwater prairie chicken wildlife refuge Expand Image
Advertisement

Despite poor weather in the early days of a February 2019 Roberta Bondar Foundation expedition, a vulnerable Sprague’s pipit was spotted in Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge, Texas. The bird hadn’t been seen all winter in the region.

“We caught a glimpse of a solitary brown bird with white outer tail feathers … flying into the grasses near the front of our slowly moving vehicle,” a trip briefing from the Roberta Bondar Foundation reports. “We felt that it might be [a Sprague’s pipit], given the size, markings, leg colour, eye and behaviour. We became quite excited that we had really found one.”

The Friends of Attwater Prairie Chicken later confirmed the bird photographed by the foundation was in fact a Sprague’s pipit.

Expand Image
Roberta Bondar spotted a flash of stripes in the grass ahead of the expedition’s vehicle. It turned out to be a vulnerable Sprague’s pipit. (Photo: Roberta Bondar)

Since 1966, the number of Sprague’s pipits in the wild has declined by almost 80 per cent. If current rates of decline continue, it is estimated that another 50 per cent of their population will be decimated by 2043. 

It wasn’t just the Sprague’s pipit the foundation was tracking down. The expedition, which ran from Feb. 10-17, 2019, aimed to contribute to the understanding and protection of the whooping crane, an endangered wetlands species. 

After spotting the Sprague’s pipit, trips by both boat and helicopter were undertaken near Aransas, Texas to look for whooping cranes and analyze their migration patterns. Photographs were taken of multiple birds, including a few exhibiting territorial behaviour.

In August 2018, the Roberta Bondar Foundation conducted a similar expedition in the Northwest Territories.

Expand Image
Migratory birds, like the whooping crane, face a multitude of challenges including crossing international boundaries and shrinking habitats. (Photo: Roberta Bondar Foundation)

The expeditions were part of AMASS (Avian Migration Aerial Surface Space), which aims to educate the public on the importance of sustaining natural habitats by combining three different points of view that examine migratory pathways: surface, aerial and from space. The team was looking to raise awareness of the dangers that migratory birds such as the Sprague’s pipit and whooping crane face on their long journeys.

Related: Photographing whooping cranes in Wood Buffalo with Roberta Bondar

Advertisement

Related Content

A pair of whooping cranes in Wood Buffalo National Park

Wildlife

Photographing whooping cranes in Wood Buffalo with Roberta Bondar

A new project by the Roberta Bondar Foundation aims to raise awareness of dangers to migratory birds

  • 492 words
  • 2 minutes

Environment

Discover Canada through Roberta Bondar’s camera lens

The former astronaut also happens to be an amazing photographer, and is using her talents to raise interest in Canada's wild spaces

  • 735 words
  • 3 minutes
CAE ships anchored at Bernard Harbour, Nunavut, in 1914

Exploration

Canada’s unsung expedition

A century after the start of the thrilling expedition that strengthened claims to Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic, the first Canadian Arctic Expedition remains a largely unknown part of the country’s history

  • 1956 words
  • 8 minutes
Map of Churchill Harbour by Jens Munk, 1624

Exploration

Jens Munk: An expedition ahead of its time

Two hundred years before Franklin and 300 years before Amundsen, a daring Dane came closer to finding the Northwest Passage than anyone had before

  • 2409 words
  • 10 minutes