Lyle Friesen


“A world without songbirds? ‘…Don’t you know that it always seems to go and you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone.’ That was said a long time ago by a non biologist but I don’t think it could be said any better than that.”

Lyle Friesen’s work is sometimes more FBI than bird biologist. Using tiny infra-red surveillance cameras, he and his crew observe dozens of songbird nests. His mission? To determine the threats faced by the Wood Thrush living in South Western Ontario.

The Wood Thrush faces many predators but its greatest enemy is the Cowbird. The Cowbird is the ultimate con artist of nature. Under the cloak of darkness she sneaks into Wood Thrush nests, removes the eggs, and then lays its own.  The Wood Thrush then cares for its new adoptive children it has lost.

Friesen knows that urbanization and forest fragmentation have destroyed the Cowbird’s native grassland habitat. But are cowbirds now pushing the Wood Thrush and many other forest songbird populations to the brink?

Lyle Friesen is a landbird biologist with Canadian Wildlife Services, Environment Canada.