Educators: Stimulate discussion with The Messenger!

Embraced by audiences the world over – The Messenger has had critical festival and North American theatrical success.  Rest assured this is hardly good-bye for the award-winning documentary about songbirds.   Many educators have been asking us if the film can be shown on campuses, in schools and in libraries. Yes, we want The Messenger to be seen and discussed by educators everywhere!  In fact we are even organizing a Canadian Campus Tour in partnership with our National Outreach partner Bird Studies Canada. It kicks off in September.

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Ontario Teachers Federation event

 

The Messenger is the most scientifically sound and beautiful film about songbirds I have ever seen. You heart will be opened to their plight and your brain to the action you can take to help save them.

Steven Price, President, Bird Studies Canada

 

 

 

Those who have seen the film will understand its power to enlighten and challenge students of all ages. Teachers and instructors will find the film inspires interesting discussions about our environment.  It can also be used to explore interdisciplinary connections to the avian issues that are depicted in the film.

Check back in to our Educators page, late October as we will have a free study/discussion guide available for teachers.

Here are just a few subject areas where we think the film has relevance.

  • Climate change
  • Loss of Habitat
  • Nature’s influence on Art and Culture
  • Biodiversity
  • Biology
  • Protecting the environment
  • Agriculture and pesticide use
  • Urbanisation and city planning
  • Advancements in tracking Technology for animals
  • Careers in environmental science and biology
  • Women in Science
  • Nature conservation
  • Photography and Filmmaking

Beyond the subject matter of the film is its innovative approach to capture the film’s subjects in  some ground-breaking cinematography.  A vital tool for filmmaking students working in non-fiction and fiction alike!

Educational DVD’s and Blu Rays have bonus material including behind-the-scenes footage, and a deleted scene.

The film is currently available for Educational use in the USA through our distributor Kino Lorber. 

Canadian libraries and schools can now pre-order The Messenger with institutional/educational and/or public performance rights for late fall delivery. Details here.

Another leading Bird conservation organization had this to say:

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The Messenger is riveting, emotionally engaging, and visually extravagant from the first frame to the last. Up-to-the-minute facts on how birds communicate about environmental change are interwoven with gripping stories about the perils faced every year by these amazing world travelers. This is a must-see movie for anybody who values the natural world or wonders about its relationship to humans.    

John Fitzpatrick, Executive Director, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

As stunning as The Messenger is in theatres, we expect the film will be appreciated on many small screens in classrooms around the world too.

To participate in the Canadian Campus Tour request a screening here.

For educational purchase, more info here.

If you are interested in a personal use home video, check out this page of our website.

 

 

Are Pesticides Causing Problems for Tree Swallow Songbirds?

The call of the Tree Swallow is a familiar sound to anyone living in the fields and wetlands of rural North America. These songbirds winter farther north than any other American swallow and return to their nesting ground long before other swallows come back.

Distinguished by their deep-blue backs and pure, white fronts, Tree Swallows are known for their impressive flight acrobatics as they chase after insects.

This songbird species has historically thrived in agriculture areas and grasslands.  The species has traditionally fared well in grasslands but has quickly begun to lose ground in terms of its population stability.  Scientists are beginning to notice that aerial insectivores associated with farmland are now the steepest in decline.

The North American Breeding Bird Survey  reports that tree swallows in Canada have declined 62% since 1966.  This alarming pattern is also appearing in the USA and Europe.

“Their numbers are telling us something about the environment that they’re living in,” says Christy Morrissey, an eco-toxicologist at the University of Saskatchewan. “The common denominator there is that they are living in an area which is susceptible to pesticides.”

The tree swallow habit of nesting tree cavities and bird house/nestboxes means that scientists can study their breeding behaviour in great detail; they know more about Tree Swallows than any other aerial insectivore. Bob Clarke, a professor at the University Saskatchewan, has been studying them for over twenty years.  His research has provided the Morrissey with a strong foundation for continuing to study pesticides and their impact on the species.

Christy suspects the recent introduction of neonicotinoid pesticides could be affecting insect populations, which in turn impacts the Tree Swallow’s diet. “We are seeing very clear differences between sites that have more agricultural intensification than sites that are more natural,” she says. Let’s hope that Christy can find the answer. The Breeding Bird Survey reports that tree swallows in Canada have declined 62% since 1966.

 

Saskatchewan Scientist Studying Impact of Pesticides

Christy Morrissey is in a race against time to prove that neonicotinoid pesticides are causing steep songbird population declines in the Canadian prairies. An ecotoxicologist at the University of  Saskatchewan, Christy has been researching how these powerful pesticides are seeping into the surrounding wetlands and poisoning the food chain.

We filmed with Christy last year as she collected her first wetland samples. The results were troubling. Of her 80 test water samples, all but two were contaminated with neonicotinoid pestcides. We checked in with Christy to see how her research is progressing this year. Christy and her team collect spring wetland water sample

Christy Morrissey

A portion of her study involves measuring the clutch size and body condition of Tree Swallows in different regions across the prairie. Could there be a connection between weaker birds and pesticides?

Christy and her team are in year three of their Tree Swallow study and are developing a stronger understanding of the birds’ diet. In spite of disruptions in their food supply, the birds maintain their diet of midges and mosquitoes, even if they are in short supply.

“We hypothesize that birds at agricultural sites must work harder to deliver to the chicks,” she said. “They will either increase the number of foraging trips or increase the amount of time spend attending the nestlings.” She hasn’t been surprised to notice that the birds are generally weaker in areas with more intensive agriculture and higher concentration of pesticides.

Pest damage

The flea beetle is an incredibly damaging pest for farmers if left untreated

Her team has also started to use radio frequency identification (RFID) tags on the tree swallows to record the number of feeding trips they make to their nests. This new possibility opens up doors to exciting research opportunities; Christy can now relate the number of feeding trips by each sex to their stress response.

This summer will be a busy and exciting time for Christy but at the same time, troubling. During filming, Christy made an interesting comment about her complicated relationship to her research. “I get excited about the results,” she said. “The fact that there are neonicotinoids in the water, seeing impacts as a scientist makes me excited because it’s interesting. But as a naturalist and even just a mother I guess it makes me concerned that…very little work has been done from the regulatory perspective to address this.”