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First North Americans Had Chance To Be Avid Birders

Research Indicates That Wide Variety Of Birds Migrated To Ice Age Yukon

Aylmer, Québec, April 21, 1999 - New research reinforces the belief that the Yukon could have been a comfortable home to the first North Americans at least 25,000 years ago, and likely, much earlier. The findings indicate that an Ice Age region known as Eastern Beringia, now the northwestern Yukon, was rich with potentially human-sustaining animal life at a time when much of Canada, and the northern United States was covered with kilometre-thick glacial ice.

Conducted by scientists from the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Canadian Museum of Nature, the research results will be presented as part of a day-long symposium on Eastern Beringian Studies, Friday, April 30th, in Whitehorse, Yukon. The symposium is a component of the Canadian Archaeological Association's 32nd annual meeting.

This latest Beringian evidence comes in the form of hundreds of tiny migratory bird bones collected in the Bluefish Caves, an archeologically rich group of three caves located about 50 kilometres southwest of Old Crow, Yukon, near the Alaskan border. The avian bones indicate the presence of at least 18 species of migratory birds in the area over a period from about 25 000 to 10 000 years ago.

"When these birds arrived there was an environment productive enough for them to feed and breed. And the evidence of juvenile bones indicates that these migratory birds were breeding successfully in Eastern Beringia," says Darlene McCuaig-Balkwill, a zooarcheologist with the Canadian Museum of Nature.

The species identified would be familiar to present day Canadian birders. They include the red-tailed hawk, a fly-catcher, a redpoll, a waxwing, the snowy and hawk owls, and several species of swallows and plovers. The bones also include the earliest evidence in North America of a snow bunting, as well as the earliest record in Canada of a snow goose, a phoebe, and the American wi
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Contact: Jacob Berkowitz
jberkowitz@mus-nature.ca
613-566-4781
Canadian Museum of Nature
21-Apr-1999


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