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Thread: More birds of the Far North

  1. #1
    Senior Member Grey Wolf's Avatar
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    More birds of the Far North

    So I've finally been able to go out and take some pictures! The past week we have been working on the north side of Winnipeg, about a half hour drive from where live. Lots of open country, lots of world class birding sites! Quite regular in the area are Snowy Owls (Bubo scandiacus). So I figured I'd hope in my car and head over there, as I was more or less guaranteed to see one. Well as it turns out I didn't need to! Just outside Oakbank was an immature Snowy Owl, perched on a telephone pole on the side of the road.
    ImageUploadedByTapatalk1419653521.433571.jpg
    Snowy Owls and other predatory Arctic birds are a a regular thing at my latitude, but in some winters, such as 2011/2012 and 2013/2014, they will come down en masse, reaching areas where they wouldn't naturally occur in the winter, such as Florida and Texas. The exact reason for this is not really known, but it's possible that it is linked either to food availability (lemmings being their main prey source), or nesting success. Also worth noting is the in this picture is the "horns". Like its closest North American relative the Great Horned Owl, the Snowy is an eagle owl, but unlike the other members of the Bubo genus the horns normally aren't visible. Eagle owls such as the snowy and great horned are powerful predators, not only taking the usual mice, voles and lemmings but also larger prey such as rabbits, mustelids, raccoons, cats, large ground birds up to the size of a great blue heron, and even other owl species. The Eurasian Eagle Owl has even been known to take small Roe Deer in extreme cases!

    ImageUploadedByTapatalk1419654083.535077.jpg
    Like the Snowy Owl, the Rough-legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus) is an tundra breeder tied to the lemming as a food source, and could be considered the Arctic counterpart of the Red-tailed Hawk. They often hunt in typical Buteo fashion, which consists of perching, and waiting for the food to make itself apparent. Unlike most other Buteo hawks (save for the Red-tailed), however, the Rough-legged is also capable of hovering, which this one was doing when I spotted it. However they don't do this very often, as it expends a lot of energy, and would rather conserve it by sitting and waiting. This particular bird's cover was blown, as another specialty of the far north spotted him—a Northern Shrike!

    Like the Snowy Owl and Rough-legged Hawk, the Northern Shrike (Laniusnexcubitor also known as the Great Grey Shrike in Eurasia) —like all shrikes—is a predator. But it's also a songbird! While not a denizen of the barren tundra like the other two, the shrike is a breeder in the open taiga forest up north, where it prefers a mix of trees and open areas, usually you'll find them in similar habitats here in the winter, where they'll prey on small rodents and birds. When a shrike does catch something, it will often impale it on a sharp branch or barbed wire, to save it for later. Initially I thought this bird was a blue jay, as it isn't uncommon to see them mobbing larger birds (and often I use them to find owls and hawks and falcons). However I checked the pictures a few minutes later and realized i was treated to something that often only a trip to Churchill would give you!
    Last edited by Grey Wolf; December 26th, 2014 at 10:45 PM.
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  2. #2
    Administrator Aloicious's Avatar
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    very cool! thanks for the info too, that was a good read. I really wish we got snowys down here. I may need to make a snowy owl trip someday to find some up north.
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    Senior Member Grey Wolf's Avatar
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    Well they might possibly come out your way in the flight years, but I'm not sure if this is one or not yet. If you come out to one of the prairie provinces in winter you stand the best chance of seeing one, they're diurnal and usually sit pretty conspicuously. 2011/2012 and 2013/2014 were both substantial flight years, so it's possible this year will be too

  4. #4
    Lovely image at dusk.
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