As fall has set in, with winter right around the corner, birds have arrived in the Lower Mainland to spend the winter after breeding in areas as far north as the Alaskan, Canadian, and Russian tundra and Boreal forest. Some of these birds include Long-billed Dowitchers, that breed in the high Russian, Alaskan, and Canadian Arctic and spend the winters in the Lower Mainland, where winters are mild and food is more abundant.
Other birds, such as Green-winged teals, have returned from their freshwater breeding grounds further inland. Green-winged Teals gather in wetlands, estuaries, and on the coast where they feed on seeds, as well as invertebrates such as shrimp and worms living on muddy substrates.
Bald Eagles nest in March, and spend the summer and fall at salmon bearing rivers. In fall and early winter, Eagles, as well as gulls and other wildlife, feed on the dead carcasses of salmon that have died after returning from the ocean to coastal rivers to spawn where they were born. Bald Eagles rely on a dependable return of salmon, but habitat degradation, fish farms that harbour sea lice, and over fishing are impacting wild salmon populations and the animals dependant on them. As winter sets in, they will migrate locally to feed at nearby coastal mudflats and wetlands where an abundance of wintering waterfowl (ducks, geese) have gathered.
In addition, many species of owls arrive at this time to feed on smaller rodents found in coastal salt marshes and farm fields. Although many of these owls are seasonal visitors to the region, the Barred Owl can be spotted in the city's wooded areas year round.
While on the subject of owls, here are a few fun facts about these stealthy hunters.
- An owl’s eyes are shaped more like a tube than an eyeball, forcing owls to rotate their heads to look around.
- Owls have more rods than cones in their eyes enhancing their vision in the dark, but reducing their colour vision.
- The brown colouring in a bird’s plumage, including owls, is a result of melanin in both the skin and feathers.
- The ears of an owl are not symmetrical in their placement. One ear is lower and one higher, allowing the owls to pick up on sounds from above and below to help hunt in the dark.
- Owls have tiny comb like feathers on the leading edge of the wings to reduce noise caused by air turbulence, allowing for these birds to hunt silently.
- Not all owls are nocturnal. Some species will hunt during the day as well as at night.
🚨 - Please do not use rodenticides to deal with mice and rats. Owls will prey on these sick rodents, and the accumulation of these toxins has adverse affects on these marvelous birds.
- If you see an owl, please do not report its whereabouts right away as to not draw huge crowds that may overwhelm them.
- If you're photographing an owl, it is important that you do not use flash, as this will disturb their highly sensitive eyes.
Have a wonderful winter holiday with friends and family, and maybe some birds too!
Birds mentioned in this article:
Bald Eagle - https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Bald_Eagle
Green-winged Teal - https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Green-winged_Teal
Long-billed Dowitcher - https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Long-billed_Dowitcher
American Coot - https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Coot
Barred Owl - https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Barred_Owl
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