Day 4: Four Calling Birds
Many birds vacate the Canadian Prairies before the frigid winter sets in, but there are many tough little residents and winter visitors that choose to brave the cold. A short walk outside of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (home of our National Office and Western/Northern node) is guaranteed to bring the familiar calls of several species to your ears.
Hardy and sociable, the Black-capped Chickadee survives the frigid temperatures by entering into a state of torpor, conserving energy by lowering their body temperature by up to 12 degrees Celsius, an uncommon ability amongst birds. They have a variety of calls including alarm calls that are used to warn others within their band of danger.
Part of the finch family, these intrepid birds are found in northern Europe, Asia and North America, including Greenland and Iceland. Although they can be found year-round in some areas, the southern and central Prairies are actually the wintering grounds of these birds. Their song is particularly musical, a trait common among finches. Salmonellosis is a frequent cause of death in this species and other common feeder birds. Proper and regular cleaning of bird feeders can help prevent the transmission of salmonella among wild birds and pets.
Waxwings, both the Bohemian and Cedar are year-round residents. The sounds of their typically large flocks are unmistakable as they swoop through urban and rural areas in search of food. These flocks are a particularly common sight in urban areas in the winter due to the presence of fruit bearing trees. Every year the CWHC receives several individuals, usually as a result of window strikes which may or may not be contributed to by varying states of intoxication from these birds eating fermented berries.
Okay, to see this species you may have to walk a bit farther outside the city. And you may see them before you hear them, as Gray Jays are the quietest cousins in the Corvid family. A frequent sight throughout the Canadian boreal forest, the Gray Jay happens to be our CWHC ambassador, representing the national scope of our organization and our hardy, but not flashy, nature. These uniquely Canadian birds are well-adapted winter residents that survive through their opportunistic nature, feeding on berries, seeds, insects, scraps of meat, and anything else they can get their hands – er, bills – on. They spend most of the summer hoarding food for the winter and are frequent visitors to campsites and traplines, where their boldness and cunning have earned the nickname “camp robber”.