The Belted Kingfisher

Article, illustrations and animation by Jake Duncan

Photo courtesy of Mike Yip

Common Name: Belted Kingfisher

Scientific Name: Ceryle alcyon

Etymology: New Latin, from Ancient Greek meaning “fabulous sea-bird.”

Size Range: Their size can vary from 28 cm to 33 cm, their weight averages at 150g to 170g, and their wingspan measures 48 cm to 58 cm.

Identifying Features: Belted Kingfishers, like most other Kingfishers, are stocky birds with large heads and thick, pointed bills. Their legs are short, their tails medium, and they sport a shaggy crest on the top and back of their heads, somewhat like the bird equivalent to a mohawk hairstyle. Belted Kingfishers are painted in the colour palette of slate blue with white chest and stomach, a broad, blue belt of sorts, and white spotting on their wings. Females are differentiated by their wide band of burnt sienna across their bellies. These kingfishers can be identified by their loud, rattling call.

Habitat: Belted Kingfishers are found year round throughout the region of the Pacific Northwest. They nest on shores with good fishing opportunities. They dig their nests out of the soft earth on the banks of streams, lakes, ponds, and saltwater shorelines. Estuaries with relatively clear waters are a favourite habitat of these birds.

Prey: Sticklebacks, mummichogs, trout, stonerollers, and crayfish are all common in the diet of Kingfishers.  Along the coastline of the Pacific Northwest are they most often seen feeding on various species of fish including herring, perch and sculpins.   They are also found to enjoy a variety of insects, crustaceans, mollusks, amphibians, reptiles, young birds, small mammals, and sometimes berries. Belted Kingfishers are not known to be picky eaters. As their name suggests, they partake in fishing. They perch over a body of water, usually close to their nest, wait for their prey to arrive, dive into the water and catch their prey in their large bill. They have been known to swallow some of their prey, such as fish, whole.

Predators: Since Belted Kingfishers are relatively large birds they do not make easy prey. Some of their natural predators include Cooper’s Hawks, Sharp Shinned Hawks, and Peregrine Falcons. To prevent themselves from being caught and eaten they dive underwater until the predator goes away. It is an effective method and usually succeeds in deterring the predator in question.

Life Cycle:  Belted Kingfishers are monogamous birds who partner up with a new bird each breeding season and spend the majority of the rest of the year alone. Their annual breeding season is between April and July. At the end of the season the females leave for their own personal reasons. One month before they return for breeding, the males establish a territory of 800 to 1200m. Both males and females take turns digging out a new nest for egg incubation, another activity in which both males and females participate. After a brief courting period, part of which involves the male Kingfisher providing food for his partner, the female Kingfisher lays 5 to 8 large, shiny white eggs. The eggs hatch in 23 to 24 days after being incubated by both parents. Baby belted kingfishers are totally helpless with bare pink skin, a grey bill, and closed eyes. Fortunately, they grow and develop quickly and fledgling takes only a few weeks.

References:

Cannings, R. Opperman, H. Aversa, T. (2008). Birds of Southwestern British Columbia. British Columbia. Heritage House Publishing.

Kushner, B. (2017). Belted Kingfisher. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Retrieved October 2018 from https://www.allaboutbirds.org/stagingguide/Belted_Kingfisher/overview

N.A. (2018). Ceryle. Wiktionary. Retrieved November 2018 from https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Ceryle

Schablein, J. (2012). Belted Kingfisher. Kids’ Inquiry of Diverse Species. Retrieved October 2018 from http://www.biokids.umich.edu/critters/Megaceryle_alcyon/

Authors: Calen Michel and Isaac Hatfield

Scientific name: Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Size range: 3-6.3kg

Wingspan: 1.8-2.3m

Height: 30-40in

Identifying features:

Adults have a white head, neck, and tail and a dark brown body and wings. They have hooked yellow beaks and strong yellow talons that help them catch prey.  Immature eagles are chocolate brown with white and black spots, spotty beaks and dark brown to light yellow eyes. Males and females look the same, however, females tend to be bigger with a longer beak and back talon.

Habitat: Bald eagles are most abundant in Alaska and Canada and other northern parts of America. They make their nests in forested areas near large bodies of water and tend to seek areas away from humans. They often return to their nests each year and continue to add new materials, creating nets that can weigh more than 2000 pounds.

Food: Their primary source of food is fish, but they do eat smaller mammals. They are opportunistic predators which means they can steal prey from other animals or scavenge. Bald Eagles are at the top of their food chain, meaning they do not have any predators, however, they do experience negative effects from human activity.

Life Cycle: They are monogamous birds and the female usually lays one to four eggs, incubating them for 30 to 50 days depending on the climate. Once the eggs have hatched, the eaglets stay in the nest for 10 to 23 weeks while the parents feed them. Once the eaglets learn to fly and hunt, they leave their nest and start their own family. Bald Eagles have a lifespan of 20 years in the wild.

Photos by Isaac Hatfield

Video by Calen Michel

References:

Bald Eagle Facts, Information, and Photos. (2015). Retrieved from https://forum.americanexpedition.us/bald-eagle-information-facts-photos-and-artwork

Bald Eagle Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Bald_Eagle/id

Eagle Diet & Feeding. (2017, July 21). Retrieved from http://www.nationaleaglecenter.org/eagle-diet-feeding/

Falconetti, E. (2019, January 10). Life Cycle of an Eagle. Retrieved from https://sciencing.com/life-cycle-eagle-6722239.html

Politis. (2016, July 06). Animal Facts: Bald Eagle. Retrieved from https://www.canadiangeographic.ca/article/animal-facts-bald-eagle

Great Blue Heron

Author: Thomas Woodruff

Photos by Stuart Clarke

Scientific name: Ardea herodias

Size range: 1m to 1.3m in height with a wingspan up to 2m

Identifying features:    The bodies of Great Blue Herons are blue-gray in colour while their heads are white with a black streak above the eyes which have blue rings around them. They have long, pointed, yellowish beaks. They also have long legs which allow them to easily wade in water which is where they hunt for a majority of their prey. Besides wading in water they can be found in the sky and nesting in trees. Another identifying feature of Great Blue Herons is their long neck which is usually curled in an “s” shape.

Habitat:     The Great Blue Heron is prominent throughout North America as well as Mexico, the Caribbean and South America for migration. While some of them migrate they are able to survive during the winter in cold locations as long as fish-bearing waters remain unfrozen. Great Blue Herons can adapt to almost any wetland habitat. They can be found in fresh and saltwater marshes, mangrove swamps, flooded meadows, lake edges and shorelines.

Prey:     Great Blue Herons primarily eat small fish but will opportunistically eat shrimp, crab, aquatic insects, rodents, other small mammals, amphibian, reptiles and birds, especially ducklings. Primary prey is based on availability and abundance. In British Columbia the primary prey species are sticklebacks, gunnels, sculpins and perch. Herons use sight to locate their prey and will swallow it whole. They are solitary feeders and will hunt in shallow water or fields; wading with their long legs they will quickly stab prey with their sharp beak.

Predators:     The main threat to Great Blue Heron eggs are Turkey Vultures, Common Ravens, American Crows and raccoons. Red-tailed Hawks, American Black Bears and raccoons will try to take larger nestings and fledgelings. Adults have few predators which include Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles and, less frequently, Great Horned Owls and Harris’s Hawk. A fully grown Great Blue Heron is a formidable foe with its large size and dagger-like bill. When predators attack a breeding colony, the colony will sometimes be abandoned by the birds. Humans are the primary source of disturbances and breeding failures at colonies because of human recreation or habitat destruction as well as hunters and egg collectors.

Life cycle:     Great Blue Herons reproduce sexually. They will create a nest with sticks high up in a tree, on the edge of a cliff or in reeds. They will usually nest in colonies. A female will typically lay two to seven eggs over the course of five days. The female will then sit on them for incubation until they hatch in about 25-30 days. The chicks will develop feathers for flight after two months.

References:

Peterson, R. (1990). Western birds. Boston, New York

Fitzpatrick, J. (2002). Field guide to the birds of North America. Washington, D.C.

PBS. (2018). Great blue heron. NatureWorks. Retrieved November 20, 2018 from https://nhpbs.org/natureworks/greatblueheron.htm

Cornell lab of ornithology. (2017). Great blue heron. Allaboutbirds. Retrieved November 26, 2018 from https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Great_Blue_Heron/

Thanks to Stuart Clarke for the photos

Photo links:

https://www.raincoastphoto.com/Birds-of-British-Columbia/Wading-Birds1/Great-Blue-Heron/i-CqLXFKs/A

https://www.raincoastphoto.com/Birds-of-British-Columbia/Wading-Birds1/Great-Blue-Heron/i-PNrQZHJ/A

https://www.raincoastphoto.com/Birds-of-British-Columbia/Wading-Birds1/Great-Blue-Heron/i-3vj3RVT/A

https://www.raincoastphoto.com/Birds-of-British-Columbia/Wading-Birds1/Great-Blue-Heron/i-N2pb2bS/A

Northwestern Crow

Scientific name: Corvus caurinus

Author and animation by Ares Bach

Photo courtesy of Mike Yip

Overview
The crow is a member of the family Corvidae; a prolific family with over forty different species that range around the world, predominantly in Asian countries.  Crows are actually one of the most intelligent animals in the entire world, carrying encephalization similar to some non-human primates; not only do crows work around using specific tools to assist in getting a job done, or make a scenario easier to benefit themselves, but they also use it to assist in construction.  Crows have the ability to remember a human face for up to thirty years, as well as pass off the information of that specific individual down to their offspring.  Crows also tend to mourn their passing brothers with a stick or other object to represent a grave of sorts.In 80% of all nests observed, older siblings of the mother will assist in raising a newborn, usually by procuring food.  In addition to this, The fearlessness of crows renders them a very brave animal.  They will even go to extents of chasing eagles away, factoring in the nine times size difference, although crows will generally attack prey in murders or cliques, due to it being quick and efficient.

Features
Some identifying features of the crow would be the bearing black cape of pointy feathers that glide down their sides in a sharp line of spears, their good posture, short pointy beak, and beady eyes. The weight of a common American Crow rounds to about 320 – 620 grams, with an average height of 45 centimeters; however, some other crows, like the Fish Crow for example, measure in around the 50 centimetre mark

Habitat
Crows can be found all over the world, but are primarily found in parts of Asia and North America.  Crows and ravens prefer to be in open areas, such as open agricultural grassland with nearby trees, and suburban areas and streets. This is evidenced by the fact crows are mostly scavengers, similar to seagulls and vultures, and like to obtain food through little effort and strategic ability.  They will revisit areas for their consistent distribution of food; outside of stores, garbage cans etc.  Crows in British Columbia are currently divided into two different species; the interior crow (American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos) and the coastal crow (Northwestern Crow, Corvus caurinus).  Although in the Puget Sound region of Washington they will frequently interbreed.

Food/Prey
Crows are omnivores, with extensive variation in their diet; They will pretty much eat everything including fruits, nuts, mollusks, earthworms, frogs, eggs, seeds, carrion, nestlings, mice, birds, and even their own kind, if necessary. The Northwestern Crow found along the coastline of British Columbia will also scavenge on sea bird eggs and intertidal invertebrates.  Crows are hunters and will scavenge as much as possible to survive. They will hunt alone or in groups, for more efficiency in capturing prey, and unlike most birds, they won’t stop until they get the prey they are hunting for.

Predators
Human beings are the main predators of crows, even more so than hawks, owls, or raccoons who are hunting crows for food.  Although crows can sufficiently defend themselves from large animals by forming a murder or large group to fight back, they will usually fight individual hawks and their nests in packs to assert dominance of a newly formed potential domicile, although most crows die in infancy, due to starvation.

Life Cycle
Crows will reach a sexual maturity around three years for a female and five years for a male.  They will generally have three to nine eggs. While the gestation period ranges from twenty to forty days, crows will generally mate for life.  On average crows live to the age of twenty although the oldest living crow recorded reached the age of fifty nine. Crows are more susceptible to West Nile Virus than any other mammal, and typically die within a week of infection.  Very few survive it, or any other disease. Most young crows quickly obtain mature features, but when born generally look like a hunk of black waddling feathers. In my perception most elder crows look grey and disheveled, and sound quite different — more raspy than younger able-bodied crows.

References:

Macini, M. (2017, October 2) 12 Fascinating Facts about Crows. Retrieved from  http://mentalfloss.com/article/504722/12-fascinating-facts-about-crows

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corvus

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crow
(this site was last updated september 21st 2018 )

Turkey Vulture

Scientific Name: Cathartes aura

Author: Graham Benneyworth

Size Range: Length: 62-81cm, Wingspan: 160-183cm

Habitat & Distribution:

Turkey Vultures prefer drier areas at lower elevations, and can be found within the interior of BC down to the shore line along the coast. They tend to breed in either remote, undisturbed rocky areas, or closed canopy forests, at elevations of 1000 metres or lower. They can be found in a wide range through the Americas; their norther observation limit is in southern BC, with the rest of their range stretching down through the pacific coast of the US and continuing down through Central and South America. In BC they usually can be seen around the southern part of the province, such as the Okanagan, Fraser valley systems, Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.  In the interior they can be found all around the river systems, including the Thompson, Nicola, Columbia, Kootenay and Lillooet rivers.

Identifying features:  

  • Long, rounded tail form
  • Bald, bright red or pink head, bald head means meat doesn’t stick to it, red allows it to catch prey more easily
  • Dark brown body, with paler brown wings, and white under-feathers
  • “Fingertip” shapes at tips of wings
  • When seen head on their wings will form a squished “V” shape
  • Pale, sharply hooked beak, good for tearing meat and hide

Feeding Habits

Vultures are scavengers and their most common food is carrion. They use their sense of vision and extraordinary sense of smell to locate food, even in dense wooded areas and forests. They prefer to eat already-deceased herbivores, but the vultures will also hunt reptiles, fish and small birds. The olfactory system of the Cathartes aura is very advanced when compared to other avian species, being able to sniff out prey from up to a mile away. They also have very nice table manners, and will wait their turn to eat, giving courtesy to other birds and animals.

Predators

While having few natural predators, being in nature the vultures would have a few, these being other large predatory birds such as; Great Horned Owls, Red Tailed Hawks, Golden & Bald Eagles, while mammals such as opossums & raccoons prey on the nests and nestlings of the vultures. Non-natural threats include lead poisoning from lead pellets, ingested by eating animals killed by lead shot, and the obvious deforestation in popular breeding areas, hunters and farmers who might kill them for a variety of reasons, or certain drugs that they might ingest from eating cattle who had the drugs in their own systems.

Life cycle:

  • Eggs- 2 per laying
  • Both parents sit on nest and both feed young with regurgitated food
  • Incubate for 28-40 days, nest for 60-84 after hatching
  • Nestlings fledge at 9-10 weeks
  • Life expectancy is 16 years in the wild and 30 in captivity under proper care and conditions

Photos and video by D. Young


References:

Bird Atlas –  Davidson, P.J.A. 2015. Turkey Vulture in Davidson, P.J.A., R.J. Cannings, A.R. Couturier, D. Lepage, and C.M. Di Corrado (eds.).The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia, 2008-2012. Bird Studies Canada. Delta, B.C. http://www.birdatlas.bc.ca/accounts/speciesaccount.jsp?sp=TUVU&lang=en [25 Jan 2018]

Brown, W.H. 1976. Winter population trends in black and turkey vultures. Amer. Birds  30:909-912.

Coleman, J.S. and J.D. Fraser. 1987. Food habits of black and turkey vultures inPennsylvania and Maryland. J. Wildl. Manage. 51:733-739. 1989.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology: All about birds – Turkey Vulture. (n.d.). Retrieved January 24, 2018, from https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Turkey_Vulture/id

Kaufman, K. (2016, March 01). Turkey Vulture. Retrieved January 24, 2018, from http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/turkey-vulture?site=kern&nid=4116

Stewart, P.A. 1977. Migratory movements and mortality rate of turkey vultures. Bird- Banding 48:122-124.

Wilbur, S.R. and J.A. Jackson. 1983. Vulture biology and management. Univ. Calif. Press, Berkeley, CA. Retrieved January 24, 2018 https://www.for.gov.bc.ca/tasb/legsregs/fpc/fpcguide/other/species/species-16.htm


Author:  Koa Planedin

Photos by Mike Yip

Common name: The Common Raven

Scientific Name: Corvus corax

Identifying Features
Corvus corax is 22-30 inches in length, has a 40-59 inch wing span, and weighs 1.5-4.4 lbs. C. corax is one of the heaviest passerines. You can tell them apart from crows by their large curved bill and longish graduated wedge shaped tail. They have a deep, distinctive call with a wide complex vocabulary. While in flight, the raven’s feathers make a creaking sound similar to rustled silk.  Due to a rare genetic mutation some crows in the Qualicum area of Vancouver Island appear white with blue eyes.  According to Mike Yip this isn’t albinism since they have pigment.  It is termed leucistic and refers to the reduction in all types of pigment, not just the lack of melanin as in albinism.t

Identifying Features
Corvus corax is 22-30 inches in length, has a 40-59 inch wing span, and weighs 1.5-4.4 lbs. C. corax is one of the heaviest passerines. You can tell them apart from crows by their large curved bill and longish graduated wedge shaped tail. They have a deep, distinctive call with a wide complex vocabulary. While in flight, the raven’s feathers make a creaking sound similar to rustled silk.  Due to a rare genetic mutation some crows in the Qualicum area of Vancouver Island appear white with blue eyes.  According to Mike Yip this isn’t albinism since they have pigment.  It is termed leucistic and refers to the reduction in all types of pigment, not just the lack of melanin as in albinism.

Habitat
C. corax thrives in varied, diverse climates all over the world. These range through artic and temperate habitats in North America and Eurasia to the deserts of North Africa, and islands in the Pacific Ocean. This bird is common in Scotland, Wales, northern England, and west Ireland. In Tibet, they have been recorded at altitudes up to 5000m (16,400ft) and 6,350 (20,600ft) on Mount Everest. They are restricted to Sindh district of Pakistan and adjoining regions of north-west India. Most prefer wooded and costal areas.

Food
Ravens are omnivorous. Their diet normally containing insects, berries, seeds, eggs/young of other birds, small mammals, carrion (the flesh of animals killed by other predators),  and they will often eat things not considered “food” (such as human trash, in an urban environment). It’s been said ravens will hunt alongside packs of wolves, sharing their kill. It’s also been said they will go for the eyes first, typically seen in Nordic images. There is evidence supporting these tales, since eye tissue is softer and easier for birds to pick at, and wolves do some of the shredding of the meat, making it a lot easier for ravens to eat. They are often seen as a dark symbol in western culture for their taste for flesh, but are an important part of the ecosystem, as seen in aboriginal tales. They sometimes even eat noxious weeds.

Predators
They are mostly hunted by birds of prey or other scavengers. Hawks, owls, other ravens, and martens are common predators, though most animals don’t seem to go after ravens as a major food source.

Life Cycle
C. corax mate for life. They start showing courtship behavior at 3-4 years of age, around mid-January. Courting rituals include males soaring, swooping, and tumbling in front of females. They will also fly together and preen each other. By mid-March the couple starts roosting and the female typically lays 3-7 green blotched eggs. The female incubates and is fed by her mate during the 3-4 week incubation period. After hatching, both parents feed the young by regurgitating food and water (stored in a throat patch). The young tend to leave the nest after 5 weeks.  In the wild they generally live between 10 to 15 years but have been known to live up to more than 40 years in captivity.

Photos courtesy of Mike Yip

References
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (2012), Common Raven, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Retrieved June 11th, 2012.
www.desertmuseum.org/books/nhsd_raven.php

The Alaska Zoo, Common Raven Fast Facts, The Alaska Zoo. Retrieved June 11th, 2012.
www.alaskazoo.org/common-raven

Cornell University (2012), Common Raven, The Cornell Lab or Ornithology. Retrieved June 11th, 2012.
www.birds.cornell.edu/birdsleuth/modules/exploring-bird-behavior/bird-guide/common-raven

Harlequin Duck

Author:  Egor Peshkov and Marlo Osborne-Subasic

Common name: Harlequin Duck

Scientific name: Histrionicus histrionicus

Size: Harlequin Ducks are between 33cm (13 in) and 54cm (21.3 in) long, and weigh 500 grams (1.1lbs) to 726 grams (1.6lbs).


Identifying Features

The Harlequin Duck is an especially handsome creature, due to the males having very similar colouring to a Jester. They have round heads with steep foreheads and stubby bills.  The males have distinctive white patches and stripes on the head and body. They have burgundy wings, with a metallic blue speculum. The females look far less interesting, being mostly dark brown and grey, with just a few white patches on their heads. The young ducks are somewhat like the females. They can often be identified by the spot between their eyes and the bill. They are also darker than the females and they look greyer. The males start to grow the distinct male plumage when they are about 2 to 3 years old.

Habitat

H. histrionicus tends to live on rocky coastlines including bays and in exposed locations such as rivers and fast flowing streams. They can be found flying 3352 metres above sea level during the summer. In the winter they are usually around shallow waters where they spend their time feeding and resting. The birds go to their breeding grounds (streams), sometime in April or early May and don’t return to the sea until June.  They are commonly seen around the shorelines of Victoria and the Gulf Islands.

Life Cycle

What few Histrionicus histrionicus nests have been found, have generally been near streams at the bases of stumps, bushes, and in suitable spots in trees and cliffs. The female lays 5-10 eggs in the months of May and June.  The females stay close to streams to incubate their eggs and then raise the young, which hatch in late June and July. They take the young ducks to the sea in September and October. After being taken to the coast, the drakes moult their baby feathers and get a new plumage resembling that of a female. The mature males are generally found in a flightless condition

Prey

Harlequin Ducks eat mostly marine organisms (mollusks and small fish) and insects (blackfly larvae, stoneflies, caddis flies and midges). They usually dive under the water to capture their prey.  They can also be found walking on the bottom of the river bed looking for larvae under rocks. The Harlequin Ducks must feed continuously due to their high metabolism and small bodies.

Predators

There is very little information available on the predators of the H. histrionicus, but it can be assumed that it has the same predators as most other ducks.   These would include raccoons, hawks, snakes, cats and dogs.  Since the Harlequin Duck is an endangered species, and also does not taste very good, it is not hunted by humans.

Photos by Egor Peshkov and D. Young

References

Guiguet, C.J. (1978) The Birds of British Columbia: 6) Waterfowl. Victoria, B.C.: British Columbia Provincial Museum.

Planet of Birds (November 12, 2011). Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus histrionicus). Retrieved May 10, 2012 from http://www.planetofbirds.com/anseriformes-anatidae-harlequin-duck-histrionicus-histrionicus

Riley, A.; M. Johnson; A. Riley and M. Johnson 2010. “Histrionicus histrionicus” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed May 10, 2012 athttp://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Histrionicus_histrionicus.html

Sutton, C.  Nature Canada Preservation Conservation Endangered Species Canada. Retrieved May 9th2012 from http://www.naturecanada.ca/bird_cons_harlequin.asp


Glaucous-winged Gull

By Zach Cameron

Scientific name: Larus glaucescens

Size range:

Length: 19.7-23.2 in (50-59 cm) from head to tail

Wingspan: 47.2-56.3 in (120-143)

Weight: 31.7-42.3 oz (900-1200g)


Identifying Features

The Glaucous-winged Gull is a sizable bird of the Laridae (gull) family, growing to around half a meter in length with a meter and a half wingspan. It can be identified by its web-footed pink legs and a red circle on its large yellow beak as well as its distinctively grey wings and back feathers. The gull has a white tail and chest. The undersides of its wings are also white and it has hints of grey throughout. Males can be distinguished from females by their larger size. Younger gulls are a more grey-brown all over with a black beak and a dark ring around their eyes. With breeding plumage, the feathers around the gull’s head are completely white and a pink circle is directly around both of their eyes. The Glaucous-winged Gull’s non-breeding plumage differs only by the fact that the head feathers are speckled in a grey to brown colouring and lack the ring around the eye. Interbreeding between gull species can make it a challenge to identify them but they can be quickly distinguished by their solely grey and white plumage.

Habitat

Being a coastal sea bird, the Glaucous-winged Gull is usually found close to salt water and a food source. It can be found as far north as the Bering Sea, down to the Pacific coast going through Alaska, British Columbia and into northwestern Washington. During the winter they are commonly found in Asia going down to Japan. They often habitat beaches and rocky shorelines but also go up rivers in search of spawning salmon. These birds have integrated themselves well into man made environments, living around cities, harbours, garbage dumps and following fishing boats out into open waters. They have become especially successful because of garbage dumps; due to the dumps being such a great food source, there has been large increase in the gull population.

Food

Glaucous-winged Gulls are omnivores that will eat just about anything. They are both scavengers and predators that can be found eating garbage and carrion (decaying flesh), stealing from other sea birds such as cormorants and pelicans, and feeding on salmon in the interior and marine animals in the open ocean. These gulls have a very wide diet that includes garbage, fish, seaweeds, mollusks, barnacles, other birds, small mammals, sea urchins and other invertebrates, crustaceans and so on. Being a bird, it uses its flight and speed to capture its prey as well as its large beak as an offensive tool. The birds will also use rocks to break open the harder, protected prey, by dropping the prey from a high height onto the rocks.

Predators

Adult Glaucous-winged Gulls do not have much in terms of predators. Bald eagles are known to eat the gulls throughout their lifetime as well as skuas, crows, and ravens who will steal gull eggs. The Glaucous-winged gull itself is a large predator of the species which often resorts to cannibalism of the younger and smaller chicks and eggs.

Life Cycle

Glaucous-winged Gulls usually live to around 10 years old but have been known to live almost three times as long. They reach breeding age and adult plumage at 4 years old and will go to the same place and keep the same mate for most or all of their lives. They usually nest between April and August and lay 1 to 5 eggs. Their nests are made up of whatever they can gather in the area, using anything from seaweeds, plants, driftwood and even garbage. They nest on top of buildings, on beaches, in trees, islands, and cliff faces. Chicks will hatch around 27 days after the eggs are first laid and can usually fly at 44 days old. Glaucous-winged Gulls regularly breed with other species of gull (such as the Herring and California Gulls) when their territories cross.

Illustration by Zach Cameron, Photograph by Lydia Young

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The Black Oystercatcher

By Leah Brett

Common name: Black Oystercatcher

Scientific name: Haematopus bachmani

Size range: 35cm to 43 cm


Identifying features

The Black Oystercatcher is an all black shorebird. What stands out in this bird is the bright red long bill and the yellow ring around the eye. The size of these birds resembles a common crow except for the bare short pinkish yellow legs.

Habitat

Black Oystercatchers can be found along the rocky shoreline of the Pacific coast as far south as California and north to Alaska. Though they can be seen as individuals, they are often found in small groups poking their beaks among the rocks and seaweed looking for small prey with other shorebirds such as Gulls and Sandpipers.

Food

The main diet of Oystercatchers includes mussels and limpets. These shellfish seem to be in abundance on the West Coast though other kinds of easy prey such as small crabs, barnacles or sea worms in tidal pools or among seaweed is common as well. They use their beak for stabbing the abductor muscle that holds the shell open and pull out the soft tissue with the tip of its sharp bill.

Predators

Because of their small size Black Oystercatchers are easy prey to Eagles, Gulls, Minks, Otters, Ravens, Weasels, Wolverines and Bears. The only defence they have is when they are alarmed, they take flight with a loud piercing whistle.

Life Cycle

Black Oystercatchers live approximately 15 years. They nest on non-forested islands with shelled or gravel beaches usually the same place every year. The nest is made out of a few shells or rock fragments in a small depression just above the high tide line. The female lays 2 to 3 eggs at a time once a year in spring. Incubation is 24 to 29 days. The chicks are downy with “salt and pepper” specks for the first 4 weeks until the adult feathers grow in.

Photos by D. Young

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Canada Goose

Author:  Coen del Valle

Common Name: Canada Goose

Scientific Name: Branta canadensis

Size Range: 76-110cm


Identifying Features

The Canada Goose is a large waterfowl most recognizable for its long, black neck and white cheeks and chinstrap. Due to its dependence on water, it has webbed feet to aid its swimming. It’s head and neck are primarily black, they have a tan breast and a brown back. They also have wide flat bills used for grooming and grazing.

Habitat

Canada geese are migratory birds with most living in the southern states during the winter and moving to Northern Canada to breed during the summer. There is also a portion of their population which does not migrate; these geese stay in Coastal B.C., Northern U.S.A., and Northern Mexico year-round. Canada Geese prefer to inhabit large, open, grassy areas, with bodies of water nearby (within 5 acres).  These features are often found on golf courses which is why Canada Geese often are found there.

Food

Branta canadensis is a grazing species. They prefer grasses, sedges, grains, berries, seeds and roots. They have also adapted to enjoy farm-grown crops such as corn, winter-wheat, millet, oats, soybeans, green barley, rye, alfalfa, clover, and sorghum. They also eat white and yellow water lilies, pondweed, and milfoil. To aid their digestion they ingest gravel. This gravel remains in the gizzard and helps them to break down their food.

Predators

Due to the large size of the Canada Goose it has very few predators. However there are a few animals that will prey on goslings and eggs such as red foxes, common snapping turtles, raccoons, and Virginia opossums. Another common predator is the human with approximately 500,000 hunted and killed each year.

Life Cycle

Branta canadensis can live up to 25 years. Within this time each goose will find a mate and stay with it for the rest of their lives (unless separated or one dies). The female goose will choose its mate based on how well the potential mate can protect her. Canada geese start mating at around 3 years old. They reproduce in spring and lay a clutch of 4 to 8 eggs. The female geese build the nest and incubate the eggs while the males defend the nest. The incubation period lasts around 23-30 days. The newborn Canada geese, called goslings, are small, with bright yellow and brown markings.

Human Interaction

The Canada goose population is on the rise due to the way we are modifying our wild environments. We have large farms that geese will eat off of, and an expansion of large grassy areas such as golf courses. These changes in the wild landscape make for great breeding grounds and feeding grounds for the geese. In an effort to control Canada Geese populations many programs are set up to frighten the birds away or where volunteers search out nests and shake the geese eggs in order to reduce the numbers of goslings hatching.

Photos by Patrick Dann

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