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Sharp-tailed Grouse Portrait

Gavin McKinnon took this close-up of a male Sharp-tailed Grouse in mating display this spring in southern Alberta. The bird has his yellow eyebrows flared and his purple neck air-sacs exposed.

Sharp-tailed Grouse (male), Southern Alberta, spring 2017. Photo by Gavin McKinnon.

Follow Gavin’s blog at Canadian Birder.

Pheasants, Grouse, and Partridges of Calgary

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Here are a few of the Gallinaceous or game birds of Calgary and area. There are three species that are regularly seen within the city limits, two of them introduced: Ruffed Grouse, Ring-necked Pheasant, and Gray Partridge. Ring-necked pheasants were introduced from east Asia. They are well-established in the wild in North America, but more are raised and released in Alberta every year as game birds. Gray Partridge are native to Europe and are also well-established here. Ruffed Grouse are the only native game bird that you can regularly find in Calgary.

Ring-necked Pheasant (male), Fish Creek Park, March 4, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Ring-necked Pheasant (male), Fish Creek Park, October 18, 2015. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Ring-necked Pheasant (male), Fish Creek Park, February 20, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Listen for the harsh, usually two-note crowing of the males in Fish Creek Park, especially along the river.

Ring-necked Pheasant (female), Fish Creek Park, February 20, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Ring-necked Pheasants (female), Fish Creek Park, February 20, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Ruffed Grouse, Turner Valley area, January 8, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

In Calgary, Ruffed Grouse can be found in the boreal forest where it creeps into the west end of the city. The Weaselhead is probably the most reliable location. In the spring, listen for the drumming of the males.

Ruffed Grouse, Weaselhead Nature Area, February 22, 2017. Photo by David Mitchell.

Gray Partridge, Calgary, February 19, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Gray Partridge, Calgary, February 19, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Gray Partridge are usually found near open grassy fields, and are often seen in residential areas. In the spring you may see pairs but since they have large broods, by summer they are often in family groups of up to 20 birds.

Sharp-tailed Grouse, south of Calgary, April 2016. Photo by Dan Arndt.

Sharp-tailed Grouse are almost never seen in the city (or even near it) any more, although they historically had a breeding ground (lek) on Nose Hill and used to be seen regularly there. You can still find them on the prairies, especially south and southeast of town. (See this post for more of Dan’s photos from a lek.)

Chukar, West Springs, SW Calgary, July 2012. Photo by Tom Amerongen.

I should also mention the Chukar, another introduced Eurasian game bird that is established in some parts of western North America. It has never established successful breeding populations in the Calgary area. Nevertheless, people do see them in town almost every year. They can be bought to be raised privately and apparently are often used to train hunting dogs, and inevitably some escape into the wild. In the last two years there have been sightings from Egerts Park in the NW, Radisson Heights and Dover in the SE, and Strathcona in the SW. If you see one of these birds, send us an email. I’ve never seen one, and would like to, even though as an escaped captive bird it doesn’t count on my eBird list.

If you venture out of town you can also see Spruce Grouse and Dusky Grouse in the foothills, and White-tailed Ptarmigan in the mountains. Wild Turkeys can be found SW of town, in the Millarville area.

Wild Turkey, Millarville area, January 9, 2015. Photo by Dan Arndt.

Lost Forever?

Posted by Matthew Sim

Back in November, the Calgary Herald ran an article on the Sage Grouse, a large and impressive grouse that faces a bleak and dismal future. For me, this was a depressing article; it opened my eyes to a species I never knew even lived in Alberta, only to present very pessimistic prospects for the bird here.

Image courtesy Wikipedia

A scarce permanent resident with a very limited distribution in our province, the sage grouse needs large stands of sagebrush as well as wet meadows, river bottoms or green areas for foraging. This habitat is crucial for the bird and without it, the grouse cannot survive. It is for exactly this reason that population levels have decreased in Alberta since the 1960’s, in fact, the sage grouse population in Alberta is down to just 13 males. Many experts have already given up any hope of saving Alberta’s prairie sage grouse, however, led by the Alberta Wilderness Association, 12 environmental groups are acting to save the species. These groups have asked that the federal government enact an emergency protection order, which would force Environment Canada to do whatever it can to save this species’ habitat. Though it may be too late, let this species plight be a lesson to all of us, and let us ensure that this never happens again.

To read the Herald’s article, follow the link below:

Iconic prairie Sage Grouse facing local extinction

Bird Profile: Ring-necked Pheasant

 

The male Ring-necked Pheasant is a very colourful bird with a loud, harsh and raucous “koork-KOK”, call; one that often emerges from grasslands, deep brush and agricultural land. The pheasant is native to Caucasus and Russia and has been introduced all over the world as a popular game bird.

Ring-necked Pheasant

 There is usually one male who guards his harem of plain, mottled females from other males, chasing them away during the breeding season. Pheasants are known to hunker down in a roost in very bad weather, going for days without eating. They nest and forage on the ground, eating seeds, wild fruits, nuts and insects.

 I had my own special encounter with a pheasant the other day. I rode my bike to Fish Creek and as I turned a corner, I came to within a couple meters of a pheasant. He was startled (so was I!) and in his haste to get away, slipped on ice! Definitely funny for me to see!

Elegance… This male Pheasant is trying to be as regal as possible. 

He hits the ice as he runs away and is unprepared…

Whoa!!! He definitely wasn’t ready for this!

Dignity regained… Or so he thinks. 

Posted by Matthew Sim