Tag Archive | overwintering birds

Brown Thrasher

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Brown Thrashers are rather late migrants, usually arriving in the Calgary area in mid-May or even late May, as do their Gray Catbird cousins. The bird shown here was one that actually overwintered here this year. It was first noticed before Christmas 2016 in Airdrie by Heinrich Lohmann.

Brown Thrasher, Airdrie, January 16, 2017. Photo by Heinrich Lohmann.

The bird was coming to a feeder in Heinrich’s yard and continued to do so into March of this year. The photo below was taken on March 10th, and the bird was last seen on March 11th. It may have moved on to its summer territory then, getting a big jump on its migratory rivals (although if so, it will have a bit of wait for any females to arrive back).

Brown Thrasher, Airdrie, March 10, 2017. Photo by Heinrich Lohmann.

It’s not unheard-of for Brown Thrashers to overwinter in Alberta. One was seen in Calgary in December 2015 and (I believe) one in Canmore later that winter. One was seen north of Edmonton in February 2015. Of course, these birds are at high risk when spending the winter so far north. Their normal winter range is in the SE United States. As I said, a bird that successfully overwinters here will get first choice of breeding territories. But it’s also possible that birds that overwinter are only doing so because they were sick or injured during the migration period, and were unable to head south.

In any case it’s always interesting to see a “summer” bird here in mid-winter.

Wednesday Wings: Overwintering Robins

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

We get a lot of emails every winter from people who are surprised to see an American Robin in their yard or in a local park. In fact, there are a few robins here every winter. Although the vast majority of Canadian robins winter in the far southern USA or Mexico, most of the continental US is home to small populations of  overwintering robins. These may be birds that bred in the area, or individuals who moved south from their breeding areas in Canada but did not go all the way to the normal wintering areas. Calgary appears to be near the northern limit of this overwintering range (Edmonton also has overwintering robins most years).

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American Robin, Votier’s Flats, January 1, 2016.

On the recent Calgary Christmas Bird Count we recorded 174 American Robins. Although this was a little high for the count, there are usually over 100 seen. Of course this is not likely to represent all the robins in the city, and it doesn’t include areas outside the count circle like Fish Creek Park. So there are probably a few hundred in the city every winter (not all will survive, especially if we get heavy snow and/or a prolonged cold snap). This may seem like a lot of birds, but in the summer there must be tens of thousands of breeding pairs here. (Does anyone know the total, or have a guess?)

Most overwintering robins are found in the river valleys near open water. They often gather in small flocks and survive mostly by eating berries. They will also come to feeders and heated birdbaths.

The American Robins in these photos were found by the storm-water outflow into Fish Creek just west of Macleod Trail, in the Votier’s Flats area of Fish Creek Provincial Park.

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American Robin, Votier’s Flats, January 1, 2016.

There were at least six robins coming to the water there that afternoon, as well as a much rarer overwintering Hermit Thrush.

Oddly Overwintering Avians in Alberta

Posted by Dan Arndt

 

For those of us who feed (and water) birds, every once in a while we get a special treat in the form of a new bird species at our feeder or bird bath. Even less common though, are those that decide to stick around and make your yard a semi-permanent home away from home, and become regular visitors. But the most special of all are the rare and wonderful hardy little birds that have decided to make you responsible to making sure it survives the winter, by deciding to overwinter, sometimes thousands of kilometers away from their regular wintering grounds, right in your yard. While those aren’t the only birds that overwinter in Calgary and Southern Alberta, they are sometimes the most visible.

 

Take, for instance, this Yellow-rumped Warbler that’s spent this winter in the SW Calgary in the yard of Joanne Nemeth, one of the regular attendees of the FFCPP Birding Courses.

Yellow-rumped Warbler foraging

Yellow-rumped Warbler foraging (Photo by Joanne Nemeth)

Yellow-rumped Warbler showing off it's namesake (Photo by Joanne Nemeth)

Yellow-rumped Warbler showing off it’s namesake (Photo by Joanne Nemeth)

After showing up for the first time in December, it’s made regular appearances and seems to be surviving quite well!

Yellow-rumped Warbler at the bird bath

Yellow-rumped Warbler at the bird bath (Photo by Joanne Nemeth)

Of course we can’t forget the Mourning Doves that our fearless leader Pat Bumstead has had regularly in her yard.

Mourning Dove in February, 2013

Mourning Dove in February, 2013

Mourning Doves in November, 2012

Mourning Doves in November, 2012

One odd pairing was a small flock of five Eurasian Collared Doves, along with a pair of American Robins in the southeast community of Parkland in January, which have also managed to tough out the winter.

Eurasian Collared Dove, January 14, 2013

Eurasian Collared Dove, January 14, 2013

American Robin, January 14, 2013

American Robin, January 14, 2013

A little less exotic, and one of a fairly large flock that has overwintered successfully in Calgary for a number of years, is this American Crow. Even still, it does make one think twice when identifying Common Ravens in Calgary in the winter.

American Crow, February 3, 2013, Carburn Park

American Crow, February 3, 2013, Carburn Park

Outside the city limits, but only a short drive away, are the now famous (infamous?) Weed Lake Five. This incredibly odd assemblage of a male Lesser Scaup, female Mallard, female Green-winged Teal, female Gadwall, and female Northern Shoveler have so far successfully overwintered in a patch of water no larger than 25 meters across at the widest point. The fact that not a single one fell prey to coyotes, raptors, or even the harsh cold snaps we’ve had on such a small patch of water is astounding.

The Weed Lake Five, February 2, 2013

The Weed Lake Five, February 2, 2013

Not all overwintering bird stories have happy endings though. This Song Sparrow in Votier’s Flats, Fish Creek Provincial Park, made a good attempt at overwintering at a storm water outflow on Fish Creek. While it was regularly seen up until the beginning of February, it hasn’t been seen since. While I still hold out hope that it’s managed to survive, it’s hard to say for sure.

Song Sparrow, November 25, 2012, Votier's Flats

Song Sparrow, November 25, 2012, Votier’s Flats

Oh, and of course, who could forget the birds that inspired this post, the pair of Killdeer that we found in Griffith Woods Park today.

Killdeer pair, March 17, 2013, Griffith Woods Park

Killdeer pair, March 17, 2013, Griffith Woods Park

Killdeer, March 17, 2013, Griffith Woods Park (image uncropped)

Killdeer, March 17, 2013, Griffith Woods Park (image uncropped)

Have you spotted any unusual overwintering birds this year? Let us know!

Good birding!