Picnic benches buried in snow along the shores of Upper Waterton Lake in Waterton Lakes National Park, in southern Alberta, Canada. Spring was in the air, the snow was beginning to melt... hopefully the warming trend lasts and spring comes early.
A common and very conspicuous bird of western North America, the Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia) is found in urban as well as rural areas. Its bold black-and-white pattern and long tail make it easy to identify.
Magpies thrive in wide-open spaces, leaving the deep forests to their crow and raven cousins. Magpies flourished with, and then declined with the great bison herds of earlier days. But these adaptable birds have returned in numbers with cattle and people.
Like all corvids the Black-billed Magpie is an opportunistic omnivore hunting or foraging for seeds, fruit, insects, carrion, eggs and occasionally the nestlings of other birds. They enjoy suet, peanuts and other treats at feeders, and are quick to exploit any pet food left outdoors.
he Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) is the smallest woodpecker in North America. This diminutive woodpecker is a familiar sight at backyard feeders and in parks and woodlots, where it joins flocks of chickadees and nuthatches, barely outsizing them. An often acrobatic forager, this black-and-white woodpecker is at home on tiny branches or balancing on slender plant galls, sycamore seed balls, and suet feeders.
Learning to tell the difference between the Downy Woodpecker and it’s larger almost look-alike cousin the Hairy Woodpecker is one of the first challenges faced by most beginning birders in Canada and the United States. It is actually fairly simple once one knows what to look for.
The Downy’s outer tail feathers are barred with black, unlike the Hairy Woodpecker’s, which are all white. The Downy is about 6 cm smaller than the Hairy, measuring only 15 to 18 cm from the tip of its bill to the tip of its tail. And the Downy’s bill is shorter than its head, whereas the Hairy’s bill is as long as or longer than its head length. The Downy’s name refers to the soft white feathers of the white strip on the lower back, which differ from the more hairlike feathers on the Hairy Woodpecker.
A snowy owl perches on a snow covered hay stack, keeping an eye out for any tasty small mammals that might dare to come out of their winter burrows.
Captured near Cardston in the prairies of southern Alberta, Canada. Taken with a Canon Rebel XSi using a 70-300mm lens.
The Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) is a large, bird of prey of the Arctic regions of the world. In North America it is also known as the Arctic Owl or the Great White Owl. In North America, it nests north of the tree line, in the High Arctic from Alaska to Labrador. Its winter range extends roughly across the middle of North America, from its breeding range to northern United States. During winter in southern Canada, Snowy Owls inhabit prairies, marshes, open fields, or shorelines, habitats that resemble the treeless tundra of their breeding range. Although some individuals may wander in winter, many establish and defend hunting territories for periods of two or three months.
Snowy Owls spend much of their time perched on fence posts, haystacks, trees, buildings, utility poles, or other sites where the view is unrestricted. They constantly scan the area around their perches, ready to chase another owl from the territory or to launch a silent attack on a mouse or other prey.
The Snowy Owl is the provincial bird of Quebec.
Unlike many other owls, the snowy owl is not nocturnal, but are active during the day (diurnal). With almost constant daylight during their breeding and nesting periods in the Arctic, many believe the owls have adapted to their environment. .
Snowy Owls are among the heaviest owl species in North America and range in size from 52 to 70 cm (20 to 28 in.), and their wingspan ranges from 125 to 145 cm (49 to 57 in.). As is the case with most diurnal birds of prey—those that are active during the day—the female is larger and heavier than the male. The average weight of the female is 2.3 kg (81 ounces) compared to 1.8 kg (64 ounces) for the male.