Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpeckers

Hairy woodpeckers are "heavy" excavators and create a lot of sawdust. Their nostrils are feathered to minimize aspiration of the dust. The eyes close just before the bill hits the wood. 
The bird excavates wood to create a nest or to find insects, which are an important source of food. The insects are lapped up with a very long tongue with a barbed and sticky tip. The tongue is stored in an exceptionally long hyoid bone that wraps around the skull and eye. The tongue ejects and recoils much like the ruler does from a carpenters measuring tape. 
The parents take 17 to 24 days to excavate a nest in a mature live tree. In Southern Alberta nesting is likely in  May. At about 17 days of age, the young are strong enough to come to the nest entrance for food, and by 28 to 30 days of age, they are ready to leave the nest. However, once out of the next, they still continue to be fed by adults for about two weeks. In the June 28th photo above, a male Hairy feeds a youngster at my peanut  feeder.  

Friday, June 15, 2012

Common Merganser

Common Merganser

Last year a Common Merganser brood grew up along the Elbow River behind my home. I watched the babies every week for about a month. As they relocated to the water from shore sites and as they swam, there were clearly a few babies that straggled behind. With each passing week the numbers dwindled from eleven with my first sighting to seven and then to six. The Alberta Breeding Atlas reports that clutch sizes vary from nine to sixteen and that the birds fledge 65 to 85 days after birth. During those first two or three months, coyotes are likely a common predator in this region. 
Merganasers are very common on all the rivers and at my office on the Bow, I regularly see them swimming by. They swim low in the water and they are usually the largest birds on the water. They are strong and fast swimmers and with the current behind them they steam downstream like cruising Battleships.

To take off from the water, these big birds need to run along the surface until he have enough speed to lift off.  

April 22, 2013, along Elbow River. Mergansers are not keen on human company and are quick to flush.


The Atlas of Breeding Birds of Alberta. 
Federation of Alberta Naturalists. 2007.

Sibley, David A. The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior. Alfred A Knopf, Inc. New York. 2001.

Tudge, Colin. The Bird. Crown Publishers. New York. 2008