Birdwatching Canada

A voice for the northern birds

Sit Birding

I am definitely a fan of sit birding. You find a nice birdy location – say the edge of a marsh or along a riverbank – and then (here’s where it gets technical) you sit. As in down.

Get comfy. Sit in your carefully chosen perfect location and wait for the birds to come to you.

One of the biggest advantages to sit birding is the elimination of wondering what you’ve just missed in any given location. Sit birding means you can see ALL of the birds as long as you care to park yourself there.

I find sit birding particularly enjoyable on a warm summer evening, sitting next to a gently flowing river. Note to self: sit birding is best done with your eyes open, or a wide awake friend to nudge you occasionally.

Particularly advanced sit birders may cover two or even three different locations in the course of a day’s birding, but you can slowly work up to that high level of activity.

And for a near-professional level of sit birding, check this out!

From The Bird Watchers Digest:

The Big Sit! is an annual, international, noncompetitive birding event hosted by Bird Watcher’s Digest and founded by the New Haven (CT) Bird Club. Every team that observes this year’s “Golden Bird” has a chance to win $500. We hope bird watchers from around the globe will unite on this special day by participating in this event (it’s free!). The Big Sit! is sponsored by Swarovski Optik, Alpen Optics, and Wild Bird Centers.

Some people have called it a “tailgate party for birders.” Today there are Big Sit! circles all over the world, including Guatemala, India, the Netherlands, England, Vietnam, and New Zealand.

The simplicity of the concept makes The Big Sit! so appealing. Find a good spot for bird watching — preferably one with good views of a variety of habitats and lots of birds. Next you create a real or imaginary circle 17 feet in diameter and sit inside the circle for 24 hours, counting all the bird species you see or hear. That’s it. Find a spot, sit in it, have fun.

And you thought I was just being lazy…

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Golf Birds

Wood storks, cormorants, herons, and egrets at a golf course pond in Florida. Photo University of Florida.

Wood storks, cormorants, herons, and egrets at a golf course pond in Florida. Photo University of Florida.

The proliferation of golf courses around the world is a trend that shows no sign of stopping. While yes, the native habitat is replaced,is not necessarily bad for the bird life. And no, I’m not a golfer.

Most courses have water of some sort, even those in the dry prairies and desert areas. Birds of all kinds are quick to take advantage of this new water source. The wide open spaces are perfect for Canada geese, who love to munch the short grass. The increase in the number of golf courses is actually instrumental in the increasing numbers of Canada geese – and their droppings – everywhere around the world. They seem to be immune to the chemicals used to keep the grass green and healthy. One golf course in Calgary is on the Bow River, and each year there are portions of the course off-limits due to masses of little yellow goslings. Golfers come second in the spring.

No matter what the area’s natural habitat, golf course designers usually add trees to the edges, which become songbird habitat. I actually gave up golf because I was spending far more time bird watching than ball watching.  My husband gleefully reported seeing a Vermilion flycatcher on a course in Arizona, a species I’ve been trying to see for years. Maybe I gave up the golf too soon. We need more golf course owners putting up bird houses for cavity nesting birds though.

If you’re golfing in the Rocky Mountains or northern Canada, keep an eye out for ravens. My brother-in law was golfing the best round of his life last weekend. Midway through the round, a raven swooped down and stole his golf ball. These incredibly clever birds never miss a trick, and round and white looks edible from their viewpoint! While we got a great deal of amusement over the incident, you have to feel sorry for the raven when he discovered he couldn’t eat his prize.

A few years ago I was doing a shift at the local bird sanctuary, while my husband was on the golf course. He came home and proudly announced he had gotten an eagle. With my mind still on birdwatching, my first response was “how in the hell did you hit an eagle with a golf ball?”  The look on his face was priceless, but I soon realized he was talking about his golf score, not a live eagle.

As a bird watcher, I am continually muttering about the construction of more and more golf courses. Apparently the birds are adapting to them faster than I am.

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Bird Quiz Answers

And this species is a Common redpoll

And this species is a Common redpoll

Here are the answers to our tough bird trivia questions. How did you do?!

1. Which birds are the slowest fliers in the world? American woodcocks are able to fly at 5 mph (8km/hr) without stalling

2. Which birds build such small nests the eggs are deposited in layers? Golden-crowned kinglets build nests about 3″ deep

3. Which birds are completely encased in feathers from head to toes? Snowy owls

4. Which birds dive the deepest? Common loons are known to dive to 200 ft (60 metres)

5. Which birds were the official emblem of the Roman Army? Golden eagles

6. Which birds consume the most ants? Northern flickers, even though they’re a woodpecker, spend much of their time on the ground

7. Which birds were the first domesticated bird species? Two possible answers here depending on the experts – mallard duck or common (rock) pigeon

8. Which birds enter controlled hypothermia to survive winter temperatures? Common poorwills drop their body temp to 6C (41F) for up to five months

9. Which birds are nicknamed ‘Canada bird’ for their song? White-crowned sparrows clearly sing “Oh sweet Canada Canada Canada

10. Which birds have nestlings that feign death if disturbed?  Black-billed cuckoos

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Bird Quiz #1

And this species is....?

And this species is....?

So you think you know your Canadian birds? Have a look at our ten bird trivia questions below to test yourself.  Answers will be provided next week, but if you’re in a hurry for them just wing us an email!

  1. Which birds are the slowest fliers in the world?
  2. Which birds build such small nests the eggs are deposited in layers?
  3. Which birds are completely encased in feathers from head to toes?
  4. Which birds dive the deepest?
  5. Which birds were the official emblem of the Roman Army?
  6. Which birds consume the most ants?
  7. Which birds were the first domesticated bird species?
  8. Which birds enter controlled hypothermia to survive winter temperatures?
  9. Which birds are nicknamed ‘Canada bird’ for their song?
  10. Which birds have nestlings that feign death if disturbed?

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BC Bans Pet Bird

The provincial government of British Columbia recently announced a law prohibiting the ownership of exotic animals as pets. While their intent is to prevent injuries to people is laudable, their actual list of prohibited animals is laughable.

The list, not surprisingly, is heavily geared towards mammals (tigers, lions) and reptiles (venomous and constrictors). But there is apparently one bird species they feel is dangerous enough to make the list.

Yes, folks, I’m sorry to tell you but it is no longer legal to keep a pet cassowary in BC.

Southern Cassowary in New Guinea

Southern Cassowary in New Guinea

Cassowaries are shy, large, flightless birds from the deep forests of New Guinea and north eastern Australia. They are the third largest birds in the world, after ostriches and emus (that are not on the list). They stand up to 1.8 m (6 ft) tall, and weigh about 58.5 kg (129 lb).

All cassowaries have horn-like crests called casques on their heads, up to 18 cm (7″) long.  Could this be why they made the dreaded list? Danger to humans from head butting?

The one thing continually mentioned in literature about cassowaries is that their three-toed feet have sharp claws. The middle toe sports a dagger-like claw that is 125 millimetres (5″) long, which they use for defense.

Oh well then – reason enough to ban private ownership of these large birds. Never mind most people have no idea they exist. Or the fact that these endangered birds are found only in the jungles of southeast Asia.

So if you live in BC and have a hankering to keep a large, flightless bird as a pet, make sure you get the larger ostrich or emu instead. Wouldn’t want to bring the environmental police down on you.

If you really want to have a potentially dangerous pet though, don’t worry – it’s still legal to keep a pet grizzly bear. Go figure.

Filed under: Weird & Wonky

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