F is for Falconry: Rest and Recovery

Meet Kikki, a gyrfalcon biologists found injured in a field near Beaumont on April 1, 2016.

One year after she was found, Kikki was released back to the wild thanks to the work of Steve Schwartze, who worked with the falcon to get it to peak physical fitness before releasing it in March 2017.

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“To hunt successfully, a bird of prey needs to be firing on all 12 cylinders,” Provincial Wildlife Status Biologist Gordon Court says. “And this is why when injured falcons are helped by wildlife rescue organizations, there can be a lot of work to be done before they can be released back into the wild.”

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F is for Falconry: The Sport of Kings

Swooping, spiraling, diving and whirling. Seeing the graceful movement of a hawk on the hunt, you can start to understand why they are compared to Olympic athletes and why there is still an immense interest in falconry.

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“Falconry is recognized by the United Nations as a World Heritage Activity. It’s been practiced for 4,000 years. And while it’s not widely celebrated here in Alberta, there is a global tradition of hunting with birds of prey,” Provincial Wildlife Status Biologist Gordon Court says. “While some people in Alberta would like to own a falcon, it’s strictly regulated and you must hunt with them.  It takes a lot of work to look after one of these birds – that’s probably why there are fewer than 40 people in Alberta who are licensed to do so.”

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Spare(ow) a thought for sparrows

Small, short-beaked, and ubiquitous, it’s easy to overlook the unpretentious sparrow.

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Blending into their environments with dun-coloured plumage, these small seed-eating birds are found on every continent other than Antarctica, and live in almost every human city. Because they are so small and easy to overlook, their diversity and importance to an ecosystem can be missed – and in some parts of the globe, they’re disappearing.  Which is why March 20 has been designated World Sparrow Day.

In Alberta alone, there are more than 20 different species of new-world sparrows, from Nelson’s sharp-tailed sparrow to the common white-throated sparrow – one of the most recognizable sparrows in the backyards and parks of our cities. Continue reading

Resilient Residents – Winter Birds

This is the third of a four part series on our province’s most resilient animals. You can find out more about mammals that are active through the winter here or about mammals that are inactive but don’t hibernate here.

black-capped chickadee

So far this winter, mammals have been all the talk, but we can’t forget about the other animals that brave the Alberta winter experience – like birds. If birds can fly south why wouldn’t they? We know that mammals are considerably less mobile and don’t have the option to fly south for the winter, but most birds could get some distance between themselves and the snow. Continue reading

Alberta’s Merry Migrators: A little birdie told me spring is here!

This is the final part of a four part series on migrators. You can find the first three parts on songbirdswater birds and bats and other birds here.

Trumpeter Swan

This installment of our series is about our migratory species’ coming home to Alberta – some of which have already made their way here! The sound of Canada geese honking has been resonating in the sky for a couple of weeks now (depending on where you live). Geese and other waterfowl try to time their return for when water bodies start becoming ice-free.   Continue reading

Alberta’s Merry Migrators: Water wings and hopes of spring

This is part two of a four part series on migrators. You can find the first part on songbirds here.

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There are still several weeks of winter left until we see one of the most iconic signs of spring – a group of Canada geese flying in a “V” formation. Alberta’s water birds are spending the winter in warmer southern climates.

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