Friday, 13 April 2012

Black Is The In Colour for This Spring - Part 2

There was another unusual black bird along the Niagara River this winter in Fort Erie, the Fish Crow. In January there were two of these new black birds. The Fish Crow has not been seen in the Niagara area before. They are usually found only within a few kilometers of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico shore from New York City south to Florida. There are no tidal flats in Southern Ontario. There is ice on our shores in the winter. Not really the habitat for Fish Crows

© Larry Meade
So to carry on with this mystery of the Fish Crow, there was a Fish Crow in Bronte on March 16 and on March 30th. Fish Crows have also been seen hanging out at the University of Guelph. What is going on? Where is the ocean? These are the first Fish Crows for the Hamilton area. Does this mean I do not need to go to Florida again?  Recently Fish Crows have been expanding their range in the U.S.A. Some populations of Fish Crows are showing up in areas not connected to their normal range. These new populations are sort of leapfrogging as they move away from the ocean. The closest of these new ranges is found in Ithaca, N.Y. There, the Fish Crows started to show up in the 1980’s and now they seem to be a permanent group. Is Ontario the next leap?

Now you and I are going to have a little problem telling a Fish Crow from an American Crow which is a little larger. Well, it is all in the song. If you don’t hear the call of the Fish Crow it is really really hard to tell the two birds apart by sight but by ear that is a different story. What does a Fish Crow sound like. Just think of when you heard a crow calling at a seaside salt marsh in Georgia. Click here to hear the sound.

Last fall and winter, Ravens were also seen almost weekly flying through the Grimsby and Upper Stoney Creek area.  Ravens are larger than American Crows and have a very different call, a croak rather than a caw. In 2011 a pair of Ravens successfully nested in Flamborough.  The first pair of Ravens, a bird found normally much further north, was not seen in the Hamilton area until 2001.

Something is happening with black in our bird world. We have new species making a presence in Southern Ontario. Will they start to make their home in Hamilton? (The Raven has...)

So is it climate change? Maybe. Is it is habitat change? Maybe.  Every  species of bird seems to have a few adventurous members that are always exploring where the species has not gone before and some may find a new area suitable for their life. 

The changes in these birds do one thing for sure and that is wonderful for those of us who enjoy nature. They are providing us with new wonderments every day. No year is the same.

So look very carefully at the next big black bird you see. It could be your brand new neighbour.

Bruce Mackenzie 
Manager Customer Service and Operations
Hamilton Conservation Authority

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