Although it is a member of the same family, the Gray Jay is nowhere near as raucous as the Blue Jay or Crow. They tend to be very friendly and tame, and will sit, with feathers all puffed up quietly in nearby trees soaking in the warmth of the winter afternoon sun, affording one some wonderful photographic opportunities. They will readily accept peanuts and other seeds from an open hand. Algonquin Park campers know this bird as a camp robber, snatching food off a table or even from a pot on an outdoor stove.
Seven American States have claimed the Northern Cardinal as, State Bird! Many sports teams have been named after it, producing some creative logos; images of cardinals appear on just about anything that can be sold! The bird is a marketer’s dream!
Named after the scarlet vestments worn by Cardinals in the Roman Catholic Church, we live in the Northern Cardinal’s northerly range. Few of these beauties are found much north of here. I remember even in the Toronto area when they were very scarce, as they are primarily a Southern bird. Today, Cardinals are fairly common birds in Southern and South Central Ontario.
Although the occasional Red-breasted is identified during our local Christmas Bird count, we seldom see them in our vicinity as their preferred habitat is a coniferous forest and we live in an area forested with a mix of deciduous and conifer trees. Most of my encounters and all my photographs of these diminutive little hustlers have been taken in Algonquin Park, where they abound in the conifers and the abundant food supply they offer.
Smaller than the common white- breasted nuthatch, and bearing a rufous coloured breast and a black stripe along the eye line, they along with black- capped chickadees and gray jays, are very much candidates for those much sought after photographic images of birds feeding out of an open hand, filled with various seeds.
There are only a handful of birds that captivate us to such an extent that we wear clothing, drink from china cups, wear jewelry and purchase paintings and other items adorned with its image.
Hummingbirds have to be positioned near the top of that list!
Weighing in at between .1-.3 ounces (2.5-8gms), the Ruby throated hummingbird is one of the world’s smallest birds.
The Hummingbird family comprises 320 species in the Americas, but only the Ruby-throated nest in Ontario In some of the southern states as many as 125 species have been recorded. The greatest concentration of hummingbirds is, as expected, in tropical countries.
Equally at home in either an urban or rural setting, the diminutive Downy woodpecker is a welcomed guest at bird feeders, especially during this rather dull time of the year.
The smallest of the Woodpecker family found in North America, the Downy is about six inches long, from the tip of its bill to the tip of the centre tail feathers. It is adorned with black and white body feathers; the males have a red patch on the back of their head. They are often confused with the larger Hairy woodpecker as both sexes of each species are similar.
So far this winter our region has been spared the near-record snowfalls and bitter cold of previous winters. It is still a challenge for us humans to get around and go about our daily business. But consider how much more difficult it can be for our feathered friends who must tough it out through the harsh and unforgiving winter.