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Female ptarmigans are difficult to tell apart in spring, but the overall tones of the White-tailed Ptarmigan females are cooler in comparison to those of the other two species. Breeding males delay their moult.

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Of the species of woodpeckers worldwide, 13 are found in Canada. The smallest and perhaps most familiar species in Canada is the Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens. It is also the most common woodpecker in eastern North America. This woodpecker is black and white with a broad white stripe down the back from the shoulders to the rump. The crown of the head is black; the cheeks and neck are adorned with black and white lines.


Male and female Downy Woodpeckers are about the same size, weighing from 21 to 28 g. The male has a small scarlet patch, like a red pompom, at the back of the crown. The Downy Woodpecker looks much like the larger Hairy Woodpecker Picoides villosus , but there are some differences between them. The Downy is about 6 cm smaller than the Hairy, measuring only 15 to 18 cm from the tip of its bill to the tip of its tail. Woodpeckers are a family of birds sharing several characteristics that separate them from other avian families. Most of the special features of their anatomy are associated with the ability to dig holes in wood.

Home ranges in red fox: territoriality diminishes with increasing area

The straight, chisel-shaped bill is formed of strong bone overlaid with a hard covering and is quite broad at the nostrils in order to spread the force of pecking. A covering of feathers over the nostrils keeps out pieces of wood and wood powder. The pelvic bones are wide, allowing for attachment of muscles strong enough to move and hold the tail, which is important for climbing.

Another special anatomical trait of woodpeckers is the long, barbed tongue that searches crevices and cracks for food. The salivary glands produce a sticky, glue-like substance that coats the tongue and, along with the barbs, makes the tongue an efficient device for capturing insects.

Signs and sounds. As early as February or March a Downy Woodpecker pair indicate that they are occupying their nesting site by flying around it and by drumming short, fast tattoos with their bills on dry twigs or other resonant objects scattered about the territory. The drumming serves as a means of communication between the members of the pair as well. Downys also have a variety of calls.

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They utter a tick, tchick, tcherrick , and both the male and the female add a sharp whinnying call during the nesting season. Hatchlings give a low, rhythmic pip note, which seems to indicate contentment. When a parent enters the nest cavity, the nestlings utter a rasping begging call, which becomes stronger and longer as the chicks mature.

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One of the heaviest of North American owls, the Snowy Owl Bubo scandiacus stands nearly half a metre tall, with a wingspan of almost 1. As is the case with most diurnal birds of prey—those that are active during the day—the female is larger and heavier than the male. The average weight of the female is 2. Adult males may be almost pure white in colour. Adult females are darker, their white feathers barred with dark brown. First-year birds of both sexes are more darkly marked than their adult counterparts. Immature males resemble adult females, and immature females are heavily barred and may appear dark grey when seen from a distance.

The light coloration of Snowy Owls provides camouflage when the owls are perched on snow, but this advantage is lost in summer. No one knows whether they do this to camouflage themselves or whether they are merely keeping insects away or staying cool. In strong wind, Snowy Owls may seek shelter by crouching on the ground behind a windbreak, such as a pile of stones, snowdrift, or bale of hay.

Its name comes from the partial webs between its toes. Males and females are identical in rather plain brown or grey plumage although females are slightly larger. The species can be difficult to distinguish from other small sandpipers. Semipalmated Sandpipers moult, or shed, their body feathers twice a year. The change to the greyish-brown fall-winter plumage usually starts on the breeding grounds and is completed after arrival on the non-breeding area. The moult that takes place on the non-breeding area prior to spring migration gives them a slightly brighter more brown breeding plumage.

Adults moult their flight feathers wings and tail gradually—retaining the ability to fly at all times—and only once per year, usually in the non-breeding area. Some juveniles do not replace any flight feathers in their first winter, as these are quite new.

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Others, however, moult some of the outermost primaries outer wing feathers , which are important for flight and wear most rapidly. Of the 19 species of raptors, or birds of prey, in Canada, three are Accipiters. Accipiters are small to medium-sized hawks of swift flight that occur around the world. Accipiters can be distinguished from other types of hawks by their flight silhouettes see sketch.

Like the buteos e. In contrast, the wings of another group of hawks, the falcons, such as the Kestrel or Sparrow Hawk Falco sparverius , are pointed. All accipiters generally have similar colouring, small heads, long tails, and short rounded wings. The female of each species grows larger than the male. They range in size from the small male Sharp-shinned Hawk, which is smaller than a gull, to the large female Northern Goshawk, which at 55 to 66 cm is larger than a crow. Adult Trumpeter Swans Cygnus buccinator are large birds with white feathers and black legs and feet.

The feathers of the head and the upper part of the neck often become stained orange as a result of feeding in areas rich in iron salts. The male swan, or cob, weighs an average of 12 kg. The female, or pen, is slightly smaller, averaging 10 kg. Wings may span 3 m.

Young of the year, or cygnets, can be distinguished from adults by their grey plumage, their yellowish legs and feet, and until their second summer of life, their smaller size. The shape and colour of the bill help in identifying the Trumpeter and Tundra swans in the field. Trumpeters have all black bills; Tundra Swans, formerly called Whistling Swans, have more sloping bills, usually with a small yellow patch in front of the eye.

If this patch is missing, it is quite difficult to distinguish between the two birds unless the voice is heard. At close range, an observer should look for a salmon-red line on the lower bill.

A third type of swan, the Eurasian Mute Swan, is often seen in Canadian parks and zoos. The Mute is all white with a black knob on a reddish-orange and black bill.

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  8. The Trumpeter Swan is the largest of the three species. Signs and sounds Although very similar in appearance, the Trumpeter Swan and the Tundra Swan have quite different voices.

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    The Trumpeter Swan has a deep, resonant, brassy, trumpet-like voice; the voice of the Tundra Swan is softer and more melodious. Many naturalists and hunters consider the Wood Duck Aix sponsa to be the most beautiful duck in North America, if not the world. The male in its multi-coloured breeding plumage, worn from October through June, is unexcelled among ducks. The female is less showy, although still beautiful and more colourful than other female ducks.