Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader Ed Kroc weighed in with a passle of photos; his notes are indented:

Here are some wildlife photos for your consideration. These were all taken in and around Kelowna, in central British Columbia, this past weekend. I was attending a conference and naturally budgeted time to peruse the local birdlife. This is batch #1 of at least two that I’ll send.

I’ll start with the picture of the lowest quality, but of likely the most interesting species: a pair of Wilson’s Phalaropes (Phalaropus tricolor). Of the three species of phalarope, this is the only one that doesn’t migrate to the Arctic to nest. All three species are fascinating case studies in sexual selection, in which the females compete for males.

These birds are still moulting into their summer plumage, but you can kind of tell that the bird on the left has a somewhat brighter orange wash to the neck and a cleaner white face. I am nearly certain that this is a female, while a duller male is pictured to the right. The female will continue to moult into a more extravagant plumage over the next couple of weeks, but the male looks as good as he’s going to get.

Phalaropes are polyandrous breeders. Females will regularly compete with each other for available males, mate with 3 or 4 different males in a single breeding season, laying separate clutches each time, and then leave the males to build the nest, incubate the eggs, and rear the chicks alone. Females also begin migrating south much sooner than males, pretty much once no available males remain (i.e. males are unavailable because they are occupied caring for eggs or hatchlings).

The Phalaropus genus is one of my favourite examples of sexual selection, as it exemplifies how strong the process can be, strong enough to even overcome gamete size.

Next are two shots of a male California Quail (Callipepla californica). These are common birds of the North American West, but usually they stick to the ground. The males around Kelowna were all taking to the trees last weekend though to proclaim their territories and impress or attract mates.

Brewer’s Blackbirds (Euphagus cyanocephalus) are not uncommon on the coast of BC, but they were everywhere in the interior. Here are shots of the male [above] and female of the species, clearly an example of traditional sexual selection dressing up the male. I love their piercing yellow eyes. They look almost Herring Gull-like.

I was lucky enough to cross paths with a beautiful male Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana) at Munson Pond, just down the street from where I was conferencing. This individual looks quite attractive already, but his red-flamed head will continue to grow darker and fuller as the spring turns to summer. I didn’t see any females in the area; they look similar, though are a drabber shade of yellow and lack the red faces.

Finally, a couple common but striking birds I don’t get to see in Vancouver. While our streets are always filled with Northwestern Crows (Corvus caurinus), move 100 kilometres or so away from the coast and those corvids are replaced by their slightly bigger cousins, the American Crows (C. brachyrhynchos). These are the familiar crows of most regions of Canada and the US.

To end this batch, we have the noble Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura). These guys are at home on Vancouver Island and a few other parts of southern BC, but they stay away from the city of Vancouver. I contend that they have one of the best and most appropriate scientific binomials of any species: cleansing breeze.

9 Comments

  1. Posted May 13, 2017 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    Wonderful pictures! My favorites in your lineup is the quail (adorable) and the NW crow (smart).
    I was out with the camera just yesterday, looking for insects, and noteworthy avian encounters included a # of nesting swallows and a brilliant orange oriole. I could frequently hear the hammering of woodpeckers. Winter is finally a forgotten dream and the verdant woods and fields are filled with all sorts of territorial calls.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted May 13, 2017 at 8:45 am | Permalink

      Why is it we often hear the woodpecker working away but cannot see it? Good hearing or bad eyesight.

      Anyway, very nice pictures Ed.

  2. Debbie Coplan
    Posted May 13, 2017 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    What a wonderful array of birds and such great photos. And thank you for the breeding information as well.
    Loved seeing this!

  3. Karen Ziege Bartelt
    Posted May 13, 2017 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Great photos

  4. anthonyherbert2014
    Posted May 13, 2017 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, I did see California Quails Callipepla californica on a birding trip to New Zealand. A common introduced North American species on North and South Island. Unfortunately I did not see a Kiwi.

  5. Greg Mills
    Posted May 13, 2017 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Thank you. Great photos.

  6. Glenda
    Posted May 13, 2017 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the lovely pictures from Munson Pond, Kelowna, and the informative notes. I live in Kelowna and had never been there. This was the motivation I needed to drive over and do the short walk around the pond this sunny day. Lovely. Saw two mother ducks with about 20 wee ones. Also saw two unfamiliar birds (not Western Tanager) and heard lots of chirping in the thicket. Funny how the dots connect sometimes – a visitor to Kelowna from Vancouver sends photos to Professor Coyne in Chicago and motivates someone in Kelowna to visit a local pond. THNX again.

    • Posted May 14, 2017 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      Glad to have motivated you to visit! I loved the pond. I will definitely return the next time I’m in Kelowna.

  7. Jonathan Wallace
    Posted May 14, 2017 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Excellent photos and nice notes about sexual selection and the reversal of its usual direction in the phalaropes.
    I am currently visiting the U.S. from Britain and although I am here on business have managed to do a small amount of birding. California quail are much in evidence in the scrub around my hotel in Reno and they are charming birds to watch. A nearby marsh has shoveller, pintail, cinnamon teal, American avocet, killdeer and northern harrier amongst others. Not to mention another sexually dimorphic species that is probably an unremarkable commonplace to most Americans but impressive to me – the red-winged blackbirds.


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