|Churchill Birds, II
Parasitic Jaegers, American Biettern, Spruce Grouse, Willow Ptarmigan, Common Loon, and Smith's Longspur
The Parasitic Jaeger, also known as the arctic skua or parasitic skua, is a seabird in the skua family. It nests on dry tundra
laying up to four olive-brown eggs. It is a migrant, wintering at sea in the tropics and southern oceans. This bird will feed on
rodents, small birds and insects but also robs gulls and terns of their catches. Like the larger skua species, it continues this
piratical behaviour throughout the year, showing great agility as it harasses its victims.
We very fortunate to encounter an American Bittern. A stocky and well-camouflaged heron, the American Bittern is difficult to
see. It had a far-carrying booming call which we found most entertaining.
The Spruce Grouse or Canada Grouse is a medium-sized grouse closely associated with the coniferous boreal forests or taiga
of North America. It is one of the most arboreal grouse, fairly well adapted to perching and moving about in trees. When
approached by a predator, it relies on camouflage and immobility to an amazing degree, for example letting people come to
within a few feet before finally taking flight, a behavior that has earned it the moniker "fool hen".
The Willow Ptarmigan is a small grouse The winter adult is all white with dark-edged tail and small orange-red eye combs. In
summer the bird has rust-brown upperparts, head, breast, white eye-ring, orange-red eye comb, white wings, belly, leg
feathers; brown tail. Unlike other ptarmigans, the male stays with the female and defends its nest-it is known to attack
anything that comes too close.
The Pacific Loon spends most of the year on the Pacific Ocean returning to inland Arctic tundra lakes for only three months in
summer to breed. Like other loons, the Pacific Loon walks awkwardly on land and requires 30 to 50 meters on open water to
The female and male loon will work as a team to create a nest close to the water. There will be up to 3 eggs that are
placed into the nest. They will take turns to incubate them for several weeks until the young emerge. Then they will both
bring food to them to help them with survival. The young are able to fly when they are about 3 months of age. Until then
they are often seen in the water, riding on their mother’s back.
Glenn was so excited to find Smith's Lonngspur. A brightly patterned songbird of the subarctic tundra, the Smith's Longspur
only winters in the southern Great Plains.
The Smith's Longspur is polygynous. Each female pairs with two or three males for a single clutch of eggs. At the same time,
each male pairs with two or more females. Over a period of one week in June, a female Smith's Longspur will copulate an
average of more than 350 times. This is one of the highest rates of any bird.
The timing could not have been better for flowers. There was Saxifrage everywhere.
Below, Jackie with mosquito head net talks with Glenn at sunset. This is a boreal forest area. The trees do not get very big here.
And a significant portion of the land is filled with ponds and puddles.
White Mountain Aven