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Birds of the Month

Birds of the Month articles are created by Nature Manitoba volunteers throughout the year.  They focus on providing information about bird characteristics and habitat.

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American Coot

Above: American Coot (photo by Bob Shettler)

What does It Look Like?

This rail is conspicuous among water birds, with its all-black plumage, white sloping bill and undertail coverts and red eyes.  Like other rails, it has oversized feet for walking on marsh vegetation.

Black-capped Chickadee

How do I recognize it:

The Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) is one of our most recognized and beloved passerines.  Up to 15cm long, it sports a jaunty black cap atop its rather large head, has a black throat and white cheeks.  The back is grey.  The underparts are whitish and the sides are buffy.  The wing feathers are narrowly edged with white.

Is it migratory:

Bohemian Waxwing

Photo by Katharine Schulz

 

Bohemian Waxwings are confiding songbirds that add colour to Manitoba winters.

How do I recognize it?

It is about the size of a starling, with a mostly warm brown plumage, burgundy undertail coverts, yellow terminal tail band and an obvious crest. The closely-related Cedar Waxwing is mainly a summer bird and is slightly smaller, with paler underparts.

Boreal Chickadee

Above: Boreal Chickadee - photo by Christian Artuso

What Does It Look Like?
Boreal Chickadees, similar in size to the more conspicuous Black-capped Chickadee, have a brown cap, a small white cheek patch and black bib, a brown back and warm cinnamon/buff flanks.

Canada Jay


Above: A Canada Jay perches in early-spring sunshine near Pinawa; photo by Peter Taylor.

How do I recognize it?
The Canada Jay looks like a giant chickadee. Mostly grey (the official name was Gray Jay from 1957 to 2018), the adult’s most distinctive marks are its white forehead, cheeks, and neck.

Canada Warbler

Photo by Bob Shettler

How do I recognize it? 

A male Canada Warbler can be identified by its blue-gray upper parts and bright yellow breast and throat.  Females display the same colour pallette, but the colours are less vibrant.  Both sexes sport a “necklace” of black to brown stripes that form a collar on the breast.  Yellow rings around the eyes are an easily noticeable field mark.

Great Gray Owl

Photo by Dennis Swayze

The Great Gray Owl is the Provincial Bird of Manitoba, and the “tallest” owl in North America (Snowy Owl and Great Horned Owl may appear smaller but they are both heavier).

How do I recognize it? Distinguished by its tall, sleek, body; large round head without ear-tufts; soft grey plumage; and large, flat facial disk with piercing yellow eyes and black and white 'bow tie' underneath the facial disk.

Indigo Bunting

Above: Indigo Bunting in a patch of flowers (photo by Dennis Swayze)

What does it look like?

When seen in good light, a male Indigo Bunting is a stunningly deep blue jewel. In poor light this small finch-like bird, slightly smaller than a House Sparrow, can look almost black. Females are brownish, somewhat darker on the upperparts than below, with fine streaks on the breast.

Does it migrate?

Killdeer

What Does It Look Like?
Killdeers (Charadrius vociferus) are medium sized shorebirds in the plover family.  About the size of a robin, they are brown above with white underparts, have long legs and long, reddish tail.  Two conspicuous black bands reach across the breast, and the head also appears banded.  The bill is short.  The large eyes are rimmed in red.

Above: Killdeer by Peter Taylor

Ovenbird

Above: Ovenbird in the grass (photo by Bob Shettler)

What Does It Look Like?

Dorsally, the Ovenbird is olive green with an orange, black-bordered stripe on the center of the crown.  Underneath, the breast is darkly streaked; the belly and undertail feathers (coverts) are white.  The eye is encircled in white. 

Does It Migrate?

Pileated Woodpecker

Above: Pileated Woodpecker males in Winnipeg; by Garry Budyk

What does it look like?

By far Canada’s largest woodpecker, it is hard to mistake for anything else. It is largely black, with some white in the wings, neck and head, and with a prominent red crest. The call is a very loud and far-carrying “kuk kuk kuk”. In flight it can be recognized by its slow, rowing wing-beats.

Rusty Blackbird

How do I recognize it?  The species is about the size of a Red-winged Blackbird, but somewhat slimmer. In breeding plumage it is glossy black and both sexes have pale eyes. In winter plumage, it is largely rusty brown (or shows rusty edges to dark feathers), hence its name. In spring and summer it is best separated from the similar Brewer’s Blackbird by its different habitat and squeaky voice.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

 

Sharp-shinned Hawks are Accipiters, bird-eating raptors that are closely related to Cooper’s Hawks and Northern Goshawks. Like other Accipiters, they have short, rounded wings and a long-tail that serves like a rudder, enabling them to fly though tiny gaps in vegetation. They often capture their prey near bird feeders or by flying low through the forest and pouncing on some small, unsuspecting passerine.

Sharp-tailed Grouse


Above: Ever on the lookout and ready for take-off; by Peter Taylor

How do I recognize it?

Often confused with the Greater Prairie-Chicken (a bird now extirpated from Canada), the Sharp-tailed Grouse is distinguished from other Manitoba grouse by its pointed tail, which is much shorter than the flowing plumes of a pheasant. Plumage details include innumerable white flecks on its golden-brown back and fine dark chevrons on its white breast, and a yellow comb over the eye is distinctive.

Snowy Owl

How do I recognize it?

The iconic and charismatic Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) or Snowie is larger than a Great Horned Owl, and is white or mostly white. Females are larger than males. Juvenile and adult females have more dark spotting or barring on the white feathers than males. Adult males become increasingly white with age. The eyes are yellow. They are chiefly diurnal.

Is it migratory?

Veery

Above: Veery (by Garry Budyk)

What Does It Look Like?

Somewhat smaller than a Robin, Veeries are a woodland thrush with warm, reddish-brown upperparts and faint spotting on the breast.  The underparts are pale.

Does It Migrate?

In the fall, breeding populations from Canada and northern US states migrate to South America, where they overwinter mainly in the Amazon Basin and in southeastern Brazil.

White-faced Ibis

How do I recognize it?

The White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi) is an attractive, large long-legged wader.  Key distinguishing features are the white line around its red facial skin (during breeding), and a distinct long decurved (down-curved) bill. It uses its well-equipped bill to probe different depths in the water looking for aquatic invertebrates and insects as its main food source.