Two Rare Arctic Birds Captured on Camera Further South Than Usual

January 8, 2016 | Joanne Kennell

A falcon
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force Academy (CC0)

The first was captured by an amateur bird watcher, the second by a traffic camera.

In late December, a rarely seen, large Arctic top predator was spotted in LaSalle, Ontario, Canada — thousands of miles away from where it usually breeds.  The beautiful bird was captured on camera by amateur bird-watcher Karen Hass.

The bird, known as a gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus), belongs to the world’s largest falcon species, and according to reports, it may still be in the area.  Naturalists and bird-watchers are excited because these birds are rarely seen this far south.

Gyrfalcons typically live in northern regions of Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Russia, and Finland — locations that have some of the harshest climates.  However, during the winter season, they can sometimes be seen as far south as the northern regions of the United States.

These birds have a lifespan of 20 years, a body length of 20 to 25 inches and a wingspan of 4 to 4.5 feet.  These birds are so massive that they often prey on larger land mammals, ducks, and waterfowl.

SEE ALSO: Thought to Be Extinct, Rare Sea Snakes Found Again in Australia

In another rare spotting, a traffic camera in Montreal, Canada captured an extremely photogenic snowy owl (Nyctea scandiaca).

Transport Minister Robert Poëti tweeted about the camera-friendly bird Thursday (January 7) morning.  “Beautiful snowy owl picked up by the road network surveillance cameras on the A-40 in western MTL,” he said in French.

The owl was more than likely looking for a place to perch since areas surrounding the highway are open and grassy — a perfect hunting ground for small rodents.

Snowy owls have a lifespan of roughly 10 years, a body size of 20 to 28 inches and a wingspan of 4.2 to 4.8 feet.  Unlike most owls which are nocturnal, snowy owls are diurnal — meaning they are active during both the day and night.

Snowy owls breed on the Arctic tundra and sometimes remain there year round.  However, they frequently migrate to the southern regions of Canada as well as the northern United States, Europe, and Asia.  How far they migrate south is almost always dependent on food availability — with lemmings as their meal of choice.  Snowy owls, on average, eat more than 1,600 lemmings a year.

Take a look at the CBC video of the snowy owls spectacular appearance posted by Flavio Bastos on YouTube.



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