Sunday, February 20, 2005

Mystery bird identified!

My mystery bird has attracted a fair bit of attention, with various people offering guesses as to its species. My mom forwarded the link to her bird-enthusiast cousin Marijke in the Netherlands, and Marijke's friend Philip offered a knowledgeable analysis of my fuzzy photos, narrowing down the possible suspects. (Yes, thanks to the Internet, people in The Hague have been working on an ID for a bird here in Toronto!)

I did some Googling of bird names suggested by Philip and discovered the Canadian Peregrine Foundation here in Toronto. I e-mailed the bird post to them, and almost immediately received this informative reply from Foundation director Mark Nash:

We have several peregrine families around Toronto for sure, in addition to several other species of raptors -- both larger and smaller than the peregrine. Your photo is in fact a red-tailed hawk. Good work on the identity of the red-tail. [Thanks, Ward and Philip!] The kestrels and merlins are much smaller than the peregrine, where the red-tail is much larger. Think of it this way: the kestrel is the size of a robin, the merlin is the size of a pigeon, the peregrine is the size of a crow, and the red-tail is larger than a crow -- approximately 1.5 to 2 times that size.

While it would not have been typical ten years ago for many of these birds to be in our cities, today all the rules have changed and we have had an invasion of these feathered raptors that call our cities their home. (Something has to control the pigeons!)

We have a large web site with many photo galleries that include some interesting shots of these raptors that are now permanent city dwellers.

Thanks to the Peregrine Foundation, I now know that the smaller raptors I've been seeing were probably merlins or kestrels, although it's possible they were peregrines. If you're in the Toronto area and you see falcons and hawks about and wonder what they are, check out the Foundation's handy Identification Tips!

Also: From now on, I'm referring to pigeons as "raptor snacks".


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