Birds of Nova Scotia

Robie Tufts' 'Birds of Nova Scotia.'

Robie Tufts
Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History

© 1998, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


Robie Tufts’ Birds of Nova Scotia has been a fixture on the bookshelves of bird lovers since the first edition was published in 1961. Not only is it an excellent resource for anyone wanting to know about the birds that visit Nova Scotia, it is a pleasure to read, full of interesting observations, amusing anecdotes and beautiful illustrations.

Since it was last published in 1986, several new species have been recorded in the province, and the status of some of the birds has changed.

There are 411 species of birds described in Birds of Nova Scotia. In this learning object we include one example from the following categories: Water Birds; Sea Birds and Gulls; Marsh Birds; Shore Birds; Kingfisher

You can view the entire book on the World Wide Web at:

http://museum.gov.ns.ca/mnh/nature/nsbirds/bons.htm

Robie Tufts’ Birds of Nova Scotia has been a fixture on the bookshelves of bird lovers since the first edition was published in 1961. Not only is it an excellent resource for anyone wanting to know about the birds that visit Nova Scotia, it is a pleasure to read, full of interesting observations, amusing anecdotes and beautiful illustrations.

Since it was last published in 1986, several new species have been recorded in the province, and the status of some of the birds has changed.

There are 411 species of birds described in Birds of Nova Scotia. In this learning object we include one example from the following categories: Water Birds; Sea Birds and Gulls; Marsh Birds; Shore Birds; Kingfisher

You can view the entire book on the World Wide Web at:

http://museum.gov.ns.ca/mnh/nature/nsbirds/bons.htm


© 1998, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Status Common transient, fairly common in winter, uncommon in summer. The main fall movement occurs in October and November, and estimates of 100-300 birds are regular on Christmas Bird Counts around the province. Large numbers are seen at times in later winter, and major northward movements occur in late March or early April.

Description Length: 50-58 cm. Adult male: Mostly black; small white spot under eye; white wing patch, conspicuous in flight; bill orange with prominent black enlargement at base. Adult female and immature: Grayish brown above, lighter below; light grayish brown patches at base of bill and behind eye; white patch on wing.

Range Breeds from Alaska to the Ungava Peninsula and Newfoundland, south to North Dakota in the interior. Winters on the Atlantic coast from Newfoundland to South Carolina, and on the Pacific coast from the Aleutian Islands to Baja California.

Remarks Kortright (1942) states that the grinding power of its gizzard is almost unbelievable. Oysters and other molluscs are swallowed whole and many shells that would require a hard blow of a hammer to b Read More

Status Common transient, fairly common in winter, uncommon in summer. The main fall movement occurs in October and November, and estimates of 100-300 birds are regular on Christmas Bird Counts around the province. Large numbers are seen at times in later winter, and major northward movements occur in late March or early April.

Description Length: 50-58 cm. Adult male: Mostly black; small white spot under eye; white wing patch, conspicuous in flight; bill orange with prominent black enlargement at base. Adult female and immature: Grayish brown above, lighter below; light grayish brown patches at base of bill and behind eye; white patch on wing.

Range Breeds from Alaska to the Ungava Peninsula and Newfoundland, south to North Dakota in the interior. Winters on the Atlantic coast from Newfoundland to South Carolina, and on the Pacific coast from the Aleutian Islands to Baja California.

Remarks Kortright (1942) states that the grinding power of its gizzard is almost unbelievable. Oysters and other molluscs are swallowed whole and many shells that would require a hard blow of a hammer to break are readily ground and chemically disintegrated in its gizzard.


© 1998, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

White-winged Scoter

White-winged Scoter, Melanitta fusca (Linnaeus), Order: Anseriformes; Family: Anatidae

painting by Roger Tory Peterson and John A. Crosby
Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History

© 1998, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


Status Common in winter, very rare in summer. The first sightings of Dovekies are generally in late October. They are abundant offshore from November to April, especially along the edge of the Scotian Shelf southwest of Sable Island, but are rarely seen inshore in numbers except during large "wrecks" of weakened birds during late fall.

Description Length: 19-23 cm. Adults in summer: Upperparts glossy black; neck and breast sooty brown; lower breast and belly white; stubby, sparrow-like bill. Adults in winter: Similar but throat and breast white, the breast often tinged with gray.

Range Breeds on the coasts of Greenland and on the high Arctic islands east to western Siberia; there are also very small populations on Baffin Island and Iceland and in the Bering Sea. The bulk of the world population of more than 14 million birds nests in northwestern Greenland and winters off Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, and occasionally further south.

Remarks This little black and white, web-footed, robin-size bird with "no neck" is often picked up near the coast or even well inland i Read More

Status Common in winter, very rare in summer. The first sightings of Dovekies are generally in late October. They are abundant offshore from November to April, especially along the edge of the Scotian Shelf southwest of Sable Island, but are rarely seen inshore in numbers except during large "wrecks" of weakened birds during late fall.

Description Length: 19-23 cm. Adults in summer: Upperparts glossy black; neck and breast sooty brown; lower breast and belly white; stubby, sparrow-like bill. Adults in winter: Similar but throat and breast white, the breast often tinged with gray.

Range Breeds on the coasts of Greenland and on the high Arctic islands east to western Siberia; there are also very small populations on Baffin Island and Iceland and in the Bering Sea. The bulk of the world population of more than 14 million birds nests in northwestern Greenland and winters off Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, and occasionally further south.

Remarks This little black and white, web-footed, robin-size bird with "no neck" is often picked up near the coast or even well inland in a weakened condition or dead. Dovekies are notoriously liable to being driven, often in large numbers, far outside their normal winter range by storms; one such bird reached Cuba!
The Dovekie is known to residents along the coasts of Nova Scotia by the name "bull-bird," or"ice bird."


© 1998, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Dovekie

Dovekie, Alle alle (Linnaeus) Order: Charadriiformes; Family: Alcidae

painting by Roger Tory Peterson and John A. Crosby
Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History

© 1998, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


Status Common transient. Groups begin to arrive by early July, and from mid-July to late August the bird is abundant, remaining common through mid-September.

Description Length: 14-16 cm. All plumages: Legs black, bill stout, not strongly decurved. Adults in summer: Dark grayish brown above, white below, sides of head, neck and breast suffused with light grayish brown. Adults in winter: Uniformly gray above. Juveniles: Brownish gray above.

Range Breeds in the lower Arctic, and in subarctic regions from western Alaska to Labrador. Migrates through the interior and along the Atlantic coast to reach its wintering grounds, which extend from the southern United States to South America.

Remarks Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the future welfare of these sparrow-sized "game birds" seemed grim, for they were being massacred wholesale over a wide area by men and boys armed with shotguns. But before hunting had gone too far, protective international legislation was enacted in 1918.
In Nova Scotia, perhaps no sand beaches or mudflats are more attractive to these birds Read More

Status Common transient. Groups begin to arrive by early July, and from mid-July to late August the bird is abundant, remaining common through mid-September.

Description Length: 14-16 cm. All plumages: Legs black, bill stout, not strongly decurved. Adults in summer: Dark grayish brown above, white below, sides of head, neck and breast suffused with light grayish brown. Adults in winter: Uniformly gray above. Juveniles: Brownish gray above.

Range Breeds in the lower Arctic, and in subarctic regions from western Alaska to Labrador. Migrates through the interior and along the Atlantic coast to reach its wintering grounds, which extend from the southern United States to South America.

Remarks Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the future welfare of these sparrow-sized "game birds" seemed grim, for they were being massacred wholesale over a wide area by men and boys armed with shotguns. But before hunting had gone too far, protective international legislation was enacted in 1918.
In Nova Scotia, perhaps no sand beaches or mudflats are more attractive to these birds than those found about the Minas Basin. One of these, Evangeline Beach, is the centre of immense congregations of shorebirds in autumn, perhaps 90 percent of which are of this species. Locally known as "peeps," they begin to arrive in early July and are augmented steadily by new arrivals from the north until about mid-August when a peak is reached.


© 1998, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Semipalmated Sandpiper, Calidris pusilla (Linnaeus) Order: Charadriiformes; Family: Scolopacidae

Painting by Roger Tory Peterson and John A. Crosby
Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History

© 1998, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


Status Uncommon in summer, very rare in winter. Breeds. This is the most frequently encountered rail in Nova Scotia. It normally first appears in April (average 26 April, earliest 8 April).
Description Length: 20-23 cm. All plumages: A short-billed, chunky little rail without any rufous. Adults: Region about base of bill, throat and line through centre of crown black; upperparts dark brown, streaked with black, some feathers with whitish gray edges; breasts and sides of head pale gray; flanks dark gray, barred with white; bill yellow. Juveniles: Similar but buffier and without black facial marks.
Breeding Nest: Always in marshy places, usually fastened to the stalks of reeds, just above the water level. It is composed of coarse dead reeds and a lining of soft grass. Eggs: 8-15; creamy or buffy white, spotted profusely with rich browns.
Range Breeds from southeastern Mackenzie Valley, southern Quebec and southwestern Newfoundland, south to northern Baja California, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania. Winters from southern United States to northern South America.
Remarks At home in freshwater marshes, Read More
Status Uncommon in summer, very rare in winter. Breeds. This is the most frequently encountered rail in Nova Scotia. It normally first appears in April (average 26 April, earliest 8 April).
Description Length: 20-23 cm. All plumages: A short-billed, chunky little rail without any rufous. Adults: Region about base of bill, throat and line through centre of crown black; upperparts dark brown, streaked with black, some feathers with whitish gray edges; breasts and sides of head pale gray; flanks dark gray, barred with white; bill yellow. Juveniles: Similar but buffier and without black facial marks.
Breeding Nest: Always in marshy places, usually fastened to the stalks of reeds, just above the water level. It is composed of coarse dead reeds and a lining of soft grass. Eggs: 8-15; creamy or buffy white, spotted profusely with rich browns.
Range Breeds from southeastern Mackenzie Valley, southern Quebec and southwestern Newfoundland, south to northern Baja California, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania. Winters from southern United States to northern South America.
Remarks At home in freshwater marshes, the Sora is best located by a high-pitched whinney believed to be its note of alarm. Another common note is a clear, whistled ka-wee. To see this performer, one requires patience and a measure of good luck.

© 1998, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Sora

Sora, Porzana carolina (Linnaeus) Order: Gruiformes; Family: Rallidae

Painting by Roger Tory Peterson and John A. Crosby
Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History

© 1998, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


Status Common in summer, rare in winter. Breeds. Migrants generally first appear in early to mid-April. It occurs in summer mainly along the shores of inland streams where its nesting requirements are met.
Description Length: 30-38 cm. Adult male: Head bluish gray with ragged crest; white spot in front of eye; bold white band around neck, not quite meeting behind; back, wings and tail bluish gray; wings and tail flecked with rows of small white dots; bluish gray band across breast; underparts otherwise white; bill heavy and bluish black. Adult female: Similar but, in addition to a breast band like that of the male, has a bright cinnamon band across lower breast extending down sides of belly.
Breeding Nest: In a tunnel in a sandbank or sawdust pile where undermining has created a perpendicular wall. The chamber (or nest proper) at the end of the passageway is sometimes lined sparingly with grass or feathers. The nest site is usually near a lake shore or stream, but sometimes it is a considerable distance from water. Eggs: 6-10, usually 7 or 8; white.
Range Breeds from Alaska east to middle Labrado Read More
Status Common in summer, rare in winter. Breeds. Migrants generally first appear in early to mid-April. It occurs in summer mainly along the shores of inland streams where its nesting requirements are met.
Description Length: 30-38 cm. Adult male: Head bluish gray with ragged crest; white spot in front of eye; bold white band around neck, not quite meeting behind; back, wings and tail bluish gray; wings and tail flecked with rows of small white dots; bluish gray band across breast; underparts otherwise white; bill heavy and bluish black. Adult female: Similar but, in addition to a breast band like that of the male, has a bright cinnamon band across lower breast extending down sides of belly.
Breeding Nest: In a tunnel in a sandbank or sawdust pile where undermining has created a perpendicular wall. The chamber (or nest proper) at the end of the passageway is sometimes lined sparingly with grass or feathers. The nest site is usually near a lake shore or stream, but sometimes it is a considerable distance from water. Eggs: 6-10, usually 7 or 8; white.
Range Breeds from Alaska east to middle Labrador and Newfoundland, south to the Gulf States and southern California. Winters from southeastern Alaska, southern British Columbia, and occasionally in other parts of extreme southern Canada, south to the West Indies and Panama.
Remarks If given an opportunity, this bird can be destructive to trout and young salmon in fish hatcheries and rearing ponds. In its natural habitat the bird takes those fishes most readily caught; and it is fair to assume that in the process of feeding it destroys enough sluggish, coarse, and enemy fish to offset the few fast-swimming young trout and salmon it may be able to capture. Kingfishers are now protected by law throughout the year.

© 1998, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher, Ceryle alcyon (Linnaeus) Order: Coraciiformes ; Family: Alcedinidae.

Painting by Roger Tory Peterson and John A. Crosby
Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History

© 1998, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

The learner will:

  • Become familiar with the appearance, ecology, and taxonomic groupings of Canadian aquatic bird species, with particular reference to Nova Scotia.

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