Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Winter Hazards For Waterfowl

11 January 2015

     While birding along the shore of Lake Ontario we were reminded of the hazards winter sometimes poses for the waterfowl that spend the winter on the inshore waters, alternating with bouts on land.
     This Canada Goose Branta canadensis has somehow or other caused this chunk of ice to get attached to it. 

     It did not seem to be a major impediment while it was walking around but I am not sure how it would fare when swimming and I would imagine that it would present some difficulty when airborne.

     It is a fairly sizeable piece and would no doubt affect flight stability and manoeuvrability.
     I have never witnessed a bird actually imprisoned in ice but this unfortunate circumstance occurs and there is ample evidence in the literature to validate it. In fact, in this day of UTube, videos have been posted of trapped birds being rescued. I have, however, seen birds with ice on their wings and breast, following ice storms or in extremely cold temperatures when water clinging to their plumage after a dive freezes very quickly.
     There was abundant ice in the water but waterfowl handle it with aplomb and there was a large concentration of birds swimming, preening and diving for food. 
     A few Canvasbacks Aytha valisineria were present and it is always a pleasure to see this handsome duck.

     Greater Scaup Aythya marila were noteworthy and winter provides an opportunity to study this species at close range.

      A few hardy American Coots Fulica americana always spend the winter here and this little group seemed quite happy associating with the scaup.

     This Trumpeter Swan Cygnus buccinator seems to have been feeding in an area which caused its head to become stained like ferrous oxide, but since it was the only individual to feature this colouration it's hard to figure what might have caused it.

     The following images give you an idea of the concentration of Trumpeter Swans in the winter; I estimated that about two hundred were present at the time these pictures were taken.

David M. Gascoigne,
David M. Gascoigne,

I'm a life long birder. My interests are birds, nature, reading, books, outdoors, travel, food and wine.


  1. I've seen swans with that coloration in Japan too..............

  2. A good post with some excellent photographs

  3. Beautiful series of photographs, David.
    Photo 5 and 7 are my favorite.
    Best regards, Irma

  4. Terrific photos David. Looks like that goose needs to be defrosted!

  5. Wonderful series of birds and photos.. The swans are beautiful. I have seen the discoloration on the Snow Geese too. Great post.

  6. I imagine the ice would float - like an iceberg, and may even melt a little with the water being warmer than the air at times, and movement causing currents to rub against it, but it would be difficult in flight. The ducks are looking very attractive. It is interesting about that swan - maybe its just a messy bird!

  7. Great captures of the ducks, swans, and the poor goose. I hope it will get rid of the ice soon. Pitty people put these ugly tags on the swans.

  8. Bonjour,

    Je découvre avec délice votre univers...
    Je suis en admiration devant vos superbes photos... et quelle beauté que ces oies, canards et cygnes... J'imagine aisément que la glace fragilise les oiseaux.
    J'ai personnellement des paons dans ma propriété en liberté. L'un d'eux avait pour habitude de dormir sur le rebord du toit de la maison. Il y a quelques année, durant l'hiver, il est malheureusement mort, saigné par une fouine ou autre animal de ce genre. Tout cela à cause de la glace qui avait emprisonné durant la nuit les plumes de la queue. Face à son prédateur, il n'avait sans doute pas pu fuir...

    Jolie publication. Je m'autoriserai une prochaine visite.
    Merci pour votre gentil message.

    Gros bisous ♡

  9. A fascinating and beautifully illustrated post, David.

    For some reason I've thought of Canadian lakes being completely frozen over in winter. I'm obviously misguided! It's great to see that such a wonderful array of waterfowl still manage to cling on there in the coldest months.

    Your post, however, again raises the issue of tagging. The tags on those Trumpeter Swans are a visual abomination, but I guess (in the case of this species) that this probably actually does result in the ability to collect worthwhile data.

    Best wishes to you both - - - - Richard

    1. Hi Richard; You are not entirely misguided! Most lakes do freeze over completely; the Great Lakes, which are really huge inland seas, being the exception. Even there, however, Lake Erie which is very shallow almost always freezes right across in the winter. Lake Huron too freezes far more readily than the others. The longer a cold snap the farther out the ice extends, obviously. We were back on Wednesday at the same location where the pictures were taken and Hamilton Bay (which is where we were) had completely frozen over. The father north you go the more the freeze up is complete and many people are familiar with winter ice roads.

  10. Very nice all these waterfowl David. You've already seen more than me lol .... I have not yet had time to photograph waterfowl but this way I can still enjoy it nice:-)

  11. Mr G, I am in awe of your perseverance and strength of character to birdwatch in such extreme weather. The thought of lumps of ice sticking to my backside while out for a walk at Pilling is very frightening. Accordingly I shall take myself off to Spain for a week or two of sunshine. Just in time if today's forecast is true.

    Tremendous shots of those Scaup and the Canvasback.


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We acknowledge that the land on which we are situated are the lands traditionally used by the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, and Neutral People. We also acknowledge the enduring presence and deep traditional knowledge, laws, and philosophies of the Indigenous Peoples with whom we share this land today. We are all treaty people with a responsibility to honour all our relations.