Birds I View: Campus Wildlife

The wretched April snowstorms have passed, and we’re finally seeing campus come to life with flora and fauna! That being said, this is my fourth year at UWaterloo, and I don’t actually know a lot about the fauna around here. However, I do want to learn — birdwatching is pretty cool, you know! Thus, I’ve done a little research and found a lot of information on the birds that you should be keeping an eye out for. And no, I’m not talking about geese.

Now, while I would love to tell you about all the birds you can spot on campus, there are so many of them that I’ve decided to list just a few of the ones whose names or photographs I liked. Without further ado…

Spotted! in the UWaterloo Urban Forest

Mourning Doves

These doves are relatively small and a light brown colour overall, with black and white tail feathers and black spots on their wings. They’re named as such because their soft calls “sound like laments.” Mourning Doves are ground foragers who nest in trees, reside in open woodlands, and eat seeds. As odd as it may seem, they store seeds in an enlargement of the esophagus, then fly somewhere safe to digest them. The record number of stored seeds is 17,200 at one time! Don’t ask me how people got this information!

Mourning Dove.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

I adore small and mighty hummingbirds. These hummingbirds, specifically, beat their wings about 53 times a second. Can you believe that?! Additionally, they fly straight and fast, yet are able to stop instantly, hover, and move up, down, or backwards with great control. They’re emerald or golden-green on the back and head, with gray-white underparts and amusingly short legs. Males are the ones who actually have an iridescent red throat! You can find Ruby-throated Hummingbirds living in open woodlands, nesting in trees, and feeding on nectar; make a hummingbird feeder hat to get a closer look!

Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

© Ian Davies | Macaulay Library
Massachusetts, May 21, 2015

Common Grackles

I’ll be honest, this species kind of freaks me out, but they do have a funny name. They’re a type of blackbird (think of the Beatles song), and they have glossy purple heads that stand out against their bronzy-iridescent bodies (especially if they’re male). Their bright golden eyes make them look a little like they’re mad at you, though they’re dark brown with dark eyes when young. Grackles are ground-foraging omnivores who love corn and can open acorns, nesting in trees and inhabiting open woodlands. Despite being called “common,” their population is actually in steep decline.

Common Grackles.

Ruby-crowned Kinglets

This species sounds majestic, but they’re honestly adorable, tiny birds. They’re olive-green with black and white features. The “ruby crown” of a male (which kind of looks like a mohawk) is only occasionally visible, when he’s excited. Some interesting facts: one of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet’s eggs will weigh only about a fiftieth of an ounce, they seem nervous when they fly because they’re constantly flicking their wings (which can be helpful in identifying them), and they only use about 10 calories per day. These birds are “foliage gleaners” who eat insects, nest in trees, and live in forests.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

© Paul Jacyk | Macaulay Library
Ohio, April 04, 2017

Blue Jays

Blue Jays aren’t just a baseball team! This species doesn’t have the coolest name, but I think they’re beautiful, underappreciated birds. They’re songbirds that are various shades of black, grey, white, and blue (obviously). I had no idea, but they’re actually known for their intelligence and complex social systems with tight family bonds. These noisy birds often mimic the calls of hawks to inform other jays that a hawk is around, or to trick other species into believing that there’s one around. Like Grackles, they’re ground-foraging omnivores who nest in trees, but they typically inhabit forests.

Blue Jay.

Belted Kingfishers

This species is one of the few in which the female is more brightly colored than the male (finally)! Males have one blue band across their white breast, while females have one blue and one chestnut band; they’re both a “powdery blue-gray” overall. Interestingly, human activity such as road building has created slopes where Belted Kingfishers can nest. Unlike all the other species included in this list, they usually reside in burrows around lakes and ponds, they eat fish, and they can be seen doing aerial dives to catch said fish.

Belted Kingfisher.

© Matthew Pendleton | Macaulay Library
Utah, February 22, 2013


A big thank you to the UWaterloo Ecology Lab for creating a list of bird species that have been documented in the UWaterloo Urban Forest, as well as providing photographs from their wildlife cameras!

Happy birdwatching, Warriors!

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