Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Holy shit it's a Smew!!

Some exciting events in Ontario birding transpired over the last 24hrs. A Smew was found at Whitby Harbour yesterday afternoon, and quickly confirmed. First thing this morning it was seen again, so myself and quite a number of other birders quickly headed straight for the harbour. I was able to get some great looks at it, see below.

This Smew represents the 3rd record for the province (pending acceptance), with an additional bird which hasn't been submitted to the OBRC. The 1st and 2nd records were from the Niagara River (Feb 21-Mar 30, 1960), and Normandale (Long Point) (Dec 9-10, 1973). There's also a record from Mountsberg on April 15, 1982 of an adult male, though unfortunately it wasn't documented.

A Snowy Owl was also present, sitting on the break wall. As I was just about to head out, Tyler Hoar stopped in. In the back of his car he had a dead bird....lo and behold a dead Barn Owl!!! Pretty sad, I guess one flew into and hit a window, only a few km west of the Whitby Harbour. Tyler was just about to drop it off at the ROM.
dead Barn Owl - found near Whitby Harbour circa Dec. 23, 2011

I've really been wondering the last few years how many Barn Owl's are REALLY present throughout the province.There's no question in my mind that they're a very rare bird, and the fact that they're hard to survey for makes them challenging to observe. Brandon Holden and I did our own surveys for them in the Rondeau-Chatham area in 2009 and found 1 bird (June 30), though we weren't able to turn it up again in subsequent trips down there. I think some good areas to look for them would be all of Essex county, Lake St. Clair area, Rondeau, along Hwy. 3 (from Wheatley to Blenheim), all of Niagara and the east end Haldimand county.


  1. Holy Toledo, well the Toledo Zoological Gardens - There are a lot institutional Smews out there. https://www.isis.org/Pages/findanimals.aspx

    Probably more held privately. If memory serves a pair can be had for $250.

    Sorry but origin needs to be resolved.

  2. I thought the same thing Mark...there's a lot of wishful thinking out there. I don't see how one can reasonably rule out a captive origin for this bird.

  3. I can understand the possibility of it being an escapee since it is a commonly caged bird. I did some searching and found the following site http://stanritar.tripod.com/price-wf.html

    A pair on this site is $900, though they also sell essentially all the other common waterfowl we see and count (eg. Wood Duck, Green-winged Teal, N. Pintail).....It's definitely a complicated bird, though it has shown up in other states and provinces (and been counted).

  4. Didn't mean to send....with it being a young bird/female, I think the likelihood of it being an escapee is (even) more unlikely than before as well, and with recent weather (a cooling/freezing farther north), this bird could plausibly have been pushed south with the weather, as we've seen with a few Harlequin's (Pukaskwa, north of Sudbury, and Collingwood - see ebird). These are just my thoughts