Earlier this winter (back when there was snow on the ground!) we managed to see some neat owls here in the midwest.
First, here is the always-shockingly-tiny NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL (Aegolius acadicus):
Three times larger and less brown was this distant SNOWY OWL (Bubo scandiacus) in a corn field:
Ok, this isn't an owl, but rather a HARRIS'S SPARROW (Zonotrichia querula) that has taken up a winter-residence at my feeders here in Ames (you can see an AMERICAN TREE SPARROW in the foreground):
PLEASE note that the correct name is Harris's Sparrow.... not Harris Sparrow. Same issue as with Ross's Goose (it's NOT a Ross Goose). Anyway, this bird was especially rewarding for me because a) it was a new yard bird (#104) and b) it completed my North American Zonotrichia sweep this year for the first time in my life (see my previous blog post about the Golden-crowned Sparrow we snagged earlier this year).
Here is a picture showing two LONG-TAILED DUCKS (Clangula hyemalis) on the Mississippi River:
As most of you know, the Long-tailed Duck was formally known as Oldsquaw but the name was changed in 2000 (or thereabouts). Wikipedia sums it up like this:
"In North American English it was formally called Oldsquaw, though this name has fallen out of favor under influence of negative connotations of the word "squaw" in English usage. Some biologists have also feared that this name would be offensive to some Native American tribes involved in the conservation effort. The American Ornithologists' Union (2000) stated that "political correctness" was not sufficient to change the name, but "to conform with English usage in other parts of the world", it officially adopted the name Long-tailed Duck."
Personally, I didn't take offense to the former name even though I am a registered Native American. Granted, I'm not an old squaw.
Either way, here are some other pictures of Long-tailed Ducks I've taken over the years. The first comes from Whitefish Point Bird Observatory in Michigan where I worked during the fall of 2007. That fall I tallied 22,968 Long-tailed Ducks migrating southeast past the peninsula. This is a winter-plumaged male:
This is another winter-plumaged Long-tailed Duck but this time here in Iowa (where the species is much less common):
Lastly, here is breeding-plumaged male that had started to molt into non-breeding plumage (note the black being replaced by white on the back of the head). I took this picture when I worked in Barrow, Alaska where the species is a common breeder: