Bioacoustics Almanac — February Listening Together Project
(click on the white speaker icon in upper left corner of graphic for sound)
The Red Fox often lives close to human habitations. For many Nova Scotians, they are seen more often and at closer range than our other canid, the Eastern Coyote. Red Foxes mate in late winter, and the cubs are born in April. The female has a mating scream that sounds almost human. Both sexes make other sounds, barking and yelping, that are similar to a small dog (Painting: Louis Agassiz Fuertes, Sound: Zapsplat)
While it resembles a crow, the Common Raven is considerably larger with a bigger bill and wedge-shaped tail. It begins its territorial flight displays and air-borne chases in February. You may even see it flying, holding a stick in its beak for nest building. The “demonstrative” call that can be heard in the attached recording is its most common vocalization. It is very loud and can be heard for one to two kilometers. The call is made by both sexes, and is intended to indicate the location of the bird and its territory. Listen to how the “croak” of the Raven is very different from the “caw” of the crow (Painting: John James Audubon, Sound: Xeno-Canto, Lance A.M. Benner)
The Canada Jay is the only Nova Scotia songbird that nests annually in the depths of winter. A pair will start nest building in February, incubate eggs in March, and hatch their young in April. The Canada Jay is an important bird in Mi’kmaw culture as it is one of the 7 hunters of the bear Muin in the night sky story which describes a celestial calendar. However, climate change threatens the population of this species in Nova Scotia as the warmer winters thaw and rot the food caches that the birds hid under bark and lichens during the summer. The stored food is used by adults to survive the winter and feed their young (Photo: Dan Strickland, Sound: Xeno-Canto, Taylor Brooks).
The White-winged Crossbill, as well as the Red Crossbill, can nest at almost any time of year, depending on the abundance of different types of coniferous tree cones. When there is an abundance of White and Red Spruce seed cones, the White-winged Crossbill will start nesting in February. Since the timing and location of nesting can be so variable, one does not hear it’s song very often. The best way to see both species of crossbills is at your bird feeder in winter when they come to feed along with their finch cousins. When cone seeds are scarce in the boreal forest, finches will “irrupt” into areas like Nova Scotia and further south. We are currently in a finch irruption year for species such as Pine Siskin, Pine Grosbeak, Common Redpoll, and both crossbills (Painting: John James Audubon, Sound: Xeno-Canto, Doug Hynes).