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Look for the stories birds tell with their tracks in the snow. A crow swaggers, leaving right-and-left steps much as a walking human would. Juncos under a birdfeeder leave a hopping pattern of tiny footprints in side-by-side pairs. Look for beak marks, where a bird picked up a choice morsel or probed the ground. Tell-tale signs sometimes tell stories of life and death. You might see mouse tracks end suddenly, just where you find the imprint of an owl's wings. Find out more about animal tracking at the Wilderness Awareness School. And learn more in Bird Tracks and Sign: A Guide to North American Species, a book by Mark Elbroch.
Bird Tracks in the Snow
Written by Alexia Allen
Mary McCann: This is BirdNote.
[Crunching footsteps in snow]
Next time you’re out walking in the snow, look to discover a few stories…the stories birds tell with their tracks.
A crow will walk – some might say swagger – across a snowy parking lot, leaving right-and-left steps much as a walking human would. But the juncos under a birdfeeder are more likely to leave a hopping pattern of tiny footprints in side-by-side pairs. [Junco contact or alarm calls]
Some birds, like robins and Song Sparrows, even skip, imprinting asymmetrical tracks made halfway between hopping and walking.
[American Robin tyeep-tut-tut and call of Song Sparrow]
Also look carefully for beak marks, where a bird picked up a choice morsel or probed the ground.
[Call of Northern Flicker]
You may even spy the sweep of wingtips against the snow where a bird took flight.
[Ambient of small birds, including Black-capped Chickadees]
Out in open country, [Great Horned Owls hooting] tell-tale signs sometimes tell stories of life and death. You might see mouse tracks end suddenly just where you find the imprint of an owl’s wings.
To learn more about bird tracks and the expert trackers of the Wilderness Awareness School, you’ll find links on our website, birdnote.org. I’m Mary McCann.
[Continue crunching footsteps in snow]
Featured bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Calls of American Crow, American Robin and Song Sparrow, recorded by G.A. Keller, Dark-eyed Junco by W.L. Hershberger, Black-capped Chickadee by S.R. Pantle, and Great Horned Owl pair by W.R. Fish.
Ambient by C. Peterson and Kessler Productions.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2015 Tune In to Nature.org February 2017/2019/2022/2024
Narrator: Mary McCann