Scavenger Removal Experiment Catches a Furry Friend

This fall the University of Alberta Birds and Windows Project launched a new Scavenger Removal Experiment at houses in the Edmonton area. This study was designed to determine the number of bird window collisions being missed by homeowners because bird carcasses are being removed by scavengers before they can be found.

As part of her undergraduate thesis, Colina Collins has been heading this project with the help of myself, Justine Kummer, and undergraduate student Elita Grinde.

In participating in this study, each house is being equipped with a small webcam and raspberry pi computer that has been programmed for motion capture photography. A bird carcass is then placed in front of the window of choice and in direct view of the camera. The Royal Alberta Museum has graciously donated a number of bird carcasses to this project. After a week we return to each home and analyze the photos.

We were very excited to find a squirrel in our pictures one afternoon. This little fellow found himself a delicious afternoon snack on November 7th.

22-20141107134742-01If you are interested in participating in the Scavenger Removal Experiment please contact us at


Wild Weather

Photo: Janet Ng.

Photo: Janet Ng.

Spring snow storms, tornado warnings, hail storms, and thunder storms are all part of field work. While we can take cover in our houses and trucks, Ferruginous Hawks are left out in the storm to fend for themselves.

It can get pretty rough out there. In fact, Ferruginous Hawk nests can actually blow right out of the tree, usually killing the eggs or young. Our nest monitoring program has found that 20% of nest failures are due to nests blow-outs and climate change scientists are worried that this will happen more often when storms become more frequent and more severe.


World’s Biggest Ferruginous Hawk Nest

FEHA nest sculpture in Leader, SK.  Photo: Janet Ng

FEHA nest sculpture in Leader, SK. Photo: Janet Ng

Some of our field work takes up to far flung places in Alberta and Saskatchewan.  Leader, Saskatchewan has several claims-to-fame including nine Larger Than Life sculptures that are scattered through town.

Our favourite, of course, is the 15 foot Ferruginous Hawk nest that resides on main street.

FYI, they frown upon climbing into the nest.

Burrowing Owl family in Leader, SK.  Photo: Janet Ng

Burrowing Owl family in Leader, SK. Photo: Janet Ng

Counting Beaks and Butts


Baby Ferruginous Hawks look up at our Tree Peeper camera. Photo: Janet Ng.

Our Raptor Ecology and Conservation Team (REACT) is running North America’s largest Ferruginous Hawk nest monitoring program.  In order to study Ferruginous Hawk ecology and potential cumulative effects, we check on hawk nests once a week to compare nest success across the Canadian Prairies.

We use an extendable painter’s pole with a camera mounted on the top to peer into nests.  We call them our “Tree Peepers”, trademark pending.  This method is effective and fast, thereby reducing disturbance to the nest. Check out the video below to see how’s it done.


We check on nests until the young fledge (i.e. naturally leave the nest) or until the nest is done.  If the nest didn’t fledge any young, we record reasons for failure.  Was it predated?  What kind of animal was the predator?  If the nest was successful, then we record the number of young fledged, when they left the nest, and other similar data.

All the data goes into our huge database (cue computer noises) and is readied for our analyses.

Nice view, guys!  Photo: Janet Ng

Nice view, guys! Photo: Janet Ng