North

A starling discovery: bird makes rare visit to Arctic community

A bird that’s common in southern Canada but rarely seen in the Arctic showed up in Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., last week.

'I’d never seen a bird like that in my life,' says John Noksana

A European starling showed up in John Noksana's yard in Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., on May 11. (submitted by John Noksana)

A bird that's common in southern Canada but rarely seen in the Arctic showed up in Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., last week.

It was May 11 around 9:30 a.m. and John Noksana and his wife were having coffee, about to get ready to go goose hunting, when she pointed the bird out to him.

"It was a black bird, maybe a little bigger than a robin. It had a yellow beak, pretty sharp claws for a small bird, I noticed, and silver wings," he said.

"I'd never seen a bird like that in my life."

It hung around in their yard for three or four minutes — long enough for Noksana to snap four or five photos — then it took off.

Starlings, a common species in southern Canada, are rare visitors to the Arctic. (submitted by John Noksana)

He posted his photos on Facebook and asked his friends if anybody knew what it was. Many guessed it was a European starling, also known as the common starling.

"I Googled it and found out they were released in New York in a park [in 1890], like about 100 birds, and now there are a couple hundred thousand I guess or maybe more. 

"Then I checked the range and they do come into the territory but just above Yellowknife, just in that area, maybe not even that."

N.W.T. biologists have confirmed the bird in the photos is a European starling. Sightings of the species have been reported before in the Beaufort Delta region, but are rare.

Noksana has two theories on how it made it to Tuktoyaktuk, located on the shores of the Arctic Ocean.

"Either he got lost, or climate change had a lot to do with it," he said. Our spring season is about 10 days earlier than usual. It's melting a lot faster."

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