10 Canadian animals you can see in autumn

Published: October 26, 2020

Broad-winged hawk

Fall means a big move south for broad-winged hawks, one of cottage country’s most common raptors. The small, stocky birds of prey pre-load by eating everything that they can get their talons on. That’s because during migration—it’s more than a month of flying—they won’t eat at all.

What to look for: The birds in flight, often in swirling flocks, as they migrate. They have small heads, chunky bodies, and short, square tails. 

Read more about the broad-winged hawk here.

Woolly bear caterpillar

A sure sign of fall? Spotting these plump, fuzzy, black-and-brown caterpillars, the larvae of the Isabella tiger moth. The caterpillars freeze solid through the winter, thaw, and—it’s a miracle!—emerge as adult moths in the spring.

What to look for: The caterpillars inching slowly across gravel roads, or your driveway. Brake for caterpillars!

Curious about the woolly bear caterpillar, learn more about it here.

Moose

For moose, the fall brings—what else?—the fall rut. Bulls have knock-down, drag-out fights, clashing antlers, as they battle for the rights to territory and lady moose. 

What to look for: Moose on the road (drive carefully). They tend to shy away from human contact most of the time, but can become bold and more aggressive in the fall. You know, hormones.

Everything you want to know about moose and more read it here.

Turkey vulture

Like all vultures, these big birds are scavengers, with cast-iron stomachs designed to digest the nastiest of carrion. Unlike wild turkeys, which look similar, turkey vultures are excellent fliers. In autumn, Canadian residents head south to Mexico to overwinter.

What to look for: Great flocks of up to 400 birds, gliding on thermals—rising pockets of warm air. In flight, turkey vultures don’t need to flap their wings much, which saves energy.

More about the turkey vulture here.

Red squirrel

Red squirrels hustle to gather provisions ahead of the cold season—some start as early as late summer. To sustain themselves through the winter, they need to collect, and stash, dozens of pounds of food.

What to look for: Squirrels in a hurry. In the fall, they spend about two-thirds of their time finding food. The other third? Netflix, we assume.

Learn more about the red squirrel by clicking here.

Green darner

These dragonflies are unusual, and not just because of that cool, electric-blue tail. Unlike most of our native dragonflies, they don’t spend the winter in Canada, instead heading south to warmer climates.

What to look for: Swarms of dragonflies hurtling through the air. During migration, they’ll fly at speeds of nearly 20 km/h. Not bad for a bug.

More about the green darner here.

Long-tailed weasel

Like some of its cousins in the weasel family, this guy gets a wardrobe change before winter hits. Just in time for snowy weather (hopefully), a long-tailed weasel’s coat changes from brown to bright white.

What to look for: A weasel mid-moult and slightly patchy-looking as its brown hairs are gradually replaced with white ones. A full colour change takes about three to four weeks.

Read this and become a long-tailed weasel expert.

Yellowjacket

Are yellowjackets crashing your post-summer barbecues, and hovering around your hair? It’s probably because they’re hungry. By fall, food sources such as flower nectar have disappeared, so the wasps search for nourishment elsewhere. (And when you’re starving, everything looks like food.)

What to look for: Yellowjackets hanging around garbage cans. Or your face. 

Read the Wild Profile about yellowjackets.

Blue jay 

Blue jays choose where to spend the winter based on food. If in the fall, they can gather enough seeds and nuts to sustain themselves through the chilly months, they stay put in Canada. If the bounty is scarce, on the other hand, they book it for the southern U.S. states.

What to look for: Jays stuffing their expandable crops with food from your bird feeder. They’ll fly away to bury or hide the seeds, then come back to collect more.

More about Blue jays here.

Canada goose

Come fall, it’s a common sight: a gaggle of geese flying south in V-formation. Less common? A Canada goose flying upside down. Yes, in a creepy Linda Blair-style move, these geese have the ability to rotate their bodies 180 degrees mid-air, while their heads stay upright.

What to look for: Nothing. You will hear the honking first.

Learn about the Canada goose from a safe distance.

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