If you’ve never been to Ottawa or to Canada in general, you may not be familiar with the feathered and furry animals who also call Canada’s Capital home. Though Ottawa is a bustling cosmopolitan city, it has expansive luscious green spaces that create perfect habitats for small animals. From different bird species, to fuzzy rabbits, to groundhogs, many different creatures animate the city’s diverse landscape. If you’re wondering about the animals you might see while walking around and exploring the city, consult this list.
Canada Goose: The Canada goose is a large bird that is native to Canada’s Arctic as well as the temperate regions of North America. This bird is easily identifiable by its slender black neck and head, which has a large white patch just below the eye. This bird is a common Canadian park species, which means that it can be found in many of Ottawa’s green spaces, including the front lawn of Parliament Hill. In the warmer months, it is also common to see Canada geese floating along on the calm water of the Rideau Canal. The Canada goose is a migratory bird that flies to warmer climates during Ottawa’s winter season.
Crow: This larger black bird is seen in Ottawa’s green spaces and busy downtown areas throughout the year. The American and Northwestern crow species are commonly found in North America. This bird has a lifespan of 20 years and is omnivorous, consuming a diverse diet of fruits, nuts, other smaller birds, frogs, mice and insects. Crows are among the world’s most intelligent animals with intelligence and cognition levels nearing that of apes.
Groundhog: A groundhog, which is known in other areas as a woodchuck, whistle-pig or land-beaver, is a larger size rodent that can be found in most of Ottawa’s green spaces during the warmer weather months. Covered in tan coloured fur with a short tail, a groundhog can weigh between four kilograms (8 pounds) and 14 kilograms (31 pounds), and measure 40 (16 inches) to 65 centimetres (26 inches). Though the groundhog appears to be heavy-bodied, it is a good swimmer and it will often climb trees to escape predators or to survey its surroundings. It is common to see groundhogs poking their heads out of their burrows, which can be found along many of Ottawa’s parkways. Be sure to look for them as you drive by!
Loon: This beautiful black and white aquatic bird can be seen in Ottawa’s larger bodies of water such as Dows Lake and the Ottawa River during the warmer weather months. Male and female loons have the same plumage with bright white under-bellies, and are easily identified by their striking red eyes. Loons live in the water and hunt under its surface, feeding on a variety of smaller creatures including crayfish, frogs and snails. The loon is a national symbol, appearing on Canada’s one dollar coin, which Canadians affectionately call the “loonie.”
Owl: This nocturnal bird of prey can be found in many of Ottawa’s parks and green spaces. Owls are easily recognized with their large forward-facing eyes and intricate circles of feathers that surround them. Unlike other birds, owls can rotate their head and neck 270 degrees. Owls are covered with speckled feathers that allow them to blend into the Canadian landscape. This is a carnivorous bird armed with a sharp beak and talons that allow it to kill its prey before swallowing it whole. In the winter months, make sure to keep an eye out for the Snowy Owl. This beautiful white bird with black speckled feathers blends easily into Ottawa’s snow covered landscapes.
Rabbit: This small mammal can be seen in most of Ottawa’s green spaces, usually at dawn and dusk during the warmer weather months. Covered in soft beige fur with long ears and large eyes, these animals bounce their way through Ottawa’s parks and suburban areas, eating grass all along the way. A male rabbit is called a buck, a female rabbit is called a doe and a young rabbit is known as a kitten or a kit.
Raccoon: The North American raccoon is a medium-sized mammal that is native to North America. This is a nocturnal animal that is often seen in Ottawa neighbourhoods at night. Though a raccoon may look like a friendly animal with its little masked face and striped black and white tail, you should not approach it. This omnivorous animal is also known for its intelligence, being able to remember how to complete tasks up to three years later. A raccoon has a lifespan of about three years in the wild, but many have been known to live for more than 20 years in captivity.
Red Fox: Though they are not very common, it’s still possible to see a red fox during your visit to Ottawa. These animals are roughly the size of a small dog, covered in rusty red-coloured fur with skinny black legs and paws. A red fox’s bushy tail actually makes up 70 per cent of its body length. Red foxes look cute and cuddly but like most wild animals, they should not be approached. Red foxes are omnivorous, feeding on a variety of small rodents, fruits, nuts and insects. A male is called a fox, while a female is called a vixen and a young fox is called a kit or a pup.
Squirrel: In Ottawa, it’s common to see furry gray, black and tan squirrels. But the most common species you’ll see in Ottawa’s urban areas is the Eastern gray squirrel. These small rodents have slender bodies, bushy tails and large eyes. You can see these docile rodents in urban parks as they forage for nuts and insects in grassy areas. It is also common to see squirrels climbing trees with the help of their tiny agile paws. Squirrels are out in any weather and can be seen in the city year-round.
White-tailed deer: It is not common to see a white-tailed deer in one of Ottawa’s urban areas. They are more easily found in the city’s outlying areas and are identified by their slender beige bodies and flashy white tails that bounce along behind them as they run. The white-tailed deer is a herbivore, feeding on a variety of grasses, plants and nuts. A male white-tailed deer is also known as a buck and can be identified by a set of pointed antlers. A female deer is known as a doe and a young deer is called a fawn.
Beaver: Though it is very unlikely that you’ll see a beaver during your stay in Ottawa, this animal is still worth mentioning as it is a national symbol, appearing on Canada’s five cent coin.
The beaver, which can be easily identified by its wide paddle-shaped tail and large buck teeth, is North America’s largest rodent. Weighing between 16 kilograms (35 pounds) and 32 kilograms (71 pounds), this primarily nocturnal animal has thick, oily brown fur as well as a gray fur undercoat that protects it in all climates. The beaver’s main food source is wood and on average, a single beaver cuts down 216 trees per year. This animal spends most of its time in the water building its home and a dam. It is an excellent swimmer.
The beaver is also the inspiration for a unique Ottawa delicacy known as a “beavertail.” Offered by ByWard Market neighbourhood-based company BeaverTails Canada, Ottawa is where this delicious, deep fried, beaver tail-shaped pastry was born in 1978. These whole-wheat pastries, which come in flavours such as Cinnamon and Sugar and Choco Banana among others, are enjoyed in the ByWard Market year-round.