Saturday, July 25, 2009

Hatching year birds on the menu...

Today’s specials are:
Juvenile Northern Cardinal with flamingo colored primaries served with two bills: Hatching and After-hatching year Yellow Warbler. Are you hungry?

Interesting coloration on this molting juvenile male Northern Cardinal with some its primaries came in pink Its tertial feather came in dark red but the others are pink. I am wondering if he will get more girlfriends with this coloration or not so many. These primary feathers will be with him until after the next breeding season unless he loses some during the year. Those feathers still may grow in pink if that color is in his genes and feather tract.

Now for the bills…. Last time I showed an adult Prothonoatary Warbler with the bill losing its dark gray coloration as you can see here on this adult male. We caught another one this week to prove my point that their are always exceptions to rules in nature. What is good for one species may not apply to all.

Usually or normally the beaks of nestlings are yellow, fleshy and soft. As the beak hardens, it becomes dark as it would look in an adult bird. (Adult Yellow Warbler below-note bill color)

This is one of the easiest ways for banders to tell hatching year Yellow Warblers in July and August when they have already molted into their first basic plumage. The plumage looks similar to adults but the beak shows some fleshy or pink coloration.

And a highlight for the day was this early migrant or most likely just dispersing from its breeding area. It gives us a taste of fall migration is around the corner. Are you all ready?!

Enjoy the days of Summer!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Confusing fledglings will assist in fall identification

The youngsters are out and the adults are undergoing their basic molt. Many stages of young prove to cause some quandaries as to what bird you are really look at. This can also be extra complicated with sparrows in juvenile plumage as I have eluded to before. Take a look at this bird: This is a fresh one from the nest and then look at this bird a few days older. You can begin to see its basic plumage revealing some identification features.
The bill is turning pink and the white eye ring is becoming apparent. This would tell me I have a Field Sparrow. I hope you came up with the same conclusion.

Bill color can help in many cases to age the birds to hatching year but there are exceptions that always crop up like this bird:
It is an adult male Prothonotary Warbler and the bill color at the base is no longer that silver gray as you see in the spring. Hmmm, you might say it is a hatching year bird because the bill has not yet hardened from its fleshy nestling state. However, this bird was a brilliant yellow male with symmetrical molt going on. Always some exceptions and sometimes it falls within the species not just the individual.

Take a look at this bird:

One, can you tell what species it is? Look at picture two; it will give a hint with the gray legs…..
It is a hatching year Baltimore Oriole. When you look at its head feathers you can see they are still the loose juvenile feathers as well as the bill color has not turned a slate gray of an adult.
All things considered, young birds can be confusing at times. Baltimore Orioles are staging now in the marsh region. There are family pods moving together with other Baltimore Oriole families. These orioles are one of the first species to migrate south. The Prothonotary and Yellow Warblers that nest in northern Ohio will have migrated south by the end of August. So get out and see your last few “yellow” warblers!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Summer is the time for youngsters!

This is the time of year to practice identifying young birds. It is not always easy. We all are familiar with the American Robin fledglings looking like the parent except with a spotted breast.

Have you ever been challenged by sparrow juveniles? I have and it takes some experience and some thinking to get them down. I must say about ten years ago I was really spoofed by a juvenile sparrow we had captured during the Navarre MAPS session one summer. I wanted to call it a Lincoln’s Sparrow with the nice markings on its breast as the Lincoln’s Sparrow has. Well, it turned out to be a juvenile Swamp Sparrow. I sent pictures to the Carnegie Museum and they said “Sorry but this is a Swamp Sparrow juvenile.” So young sparrows are not easy no matter how you look at them. I will call it GIZ which has been used for hawk identification but I believe it applies here when looking at some of the common sparrows if not most of the eastern sparrows. Their general impressions (GIZ) tell you who they are. Take a look at these sparrows. I have paired them up with an adult so this should be helpful. See the bill is turning pink and on most juveniles you will see the white eye ring as you see in the adult Field Sparrow. Their back coloration is similar to the adult. It is the breast of the juvenile sparrows that causes frustration.
This Chipping Sparrow juvenile (below), you can see it is heavily streaked but it has a dark line through its eye like the adult. In many you will see the chestnut color molting in on the top of its head. You do have to be careful that the bill color on many juveniles will be lighter than what they are when they are adults. A nestling's bill as you know is softer and fleshy yellow for feeding targets for the adults. As the nestlings develop, the bill hardens and darkens in coloration as in this Chipping Sparrow. As you see on this juvenile Tufted Titmouse it has some yellow gape showing at the posterior section of its bill. To end the week I will share this nice looking Blue-winged Warbler captured during the Oak Openings MAPS project. It is not as handsome as he was in spring. A month of territorial chasing and nesting responsibilities has his feathers worn. He is ready for a new set of feathers as soon as the breeding season is over!

Enjoy the birds of summer!