Tuesday, July 29, 2008

wren fest & heavy molting

This past Saturday was a great day for banding. As soon as we started putting up nets, we could tell that we would be catching a lot of wrens, and we did! 11 total House Wrens were banded in 4 hours. They were really active in the area and had taken over all three nest boxes near the banding station.

Here's one of the 11. One of the wrens had even just laid eggs recently, a little late in the season but these guys seem to be busier than ever.

I'm always excited to see Cedar Waxwings near the nets. They are such neat birds! A bit disappointing though because as you can see, this one does not have waxy wings, just like the other two we caught this summer.

Here's a Common Yellowthroat with some missing tail feathers. Many birds molt before after the breeding season, especially before they get ready to migrate across a long distance or if they have different summer/winter plumages. If you look at where the tail feathers once were, you can see two tiny shoots. These are called pinfeathers and will eventually grow into full feathers. Feathers are pretty cool and much more complicated than mammal hairs. People are still trying to figure out how birds evolved feathers. One theory is that they are modified reptile-like scales. Amazing what millions of years can do to a body plan adapted for flight.

Speaking of molts, here is a Black-capped Chickadee who looks terribly disheveled, but is actually going through a heavy molt. He (or she?) had pinfeathers sticking out pretty much all over. Of course it is important that birds shed feathers in a very particular order, so that they are still able to fly.

Another look, Black-capped Chickadee from the back. Chickadees tend to be little fighters and like to bite a lot. This one actually wasn't so bad (to me anyway, Jerry, who took the chickadee out of the net had a different story!)

Here's a young female Yellow Warbler. It's nice to catch up with a warbler in the middle of summer, since most of them only pass through in the spring and fall. Yellow Warblers and Common Yellowthroats are the only warblers that breed right here at Biocore Prairie to my knowledge.

Another view from the back. It was definitely a day for small birds. Apparently this is tricky for some of the banders here but I don't mind. Well, that is, they are definitely a hassle to get out of the nets but I don't mind if I am just banding them!

Here is a really short video of a Cedar Waxwing being released... (listen for House wren song in the background)

and a quick House wren release..

Bird Banded: House Wren (11), Common Yellowthroat (2), American Goldfinch, Grey Catbird, Song Sparrow, Black-capped Chickadee, Yellow Warbler, Cedar Waxwing

Birdy Art: Northern Cardinal

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