Audubon's First Engraving of a Bird Discovered

A 200-year-old mystery has finally been solved.

PHILADELPHIA—In 1824 John James Audubon (1785-1851), the eminent artist of American birds and animals, created a drawing of a running grouse for use in the design for a New Jersey bank note. Although the artist mentions the drawing and the resulting engraved paper money in two separate diary entries, no one has ever been able to locate or identify such an illustration.

Now, after a decade-long search by an Audubon scholar from Philadelphia's Academy of Natural Sciences and a numismatic historian from St. Louis, Audubon's first published illustration of a bird has been discovered.

The effort to find Audubon's missing bank note illustration dates back to the 1950s. Every Audubon scholar since then has met with failure -- until now.
Robert M. Peck, curator of art and artifacts and senior fellow at the Academy of Natural Sciences, and Eric Newman, a currency historian, studied 19th century American banking and engraving companies known to manufacture paper money in Audubon's time.
The men traced the different engravings of one particular bank note artist, Gideon Fairman (1774-1827), and discovered that Audubon had given him the Heath Hen drawing.
The grouse image was eventually discovered on sample sheets of engraved bank notes in a private collection according to an Academy of Natural Sciences press release. The illustration did wind up on proof bank notes made for at least two independent banks, the academy said.
However, because the notes were used in Connecticut and Ohio and made years after the artist's initial contact with Fairman, they were not identified as Audubon's handiwork.
Peck and Newman trace their discovery in the upcoming issue of the Journal of the Early Republic.
Unfortunately the Heath Hen (Tympanuchus cupido cupido) that Audubon depicted has since gone extinct. Heath hens were so cheap and plentiful in their habitat during Colonial times they had a reputation as poor man's food. Overhunting led to their rapid decline and eventual extinction. However Heath hens were one of the first bird species that Americans tried to save from extinction. As early as 1791, a bill "for the preservation of heath-hen and other game" was introduced, and even though it was ultimately unsuccessful, it paved the way for conservation of other species.

Do Birds Sip or Slurp?

Mourning Dove at the bird bath.Image via WikipediaIf you have a bird bath I’m sure you’ve noticed a lot more activity this month. (I can’t believe it’s still so hot!!!!) I was backyard birdwatching last night when a lone dove sat in the middle of the bath, and love them or hate them, Mourning Doves have presence. My dove was just sitting there with its eyes closed and his crop bulging visibly with the best Wild Birds Unlimited bird seed.

After he quietly digested for about 10 minutes, a beautiful yellow goldfinch slipped in and took a quick sip and flit off. Lots of little birds like shallow waters that they can dip their bill, then tip it up to let the drops fall down their throat. Most birds use this dip and sip technique to drink.

After the goldfinch left, the dove perked up a little and stuck its bill in the water for several seconds. Mourning Doves and Pigeons like to suck up their water using a muscular pumping mechanism in their throat that draws liquid up. He took a couple of long drinks before he decided to move along. .

Right next to the bath is our hummingbird feeder. Now the long bill of a hummingbird looks like it’s made for sucking up water like a straw, but they actually lap up sugar water (nectar). The hummingbirds' tongues have grooves on the sides that collect nectar, and when the bill constricts, the hummingbirds can swallow the nectar from flowers or feeders. You may not have noticed this at your feeder because, as with everything else about the hummingbird, that tongue is fast, moving in and out 13 times a second.

So take the time to watch your birdbath today and notice if your birds sip or slurp?

Source: Secret Lives Of Common Birds: Enjoying Bird Behavior Through The Seasons by Marie Read
Related Articles:

1. Working Together: Pigeons Take Turns at the Water Fountain

2. Birds Don't Sweat: The Importance of Birdbaths

Unintentional Optical Illusion: Mini Raven

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. ~Albert Einstein

Why Do Goldfinches Nest So Late?

American Goldfinch Carduelis tristis
Order: PASSERIFORMES Family: Finches (Fringillidae)
The male goldfinch is a small, bright yellow finch with a black cap, wings, and tail, and white rump and undertail coverts. Females are duller with olive back and lacks black cap. Winter males will turn olive-brown with yellow shoulder bars, white wing bars, dark bill, and may show black on forehead and yellow on throat and face. Winter females are duller with buff wings and shoulder bars, and lack yellow and black on face and head. Juveniles resemble winter females but have a yellow wash on throat and breast.
The American Goldfinch is a bird of many aliases: wild canary, yellowbird, lettuce bird, and thistle bird, just to name a few. Ask a gardening enthusiast and you might hear the name “lettuce bird” due to the bird’s practice of nibbling at the tender young leaves of this vegetable. The American goldfinch looks similar to a canary at a pet store and so sometimes is called "wild canary" or "yellowbird".
Another descriptive name, is “thistle bird.” It has long been known that thistle plants and goldfinch are almost inseparable, and even its genus name, Caruelis, is from the Latin word carduus, meaning “thistle.” Goldfinches rely heavily on thistle plants as a source of food and for nest-building materials. A research study in Michigan observed Goldfinches always liked to nest near an abundant supply of thistle seed. If you want goldfinch to nest in your yard you can offer cotton nesting material too.

American Goldfinch Carduelis tristis, Fort Eri...Image via Wikipedia

Goldfinches delay the start of their nesting behavior until the thistles come into bloom so they can anticipate an abundant and reliable supply of seeds for their young. So keep your WBU finch feeder filled with fresh Nyjer® (thistle) seed to welcome the American Goldfinch to your backyard refuge.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Are Earwigs Dangerous?

I was cleaning out a birdhouse and there were some earwigs inside. Are they dangerous to the birds or me? Lorraine~ Lansing, MI

A common earwig with large cerci in the backgr...Image via Wikipedia

Their scary name and appearance makes you think earwigs are ferocious. According to The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, the common term, earwig, is derived from the Old English Δ“are, which means "ear", and wicga, which means "insect". The name may be related to the old wives' tale that earwigs burrowed into the brains of humans through the ear to lay eggs. But Common Earwigs are not parasitic. They do not attack humans and prefer to be left alone.
The earwig is a scavenger and likes to eat a variety of things like algae, fungi, insects, and plants. Native to Europe, western Asia and probably North Africa, the Common earwig was introduced to North America in the early twentieth century and is currently spread throughout much of the continent. Earwigs make great hitch hikers and have spread throughout the country by hiding in lumber, dirt, plants, and produce.
When winter comes to Michigan earwigs will dig deep to escape cold temperatures. In other areas with a warmer climate, earwigs will remain active year-round. They prefer to hide in dark, moist places and come out only at night.

Earwig life cycle: 5 instars in svg going side...Image via Wikipedia

Earwigs start from eggs. The female will lay up to 50 eggs underground and then care for her hatchlings until their first molt. As soon as the young become old enough to leave the nest they will begin to fend for themselves.

Bluebirds, chickadees, wrens and other birds that use nestboxes are not at any risk from earwigs. In fact it’s the other way around; bug eating birds will devour the insects like candy if they are uncovered. And if an earwig is found in your home, it probably wants to get outside as much as you want it outside.

Read more about earwigs at

They're eating me out of house and home!

“The kiss of the sun for pardon. The song of the birds for mirth. One is nearer God’s heart in a garden, than anywhere else on this earth."—Dorothy Frances Gurney

Working at Wild Birds Unlimited I hear how hungry the birds are all the time. So first I would like thank you and everyone that supports our small business. People who shop here are the best!

Backyard bird watching is a fascinating activity that increases our awareness and appreciation of nature. It also helps us forget about the hectic day-to-day craziness and just sit back and relax.

We are now moving in to my favorite time of year. The heat has finally broken (I hope!!!!!). The wind is blowing and the leaves are rustling. Make sure you take time to smell the roses and watch all the baby birds mature.

Baby Bird 08                    (Your photostr...Image by Allie's.Dad via Flickr
And just a little reminder that Tuesdays are seed delivery days. If you would like to load a few bags directly into your car, that would be much appreciated. I know I keep running out of No-Mess blend but there is a couple tons waiting outside the store right now! Come in early to pick up your supply because the sale on our most popular blend ends this Saturday at the Wild Birds Unlimited in East Lansing, Michigan.
Thank you all!
Enhanced by Zemanta

What is the Difference Between a Bird Call and a Bird Song?

The Cedar Waxwing: A Songbird Without a Song

Cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) passing a...Image via Wikipedia

There is still so much we have to discover about birds. As far as I know there are no hard and fast rules defining a call from a song.

Bird Calls are usually short inborn sounds both male and female birds make throughout the year. Birds use calls in a variety of contexts, such as to announce their location, to warn if there are predators nearby, to spread the word about a food source, and as a basic form of communication.

Bird Songs have two main functions: to defend a territory and to attract a mate. Usually heard in the spring, songs tend to be longer, and more complex then calls. Most songs are sung by males that inherit a basic unstructured song that they can improve on based on what they hear from their father’s song or close male neighbors. And just as our love songs have changed over the years, scientists have shown that birds also update their songs.

But not all songbirds sing songs. Blue Jays might imitate a squeaky gate. Starlings can produce a string of songs from different birds as well as other noises. And the Cedar Waxwings seem to have lost their ability to sing any song at all.

According to Donald Kroodsma in The Backyard Birdsong Guide, Cedar Waxwings make two basic types of calls: a high, thin seee and a more buzzy bzee but no song. In fact during breeding season the waxwings tend to be noticeable more quiet which seems to be an evolutionary reversal for birds.
However, they may not need songs because Cedar Waxwings are social birds that form large flocks and often nest in loose clusters with over a dozen nests close together. So with no need to defend a territory through song, the males may use the wax on their wings to impress females as well as their wonderful courtship dances.

Still, there are a lot of unanswered questions for ornithologist, young or old, to answer in the future.

Birds You See at Michigan Bird Feeders

Will I see different birds in the winter at my birdfeeder than I do in the summer? Barbara A- Lansing, MI

It's funny I'm always asked this question during the hottest part of the summer. But once nesting is done some birds don't even wait for cold weather before they slowly journey south to areas that can sustain them through the winter.

As cold weather approaches and the lakes freeze most shore birds move south to find food too. And south doesn't necessarily mean South America.

South to some birds nesting in Canada is Michigan. Some Dark-eyed Juncos, Red-Breasted Nuthatches, Pine Siskins, Redpolls, Crossbills, and Snow Buntings are just a few birds only seen here during the winter. The White Throated and White Crowned Sparrows are common migrants in mid-Michigan from mid-September to mid-November.

A few other feeder birds that you will see during the winter are the Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, American Goldfinch, and of course the House Sparrow to name a few.

As winter approaches, many birds change some of their eating habits and you may see an increase in traffic at your feeder. Birds that usually eat insects may start to add rich, high energy foods such as fruit, nuts, seed or suet to supplement their diets.

And don't forget just like in the summer, birds also need a source for water in the winter. When the weather turns freezing, a heater or heated birdbath can keep an open water source for birds to bathe and drink.

Ancient Birds from North America Colonised the South

Despite their ability to fly, tropical birds waited until the formation of the land bridge between North and South America to move northward.
Scientists studying ancient species migration believe northern birds had the ability to colonise continents that southern species lacked. The research, published in Ecography, reveals how the ancient ‘land bridge’ of Panama, which first connected North and South America, caused an uneven species migration, leading to a new understanding of species diversity today.
The continents of North and South America were historically isolated until they were abruptly joined three million years ago through the tectonic uplift of Central America and the formation of a land corridor in modern day Panama, creating a land bridge.
"This connection allowed an unprecedented degree of intercontinental exchange between species that had been isolated for millions of years," said lead author Brian Tilston Smith from the University of Nevada. "However the relatively poor fossil record has prevented us from understanding how the land bridge shaped New World bird communities."
Using molecular data and phylogenetic evidence from 11 orders, 34 families, and over 100 genera of bird species the team applied a ‘molecular clock’ to estimate the historical timing of the migration, giving a unique insight into how the ancient history of American bird migration led to present day species diversity across the equator.
The results reveal that while ancient birds could fly most species did not cross the water between the two isolated continents, so were subject to the same constraints as their land based mammalian counterparts. The land bridge was therefore crucial in facilitating cross continental migration.
"This inter-continental migration was far from even. While within the tropics around the equator exchange was equal in both directions, between the temperate zones of North and South America it was not," said Smith. "Avian lineages from the northern Nearctic regions have repeatedly invaded the tropics and radiated throughout South America. In contrast, species with South American tropical origins remain largely restricted to the confines of the tropical regions."

Examples of new species of the Great American ...Image via Wikipedia

Existing studies show that in mammals 50% of modern South American species have Northern origins whereas only 10% of species from the North originated in the South. The team found that this pattern is also reflected in birds. When considering the perching birds oscine and suboscine the team found that despite having northern ancestral origins, 55% of New World oscine species now breed in South America, many of them in tropical habitats. In contrast, only 2.4% of suboscines have secondarily adapted to North American temperate zone habitats."
Our study suggests the formation of the panama land bridge was crucial for allowing cross continental bird migration," concluded Smith. "We believe that the ability of species to colonise and radiate across this area represents an important and underappreciated factor to the distribution of species around the equator."

Source: Press release provided by Wiley - Blackwell

Journal Reference: Brian Tilston Smith, John Klicka. The profound influence of the Late Pliocene Panamanian uplift on the exchange, diversification, and distribution of New World birds. Ecography, 2010; DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0587.2009.06335.x
Enhanced by Zemanta

Submit a Photo to the Blog

A family of 5 yes 5 has come calling and they are beautiful. ~Stephen Boskin

This is a fabulous shot, and the bird is gorgeous! Do you want us to use the photo for Friday Photo this week?

I would be thrilled if you would post it on your blog. I have not put it up on my website as yet, I do have some birds on the web as well as other things.
Can you tell us the background story of the hawk?
I live in an area of Los Angeles that was once bean fields. Housing was developed in 1951. Many Sycamore and Magnolia trees and an occasional California Redwood still exist.
I have had many types of finches, Jays, Phoebes Etc. visit our small backyard. My next door neighbor said she saw Hawks mating in her Redwood tree either late may or early June.
We have seen three Juvenile Hawks as well as the parents daily. I would love to get a shot of multiple Hawks, if so I will forward it to you.
I forgot to mention that we have seen the Hawks working in tandem to corner baby squirrels and you know the rest. I do believe that they normally hunt as individuals.

Thank you so much for sharing! For more info on Cooper's Hawks go to: University of Michigan Museum of Zoology.

Feeder Fresh: How to Keep Your Birdseed Dry

If you've been having trouble keeping your seed dry during this impossibly hot and humid summer in mid-Michigan, remember Wild Birds Unlimited has Feeder Fresh. I usually use it only in the rainy spring and fall but because of the liquid heat we've been experiencing I've had to use it all summer.

Feeder Fresh is added to the seed when you fill a feeder. It absorbs water and humidity, is safe for birds, and made from non-toxic absorbent sand. Feeder Fresh keeps the seed and feeder dry, keeps molds from forming, which reduces the chance of Aflatoxin and other mycotoxins.

Once the Feeder Fresh absorbs its own weight in water it will discontinue absorbing, and be identical to the silica grit that birds normally ingest.

To use: Start with a clean feeder, and pour a couple teaspoons of Feeder Fresh into a scoop of seed and fill your feeder. Repeat as needed each time you fill or maintain your feeder. Use more during high humidity and rain or less as the weather drys and cools.

Squirrels Like to Work for Their Food

Many animals prefer working for their food, rather than getting it for free, defying standard economic theory.

I just finished a couple of fascinating books by Dan Ariely that explain some of the positive effects irrationality has on our lives based on several old and new psychological experiments.

The following is adapted from The Upside of Irrationaity: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home by Dan Ariely, HarperCollins (2010).

"Contrafreeloading," a term coined by the animal psychologist Glen Jensen, refers to the finding that many animals prefer to earn food rather than simply eating identical, but freely accessible, food found in a dish nearby.

To better understand the joy of working for food, Jensen first took adult male albino rats and tested their appetite for labor. Imagine that you are a rat participating in Jensen's study. After a few days of having a nice man in a white lab coat giving you lab crackers precisely at noon, you learn to expect food at noon every day, and your rat tummy begins rumbling right before the nice man shows up -- exactly the state Jensen wants you in.

Once your body is conditioned to eating crackers at noon, things suddenly change. Instead of feeding you at the time of your maximal hunger, you have to wait another hour, and at one o'clock, the man picks you up and puts you in a box with bar that you accidentally press, and immediately a pellet of food is released. Wonderful! You press the bar again. Oh joy! -- another pellet comes out. You press again and again, eating happily, but then the light goes off, and at the same time, the bar stops releasing food pellets. You soon learn that when the light is off, no matter how much you press the bar, you don't get any food.

Just then the man in the lab coat opens the top of the cage and places a tin cup in a corner of the cage. You don't pay attention to the cup; you just want the bar to start producing food again. You press and press, but nothing happens. As long as the light is off, pressing the bar does you no good. You wander around the cage, cursing under your rat breath, and go over to the tin cup. "Oh my! It's full of pellets! Free food!" You begin chomping away, and then suddenly the light comes on again. Now you realize that you have two possible food sources. You can keep on eating the free food from the tin cup, or you can go back to the bar and press it for food pellets. If you were this rat, what would you do?

Assuming you were like all but one of the two hundred rats in Jensen's study, you would decide not to feast entirely from the tin cup. Sooner or later you would return to the bar and press it for food.

Jensen discovered that many animals- including fish, birds, gerbils, rats, mice, monkeys and chimpanzees-tend to prefer a longer, more indirect route to food than a shorter, more direct one. That is, as long as the animal doesn't have to work too hard, he'll frequently prefer to earn his food. In fact, among all the animals tested so far the only species that prefers the lazy route is the commendably rational cat.

The general idea of contrafreeloading contradicts the simple economic view that organisms will always choose to maximize their reward while minimizing their effort.
Watch the video:
For more information:
3. NPR interview of behavioral economist Dan Ariely about his new book, The Upside of Irrationality.

How Do I Keep Wasps from Building Nests in my Birdhouses?

Bees and wasps usually use unoccupied houses, but it’s best not to spray the house with any poisons. If you have one of our Wild Birds Unlimited easy clean out houses, I would leave the door open so there is a lot of light in the box. If there is no easy clean out you can plug the hole for a couple days until they get the idea.

If they have already established a nest it is best to let them be and not take any active measures to exterminate them. Instead, wait to clean them out in the fall when the weather is cooler and their activity has halted.
To stop this from happening again, rub a thin layer of bar soap on the inside surface of the roof. The slippery surface prevents the insects from attaching the nest to the wood. Don’t use any oils like Crisco which could melt and get on bird feathers. A little Ivory Bar Soap rubbed on the inside of the birdhouse roof doesn’t hurt the birds and deters any insects from attaching a nest inside. Good luck!

Quick Fun Facts on Wrens

• You can increase your chances of attracting Carolina Wrens to feeders by providing a brush pile close to your feeding area. They feel more secure with a place to seek refuge nearby.

• A single male Carolina Wren can sing up to forty different songs – up to 3,000 times in a single day.

• A female Carolina Wren is unable to defend her territory alone if her mate dies, so she spends much of her time watching for predators as they forage together.

• A pair bond may form between a male and a female Carolina Wren at any time of the year, and the pair will stay together for life. Members of a pair stay together on their territory year-round and forage and move around the territory together.
• Breeding from Canada southward to the southern tip of South America, the House Wren has one of the largest ranges of any bird found in the New World.

• A male House Wren may lay claim to a nesting cavity by filling it with more than 400 small twigs. If the female likes what she sees, she will then take over, adding the nest cup and lining it with grass, inner bark, hair, and feathers.

• The stick-filled cavity of the House Wren nest provides “stilts” for the nest cup which allows rainwater to collect in the bottom of the nesting cavity without endangering the eggs or young.

For more information about wrens, visit - our online bird guide.
Source: WBU BOTM

Scientist Fits Robin with Goggles

Birds navigate by being able to SEE Earth’s magnetic field with their right eye.

Researchers led by Katrin Stapput of Goethe-Universitat in Frankfurt, Germany, put goggles on the European Robins and found that if the right eye was covered by a frosted goggle, the birds could not navigate effectively. The scientists think the migrating birds actually see the magnetic fields with their right eye giving information to the left side of their brain.

It has been known since 1968 that birds were able to sense magnetic fields and use them to navigate when migrating south for the winter. Now this new study shows that the internal compass also depends on the birds having clear vision in their right eyes.

The ability is believed to be linked to specialized molecules in the birds' retinas that allow them to literally see the magnetic fields, which appear as patterns of light and shade superimposed over the regular image from light. The shadings change as the bird turns its head, giving it a visual compass.

Read more:
Study information: Magnetoreception of Directional Information in Birds Requires Nondegraded Vision, Katrin Stapput et al., Current Biology, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2010.05.070

Fledglings Make Family Life Fun

I came home last night and watched a juvenile Blue Jay, Cardinal, Downey Woodpecker and Starling all try to figure out how a feeder worked and what they were supposed to do with the food in front of them. It reminded me that this summer, parents across the country will spend countless hours with their children, taking them to places they’ve never seen the bird feeders in your yard.

This is the time of year when fledglings leave the nest and are taught how to forage for food by their parents. It's a fascinating interaction that is fun to observe.

The fledglings follow their parents and either wait quietly or call incessantly and flutter their wings until fed. After one to three weeks, the parents will stop feeding their fledglings and may even peck at them if they persist in begging for food. Even birds have dysfunctional families.

You can make your backyard "bird family-friendly" by continuing to offer high-protein bird foods, such as WBU No-mess blend seed, Nyjer® (thistle), peanuts, suet and mealworms. These energy-packed foods will entice birds and their young back to your feeders so you can watch them up close.

Song Sparrow Extravaganza

Monday 12 July & Thursday 15 July


Our first of the season HY Common Yellowthroats and Cedar Waxwings showed up on Monday. This juvenile yellowthroat had dark feathering on top of its head and a deep yellow throat. I had to sex it as an unknown, but I find males seem to develop bright yellow throats and females tend to be more subdued. The bird banding lab will only allow us to sex young yellowthroats as male with black feathers emerging in the face.

Juvenile Cedar Waxwings display streaking on the breast that will disappear during the first prebasic molt (preformative molt). I was unable to determine male or female at this time on any of the three waxwings I banded today, although I suspect males due to the width of tipping to the tail feathers.
They all had orange tips to their tails. This indicates they've been feasting on recently introduced honeysuckle bushes. Normally tail tips are bright yellow.

Woodpeckers have a complicated molt strategy but there are numerous clues banders can use to determine young Downy Woodpeckers before their first prebasic molt. One is the elongated outermost primary feather (p10) that extends far below the primary coverts, the small feathers sitting on top of the primaries (outer 10 wing feathers).
Another is the presence of black streaking on the breast.
Lastly, male downys  have red feathering  on top of the head which will move to the rear of the head after its preformative molt. Females don't have red feathers although occasionally a few red feathers could show up.
If you are a beginning birder, one way to tell a Downy Woodpeckers from its larger counterpart the Hairy Woodpecker is to try to get a peak at the outer tail feathers. They will have streaks in a Downy (top picture) and no streaks in the Hairy (bottom photo).

I captured another juvenile male cardinal. At some point while his feathers were growing in he experienced extreme nutritional deficiency to a point where he had breaks in the feather vanes on his tail, known as fault bars.
His weight was lower than normal, but he seemed feisty enough and flew off well on release. The only way he would let me get a picture was to let him bite down on my skin. Ouch! Those bills are made for pinching...
Speaking of large bills you would think this House Finch would be eager to bite but they are fairly docile in the hand.
Here is a young Prairie Warbler looking a bit scruffy as he begins his preformative molt and takes on adult body plumage.
The preformative molt of the Yellow Warbler begins before fledging and this was a particularly handsome young individual.

This day began by opening two nets near the banding table and all was calm. Jessica and I then made our way out to  the north side of the island and opened the bluff nets. Young Song Sparrows began hitting the nets before we finished opening them. We couldn't even make it to the other nets I had planned on opening because we needed to get back and process the birds in hand. One of the juvenile Song Sparrows had avian pox on its toes, an occasional occurence. I've noted avian pox on birds that I've recaptured a year later with no evidence of pox except scarring. I imagine those birds with compromised immune systems would succumb to the disease. It is not a disease that is transmitted to humans.

We recaptured an adult male Song Sparrow originally banded by me as an adult in 2007. His central tail feathers were in such bad condition only the shafts were left. In some birds, feather wear is an indication of age. Young birds have poorer quality feathers that can deteriorate sooner than adult feathers, so we can sometimes determine a birds age by  feather quality. Not so with Song Sparrows. They spend so much time in the brush that their feathers get worn down more easily than a bird perched in trees.
He didn't look too bad overall though.
Another clue for banders identifying young birds is the presence of growth bars in the tail and wings. Growth bars develop as the feathers grow in and indicates the amount of daytime growth (dark bands) versus nighttime growth (light bands).  They are visible in both the wing and tail of this juvenile Song Sparrow. You can see the bands visible about halfway down through the wing feathers.

They may be a bit more apparent to you in the tail.


I was so happy to band our first Northerm Mockingbird this year, an adult female with a brood patch. She had finished nesting by the condition of her abdomen. Adults have yellowish eyes while juveniles eyes are darker. I've been concerned about the state of mockingbirds in recent years. We used to have large numbers nesting on or near the island and they've all but disappeared. I only banded one last year and none in 2008.

She had a crossed bill, another abnormality we sometimes come across. The deformity wasn't too bad, I've seen worse, and she seemed in good health.

We captured our first HY Eastern Towhee today. They are adorable! This is a young male.

Tick infestation on birds was very high today. Almost half of the birds were carrying deer ticks and one poor Song Sparrow had 50 of them! I was glad to relieve it of its tick burden. I removed 119 ticks overall,  almost half the amount I've pulled off all year.

All in all it was a busy two days. I wonder if this is an early indication of an exceptionally busy fall. We ended up with 30 total Song Sparrows. Twice as many as we've banded the whole month of July in past years. We often see these numbers with catbirds, but not Songs before. Many thanks to Jessica Rempel who helped me on Thursday.

Total birds: 94                                   Total species: 36
Total banded species: 17                    Birds/100 net-hours: 120

Greater Yellowlegs


Laughing Gull

Herring Gull

Great Black-backed Gull

Common Tern

Downy Woodpecker- 2

Yellow-shafted Flicker

Eastern Phoebe-1

Tree Swallow

Barn Swallow

Blue Jay

American Crow

Fish Crow

Black-capped Chickadee-9

Red-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Carolina Wren-1

American Robin-7

Gray Catbird-24

Northern Mockingbird-1

Cedar Waxwing-3

European Starling

Yellow Warbler-5

Prairie Warbler-1

Common Yellowthroat-

Northern Cardinal-3

Eastern Towhee-1

Song Sparrow-30

Red-winged Blackbird

Common Grackle

Baltimore Oriole-1

House Finch-1

American Goldfinch-1

Daddy and Baby Red-Breasted Grosbeak

I started keeping a Life List one year ago when I bought my iPhone and installed iBird Explorer Pro (an expensive app at $29.99). Since then, I've identified 32 species of birds, 27 of which I sighted in my front yard. A few of the species were victims of a large picture glass window, but thankfully there were no fatalities. To ameliorate the window crashes I have since installed decorations to make the glass more visible, which has helped greatly.
Now that I have identified the majority of the feeder birds, it's rare to see new species. But I was amazed yesterday to see a male Red-breasted Grosbeak feeding at the seed dish, and even more amazed when I saw his offspring perched at an adjacent birdbath. And even MORE amazed when I saw the dad feeding his son mouthfuls of seed. I quickly grabbed my camera and shot about 150 images which resulted in what you see here.
So keep your eyes open and a camera nearby. Because you never know what you'll see!

Thank you very much for sharing. You captured some great moments! I'm so glad you had a camera ready. Please feel free to share with us at any time.