Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Junvenal Birds

Imagine that you were a birder from a different continent. Identifying the two birds pictured on this post might give you trouble. We Minnesotans recognize the first bird as a Northern Cardinal. But a visitor would have trouble finding it in a Sibley field guide. The bill is not orange. The bright red breast feathers suggest a Pyrrhuloxia from the southwestern United States and Mexico. Sibley shows no cardinal-like bird with an odd, white beard under the bill. This Northern Cardinal is molting from its juvenal feathers into a male, First Basic Plumage. As with many youngsters, he is not going by the book.

The second bird might give our visiting birder even more trouble. The yellowish wash on the breast suggests a Lincoln’s Sparrow. The yellowish lores suggest a Savannah Sparrow. Sibley does illustrate this bird, although he shows an even brighter juvenal Song Sparrow. Sibley indicates these colors are typical of eastern Song Sparrow, but even birds from Minnesota can be even brighter yellow. Sibley instructs us to note the buffy eye-ring. Readers of this blog may recall a post showing a brighter yellowish Song Sparrow that I banded several years ago.

We are finally, at the end of July, capturing our first rush of recently fledged birds at our banding station. As you can see, identifying these birds is keeping us on our toes.

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