MAPS Banding: Day 3


Day 3 was, just like days 1 and 2, full of some nice surprises. ๐Ÿ™‚

We caught 20 birds, including 2 new species. Check it out:

Species New Recap Total
Common Yellowthroat 1 0 1
Red-eyed Vireo 1 0 2
Carolina Wren 1 0 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 2 0 2
Downy Woodpecker 2 0 2
Orchard Oriole 1 0 1
Northern Cardinal 1 2 3
Gray Catbird 1 5 6
American Robin 0 1 1
Tufted Timouse 0 1 1
Total 10 9 20

To begin, allow me to ramble for a second about Northern Cardinals.

*hem hem*

They have the strong, stout, cone-shaped bills characteristic of seed-eating species- think grosbeaks, finches, and even sparrows. The bill strength of these birds is incredible – imagine trying to crack open a tiny, round, stone-solid millet seed – you probably couldn’t without some sort of tool.

For Cardinals, that tool is their face, and for people handling them, that face is dangerous.

I am often asked if it hurts when cardinals bite – allow me to answer graphically:


And so:

We find ways to prevent this occurrence.
Of course, this presents its own problems…
Tufted Titmice bite, too.

Anyway, now you know. So, moving on!

We’ve been taking photos of catbird eyes this year to document the visible difference in iris coloration between SY and ASY birds. The Pyle Guide notes that HY/SY birds have gray-brown to reddish brown irises, while adults have dark maroon irises. Basically, in younger birds, the pupil stands out, and in adult birds, it’s harder to distinguish from the rest of the eye. Of course, it’s not a characteristic to use on its own, but from what we’ve seen this year, it’s possible to age them just by looking at their eyes! Not that I’d never go by that alone.

But I think it’s pretty cool. ๐Ÿ™‚

SY gray catird – you can really differentiate the pupil from the iris.
While on this ASY, it’s much, much harder to distinguish the pupil. How cool is that?!

We caught our first hatch years (HYs) this session! Meaning that they hatched this very summer and are just now venturing forth in the world with their new wings, like this little Carolina Wren.

ย Wrens can be aged, partly, by whether or not the barring on their wings lines up (as well as the barring on their tails).

Alright, lets get to our two new species CAN YOU TELL I’M EXCITED!!?!!?!

Red-eyed Vireo!

Red-eyed vireos are common breeders in northeastern forests; their song is characteristic of a summer day in the woods.

And that makes sense, because males can sing more than 20,000 times in a single day.

Seriously if you spend a day hiking in the right place you’ll probably go a little insane from it.

Their eyes are brown when they’re born and remain so until their first winter. It’s hypothesized that this difference in eye color between age classes in birds helps them differentiate one another when choosing mates.

This day was also WVWA’s members only group visit to the station – they came on a pretty good day, birdwise (and weather wise, actually!).

Chattin’ (photo by David Freed)
Extractin’ (photo by David Freed)
Showing the group our smallest band size, 0A (don’t worry, I wasn’t about to band a blue jay with a band 4 sizes too small). (photo by David Freed)
For a second, this bird threw me for a loop. He was clearly a second year (see the molt limit in the greater coverts, near the end of my thumb), and despite the fact that it was only June 11th, had already begun his first adult pre-basic molt. Also known as the “I’m done with this breeding nonsense and I am moving on with life” molt. So, it’s likely that he was a breeder whose nest or young did not survive early on in the breeding season – sometimes when this happens, a bird will consign themselves to it and move on, beginning their adult pre-basic a little early, rather than renesting.
Underwing shot, showing two flight feathers in pin (just beginning to molt in). Flight feather molt in blue jays only occurs in the adult pre-basic.
He was a nice example to help explain molting to the group. (photo by David Freed)
There’s nothing like touching a living bird for the first time ๐Ÿ™‚ (photo by David Freed)

And now, our second new species of the day which came as a total shock.

Like to the point where I got to the net and I’m 100% sure that I heard angels singing.

Orchard Oriole!



She was a surprise because in all of my many, many hours both working and birding at Crossways, I had never once seen or heard this species there, and neither had anyone else.

Sadly, orchard orioles have have been declining in recent decades in many parts their range, except in some areas, like the Great Plains. No one is sure why, though we can make guesses – the case with many songbirds (and the reason for the creation of the MAPS project).

They forage mostly on insects but also visit flowers, probing them for nectar with their thin, adept bills.ย  They are a graceful, secretive species.


Well, I think that’s a good note to end things on, don’t you?

Happy birding!



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