Saturday, July 2, 2011

Identifying Fledglings

I totally blew the ID on this juvenile Dark-Eyed Junco
As I've mentioned before in this blog, I am pretty new to serious bird watching.  It was only after moving out to West Seattle last summer that I was able to put up bird feeders and really spend some time getting to know the local birds -- I've just experienced my first spring here.   I wrote in a recent post how I totally blew the identification of a juvenile Dark-eyed Junco.   Well, I've gotten several more trips to the plate since then, and my batting average is still low.

Happy to see the next generation of starlings in my yard.
First, here's one I got right.  Not too difficult, but I was pleased with myself.  The lighter colored birds in with the starlings are this year's fledglings.  They don't have the familiar colors yet because (I believe) their feathers are too new and haven't had time to wear down, which is what produces the beautiful spring and summer subtleties of starling attire.

There's a sad postscript to this sighting, however -- well, as is usually the case, how sad it is depends on your point of view.  The starlings around my yard have been very active lately, but the other morning I heard them raising such a ruckus that I ran outside to see what was going on.  Starlings were flapping all over the yard, hopping from tree to tree, screeching and hollering.  It lasted about ten minutes with me trying to get some pictures of them and failing because they wouldn't hold still.  Right at the end though, just before they fell silent and flew away, I spotted the likely cause:  a rat,  heading into the thick bushes with something large in his mouth.  I would guess he caught a young or injured starling and was headed back to the den with it.  If you remember, I wrote my very first post about starlings and rats squabbling in the yard.  They often eat in close proximity to each other on the ground beneath my feeders.  But this time the rat got an opportunity, and snatched it.

The rat got his chance and he took it.

Now, back to the happier side of Spring.  See if you can do better with the other two juvies:

Do you know who they are?

The hummingbird fooled me.  I have only identified Anna's Hummingbirds in my yard before -- they were here all winter, although they seem to have changed their routine for breeding season because I haven't seen much of them in the spring.  I thought this bird was smaller than the one's I'm used to seeing, but "smaller" and "larger" are relative terms when you're dealing with Hummingbirds.  If the difference is a millimeter and you're a hundred feet way, who can be sure?

This is a juvenile female Rufous Hummingbird

In this case I was right, however. (About the size:  I was totally wrong about the ID).  That is a juvenile female Rufous  Hummingbird -- I had to ask a more knowledgeable person, but you can tell by the rusty color on the flanks and the absence of iridescence. 

And the second one?  He (no idea of gender here) barely looks old enough to be out of the nest.  He is the offspring of birds I have written about several time -- you could go back and check my Invaders post, for instance.

This is a juvenile House Sparrow (gender unknown).
He's a House Sparrow.

My total so far this year is four fledgling species on my property (of which I've correctly identified one without help -- that gives me a .250 batting average, which is not great but will keep you employed in the major leagues, provided you don't make too many errors in the field).

And I'm still hoping to see fledglings from my House Finches too.

If you like Birdland West, you might also want to check out our sister blog Books and Beasts, which focuses on reviews of books about animals and related topics.

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1 comment:

  1. Nice, I guessed right on the hummer but totally wrong on the sparrow.. Interesting interaction between the rats and starlings, never seen that. Thanks for sharing!