Saturday May 10, 2014: 111 new birds of 27 species, 10 recaps.  New species:  Blue-winged Warbler and Hooded Warbler.  Birds of the day were Gray Catbird with 24 new bands, Western Palm Warbler with 15 new bands, and Blue Jay with 10 new bands.  The wind was a little stiff but it was an otherwise beautiful day at the lake.  Many families took the opportunity to take their children outdoors, and we had plenty of birds to keep the kids interested all morning.    One young man (all of 9 years old) correctly identified an Orange-crowned Warbler!  I’m happy to report that all the children were well-behaved and asked great questions.  We also hosted a guest bander from Cornell, and a new pre-teen student began working at the station today.  Sue and Meghan continued their research on a number of species, and they brought two undergraduate students with them to help.

Two birds caught our attention today.  The first was a Yellow Warbler with a single amelanistic feather on one wing.  I suspect the original feather was lost, perhaps due to trauma or fright, and has been replaced.  The replacement feather appears to lack melanin, although it still contains carotenoid pigments.  This condition resembles (or perhaps is) leucism – which is the subject of our next newsletter!  Notice how worn the feather is, compared to those surrounding it.  Melanin adds strength to a feather, and so feathers or parts of feathers without it tend to degrade more quickly.

Yellow Warbler with one amelanistic feather

Yellow Warbler with one amelanistic feather

The second bird was one of the Blue Jays.  To age these birds, we often look for the strength of the black barring on the alula and primary coverts, as well as the overall color of those feathers.  One particular Blue Jay did not have much barring, but he was the most brilliant blue we had ever seen.  He also had exceptionally large white spots on the tips of his feathers, which may be a sign of age.  The bird on the left is the “bright” older Blue Jay.  The bird on the right is much more drab, and we aged it a second-year bird.

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