Thursday August 17, 2017:  16 new birds of 7 species, 9 recaps.  New species:  Magnolia Warbler.  Bird of the day was Gray Catbird with 6 new bands, followed by Red-eyed Vireo with 4 new bands.

This time of year, families across the United States are doing their back-to-school shopping, stocking up on note pads and pencils, crayons and glue sticks, tissues and hand sanitizer.  Many families are also buying piles of new jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers to see their kids through the coming year.  Many birds upgrade their wardrobes in August as well, trading  in their old, worn feathers for fresh new ones.

Look closely at this Common Yellowthroat, and notice its disheveled appearance.  Many of his feathers are noticeably tattered and torn, with nicks and chips afflicting the feather edges.


This is especially noticeable on his tail:


But if we take a closer look at the wing, we see signs that this bird has started to replace his faded duds with something better.  In the middle of the wing, you can see two fresh feathers just starting to grow in.


Over the course of the next few weeks, this Common Yellowthroat will replace every single feather with one that is clean and fresh, and he’ll look sleek and dapper well through the winter and into the spring.  The breeding season will take the largest toll on his feathers, and so, sometime next August after his chicks have fledged, he’ll go shopping once more.

So what does this mean for our banding efforts?  They are slo-o-o-o-w.  Growing feathers is incredibly demanding, and so the birds are active only as much as they need to be to forage.  They stay hidden as much as possible, and we just don’t catch many birds even through there may be dozens in the immediate area.

This doesn’t mean it’s boring at the station this time of year, however!  There is plenty of habitat work to keep us busy, and today we spent nearly 45 minutes stalking a hawk hiding in the tall trees of the swamp.  Eventually identified as a young Broad-winged Hawk, he was incredibly challenging to spot amid all the greenery 50 feet in the air and it was perhaps only luck that we found him at all.