Pictorial Highlights, Spring 2009
|We banded 2,175 birds (21 birds per 100
net-hours) of 60 species and processed 803 recaptures. The highest
number of captures on a single day was on May 10, with 128 birds of
34 species banded, plus an additional 22 recaptures. The top five
species banded during the spring season were Cedar Waxwing (215),
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (147), Magnolia Warbler (132), American
Goldfinch (121), and Dark-eyed Junco (101).
We successfully conducted two banding workshops this spring. The beginner banding workshop was during the first week in May and the advanced workshop coincided with the peak of spring migration in mid May.
Participants of the beginner workshop are pictured below from left to right in the front row Andrew Vitz (Banding Coordinator), Phil Witmer (workshopper), Jeff Territo (workshopper), and Janet Kuehl (workshopper). Pictured in the back row is Amy Amones (field ornithologist), Emma Deleon (bioacoustics technician), Marja Bakermans (avian ecologist), Doug Miller (workshopper), Bob Adams (workshopper), and Bob Leberman (bird bander emeritus).
|Bob and Janet checking out a Veery.|
|Jeff lives nearby and has decided to become a regular volunteer at the banding lab. Here he is photographed banding a Mourning Warbler at the end of May. We always enjoy his visits as he shares his tales of birds and snakes.|
|The advanced workshop included 2 banders
from Wisconsin, 1 from Texas, and another from Philadelphia.
Pictured from left to right in the front row is Amy Amones (field ornithologist at Powdermill), Andrew Vitz, Stacy Taeuber (workshopper), and Emma Deleon. The back row includes Jerry Simmons (workshopper), Bob Leberman, Lois Balin (workshopper), and Lisa Rubin (workshoper).
|Lisa was hoping for a cuckoo, and much to her delight, on the last day of the workshop we captured our only one of the spring, a Black-billed Cuckoo.|
|This May we banded a Pileated Woodpecker, which is relatively common in the area but seldom captured.|
|Most warblers captured in the spring are not difficult to identify because they are in their breeding plumage. For example, this male Canada Warbler is unmistakable.|
|Again, this male Golden-winged Warbler is hard to confuse with anything else. However, genetic work on this species has revealed that many seemingly pure GWWAs have been integrated with Blue-winged Warblers.|
|This male Brewster's Warbler is a second generation backcross, and is the result of a first generation Brewster's Warbler mating with a Blue- or Golden-winged Warbler.|
|Confusing warblers are more typical of fall migration, but can occur during spring. This bird (a little more difficult) is a SY female Prairie Warbler, the only capture of this species all spring.|
|This SY female Pine Warbler is in a very drab plumage reminiscent of a HY female in the fall (pre-alternate molt is absent in this species).|
|The best way to age songbirds in the spring
is by examining the wing for molt limits between worn juvenile
feathers and feathers grown during the first pre-basic molt. The
following pictures are of SY individuals with relatively clear molt
limits or ASY individuals lacking molt limits from the pre-basic
molt as they underwent a complete pre-basic molt the previous
On the SY female Pine Warbler (same bird as pictured above) notice the outermost greater covert and all the primary coverts are retained juvenile feathers.
|This Brewster's Warbler can be identified as an SY from the clear molt limit within the alula feathers (A1 is fresher) and the molt limit within the primary coverts (inner 2 replaced and the rest are retained juvenile feathers)|
|This SY male Blue-winged Warbler is showing the same molt pattern as the Brewster's pictured above. It is very unusual for warblers to have molt limits among the primary coverts (typically they are all retained or all replaced during the pre-basic molt). In fact, I don't remember seeing such a pattern in any other warblers throughout this spring.|
|Here is an ASY Yellow-rumped Warbler. Notice that all 3 alula feathers have very dark centers and fresh gray edging as do the primary coverts (all were replaced in the pre-basic molt). The lack of a molt limit within these feathers identifies this individual as an ASY.|
|The black and orange plumage of this individual reveals it as an ASY Baltimore Oriole.|
|However, the very dark alula feathers and primary coverts (no molt limit) also identify it as an ASY individual.|
|This Black-throated Green Warbler has replaced the A1 and carpal covert feathers (and all greater coverts) during its first pre-basic molt, and A2, A3, and all primary coverts are retained juvenile feathers. As a result, we were able to classify it as an SY male.|
|Look for limited amounts of black on the back of SY male Blackpoll Warblers - like this one.|
|This same bird has replaced the A1 and carpal covert feathers, but retained A2, A3, and the primary coverts revealing it to be an SY male.|
|Notice the dark and blue edged nature of all of the feathers on the wing of this male Indigo Bunting (including all of the primary coverts). Given that, it can easily be identified as an ASY male.|
|On the other hand, notice the brown edged primary coverts on this male Indigo Bunting. These represent juvenile feathers and it indicates an SY male. SY Indigo Buntings generally show an eccentric molt pattern, which is when a bird replaced the outer primaries and inner secondaries. In this individual the outer 6 primaries and inner 5 secondaries were replaced during the first pre-basic molt.|
|Here is an ASY male Mourning Warbler that underwent a complete pre-basic molt the previous summer (no molt limit within alula).|
|In contrast, here is an SY male Mourning
Warbler. Notice the replaced A1 and carpal covert and the retained
A2, A3, and primary coverts.
Also, SY male Mourning Warblers often have some green flecking on their head feathers.
|This SY male Scarlet Tanager has very obvious molt limits within its wing feathers (green edged feathers are retained juvenile).|
|This ASY male reveals no such molt limits.|
|It is more difficult to see molt limits in female tanagers, but this individual has clearly replaced A1 and the carpal covert (and greater coverts) and retained A2, A3, and the primary coverts.|
|In this ASY male Yellow Warbler all alula feather, carpal covert, and primary coverts were replaced during the pre-basic molt.|
||This SY male Yellow Warbler demonstrates
strong limits with A1 and the carpal covert being replaced (first
pre-basic molt) and A2, A3, and primary coverts are retained
Can you identify which wing represents the SY and ASY individual?
|Molt limits are much more difficult to see in the sparrows. Still, this SY Swamp Sparrow has the same pattern as the warblers with a replaced A1 and carpoal covert.|
|Traill's Flycatchers are often difficult to age using molt limits, but a close examination of the primary coverts can be useful in this species. This individual has replaced 2 primary coverts and the remaining have a very washed out appearance and represent juvenile feathers. As a result, this individual was identified as an SY bird.|
|We captured a total of 3 Worm-eating Warblers this spring, and Bob Leberman is photographed holding one of them (his favorite species of eastern warbler).|
|By the end of May the migrating warblers were replaced by Cedar Waxwings, which moved through in large numbers. It wasn't uncommon to find numerous birds in a single net.|
|Finally, we had hundreds of people visit
the banding lab this spring to learn about bird banding and avian
conservation. Most notably, our Director of Education (Linda Farley)
spearheaded an effort to bring in local schools to celebrate
International Migratory Bird Day (always the second Saturday in
Participating schools included Holy Trinity, The Valley School of Ligonier, Donegal Elementary, St Edmonds Academy, and Latrobe Elementary. Pictured below are students from the Valley School admiring a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird just before it realized it was free and took flight.
Many thanks to Bob Leberman, Mike Lanzone, Trish Miller, Linda Farley, Mary Shidel, Molly McDermott, Matthew Shumar, Adrienne Leppold, Danilo Mejía, Marisabel Paulino, Jeff Territo, Joe Schreiber, Robert Vitz, and Cokie Lindsay, for their help with banding this spring.