Bird Naughty Bits

Look how tiny a ruby-crowned kinglet is compared to my iPod! I always forget how teensy these guys are. Jen Vieth at Carpenter Nature Center got this guy out of the nets during their banding session this morning. Remember they do the banding every Friday morning and if you are at the park you can check out the action. May is an exciting time at a banding station with such a variety of birds moving through.

I remembered that I have a pelican band on my keychain so I took a picture of it next to a band used for a kinglet foot. The band on the left is the one for kinglet. It's so teeny tiny. The bird we banded was female so she did not have the little red crest that males pop up when they are excited. Speaking of excited male birds, Jen was kind enough to show me how they are able to tell the sex of quite few song birds this time of year. Below is a photo of a sparrow, can you tell if it's male or female?

Do you see it? It's a little nub just to the right of the bald patch, which for a male bird is quite large. This is called a cloacal protuberance (the bird equivalent of a hoo-ha). Apparently male birds get it this time of year and it lasts all through the mating season--woof. The males are basically flying around with a constant swollen cloaca for several days or weeks, ready for action at any time. I'm not making this up, Jen showed me a book that showed all the different types of cloacal humps...their humps, their humps, their lovely birdy bumps (I'm so sorry for the Black Eyed Peas reference):

The ones on the left are circumsized--no, no, no I'm just kidding. Females will not have the above protuberance, but they will have a bare patch on the breast called a brood patch, that is used to incubate their eggs.

Here's the male chipping sparrow that we took the photo of the cloaca shown above. Please don't think less of him for having a picture of his cloacal protuberance on the internet, he's a young bird who really needed the money.