Check out what we got in the nets on Friday at Carpenter Nature Center. No that's not a female cardinal tarted up with excessive eyeliner, that's a cedar waxwing. There are waxwings around Carpenter, and by their behavior, I'm sure they are nesting, but I am always too distracted to figure out where the nest is.
We were actually able to age this bird. Notice something missing? Check the wings--there's no "wax" on the wing. This is actually a second year bird (it hatched last summer). Waxwings do not get those red waxy tips until their second fall. The waxy tips are the result of a astaxanthin, a carotenoid pigment. We also had to measure the yellow tips on the tail--they are shorter in younger birds than they are in the adult birds.
Here's a female red-winged blackbird. These birds just look kind of like an overgrown sparrow when you see the flying around marshes, but they are quite pretty up close and in hand. Note that she also has reddish shoulder patches, similar to the male of the species.
The big excitement of the day was a male northern flicker in the net. You can tell he's male by his black mustache. I had actually just stepped outside with a male goldfinch that I had just banded and was thinking, "Oh, this would be a good picture for the blog, when I noticed something large in the net with a white rump. I immediately let the goldfinch go (we'll get more, so I can get a photo another day) and walked quickly to the nets.
The flicker started to fly and I noticed that it was actually on the other side of the net than I was on. Also, as it flew, I could see it was only caught by one foot. I heard more banders coming out of the building so I just reached through the net, and put my hand over the flick and secured it against my body. Our master bander, Jim Fitzpatrick got hold of the flicker on my side and I went to the other side of the net. In less than a minute, the flicker was out of the net, and Jim banded him.
Another interesting bird that came in was a recently fledged red-bellied woodpecker. It looks enough like a red-bellied woodpecker, but the red on the head is a little weird and doesn't match up with the coloration on males and females.
Another interesting bird that came in was a recently fledged red-bellied woodpecker. This bird just had a small red patch on the top of the head. So, we had to break out the Peter Pyle banding book to see if we could find a clear way to sex this bird. We could measure either the spikey part of the tongue, or the culmen--which is basically the upper mandible of the bird. Females have smaller culmens and tongue tips than males. We came up with female based on measurements.
I also pointed out the gape on the above bird. That's one way you can tell an immature bird in some species, that yellow corner on the bill. Keep your eye open for that with the birds that are showing up at your feeders.