The Difference Of Birds In The Hand

Man oh man, the migrants are all over the Twin Cities right now! The trees are just full of them. Above is one of the many yellow-rumped warblers that can be heard if you listen close for their kiss sounding chip note. I had originally planned to go up to Duluth for some hawk banding, but the winds were supposed to be the worst for banding and the winds in the Twin Cities were pretty good for migrant trapping--Friday at Carpenter was pretty amazing.

And warblers were the main order in the nets. Here's a rather indignant looking yellow-rumped warbler in hand. It's always amazing to me how different birds look in hand. We use mesh bags to hold the birds after they have been taken out of the net. You look through the mesh to figure out what is inside--the species tells you what size band you use. I at first looked at this bird through the mesh and lamented, "Aw, couldn't I have gotten an identifiable bird?" However, the bird fluttered in the bag, and I soon noticed the yellow rump and knew what it was.

We got in a few Nashville warblers too. After this bird was banded, I went to take a photo before letting it go and it just looked so non warbler like-just not feisty enough, almost looks like a child that's been naughty. Many of the birds take on a much different posture in hand than they do the wild.

But, pish at it a few times and it perks right up--feistiness returned.

And then it gives you as mighty a peck as a tiny insectivore can deliver before flying off.

This golden-crowned kinglet is another example--a bird that is full of vim and vigor when hopping about from branch to branch, but completely deflates when in hand.

Check out that buttery-yellow crown, though--drink that in. And again, as soon as this bird was let go, its sassy nature returned.

One of my favorite birds of the day was a brown creeper...or the hunchback. Looking at the above photo, don't you expect it to say in a Peter Lorre voice, "This way, master." But think about the last time you saw a brown never see one perched on a branch like a robin, they are always creeping down a tree, perhaps it is essential for their posture.

It's fun to take a close look at all the little bits that make a creeper a creeper--bits that you don't get to see when they are against a tree. Look at how long the toe nails are--each nail is almost longer then the toe itself, essential for life on the side of a tree. Check out that beak, perfect for squeezing into tiny bark crevices to glean spiders and insects. Hm, between the hunch and the diet, this really is the Igor of the bird world.

The tail is pretty incredible too. It's long with pointy feathers, but unlike woodpecker tail feathers, the creeper tail feathers are quite soft. Perhaps the reason is that a brown creeper isn't chiseling into trees like a woodpecker. Strong, stiff tail feathers to prop the woodpecker body are needed if they are hammering open a hole, but a creeper just needs to slink up the bark of a tree.

After getting a bunch of tiny birds that looked small and sad in the hand, it was kind of a treat to get a robust white-throated sparrow with a little bit of an attitude. These birds feel so beefy in the hand and have a bit more kick to their bite, since they need that heavier bill to crack seed shells.

The whole bird is a lovely palette of brown, rust, white, black, yellow and gray. For a brown bird, it's got it going on. Watch for them under feeders (they actually like millet) and around ragweeds, sumac, wild grape, highbush cranberry, mountain ash, dogwoods, and rose hips.

More weekend banding fun to be continued.