Despite the snow we had in earlier in the month, the autumn appeared to really itself this weekend and give a couple of days of proper October weather. Fall color peak is creeping into the Twin Cities, especially along the Mississippi River. I had the fortune of being able spend a couple mornings around my banding buddies Mark Newstrom and Roger Everhart so expect a few entries about bird banding this week.
Robins are definitely on the move and the northern robins have moved in to the area. When I left this morning, I could hear them all over in the tops of trees in my neighborhood. Mark and Roger got a few in the nets.
Robins put up quite a fuss when handled, trashing about and squealing. They even try to peck at you, but with that softer bill, they are nothing compared to your hard pecking chickadee or titmouse (birds who also have an instinctual knack for nailing your cuticle). Robins sound loud and squeaky but are in the end about as threatening as a kinglet.
I think all the robins I watched them process where hatch year birds but some looked older than others. Roger pointed out that some hatch year birds could have hatched in April, others as late as August. Some would almost look like an adult, while others like the above bird with a combination of of immature lighter feathers and darker adult feathers.
The other thing that is tricky with robins is that they seem prone to "fright molt" or dropping a bunch of feathers when freaked--as evidenced in the poof this one leaves behind as Roger releases it--almost looks as though the bird is releasing one heck of a fart as it takes off. It's believed that birds evolved to lose feathers especially around the rump and tail as a way to escape predators--a predator is more likely to grab in the back and grab feathers first. Doesn't always work, but sometimes birds do get away.
More bird banding tales coming, I leave you with a few random photos of robin releases: