Friday, October 23, 2009

Isle au Haut Songbird -- Keying out a bird!

Not all people can recognize all birds all of the time! At least not right away! This is one of the reasons why bird banders are equipped with a variety of field guides and identification keys for helping to identify birds to species and determine their age. A good example of a 'mystery' bird turned up in our net one morning and offered our banding intern, Becky, a great opportunity for hands on learning. After retrieving the bird from the net and recognizing it as "some type of sparrow" (a group that is notoriously difficult to identify), Becky zeroed in on what might be critical ID marks. Some useful clues were the subtle yellow hue above the eyes of this bird and its streaky breast and flanks.

Fortunately, Becky has seen many birds in the hand and was able to reduce the possibilities to a short list and then made her final call...

...yes, it was a Savannah Sparrow. Becky completed the banding and measurement process and released the bird, gently and unharmed, back to the wild.

Notably, the bird was captured in a habitat that is quite atypical of where it would normally be found. A testament that strange things happen on migration!

All the Best,
Patrick Keenan
BioDiversity Research Institute
All photos are copyright of BioDiversity Research Institute

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