Banding a nest

It’s rare that I have photos of the process of banding a nest, since usually everyone is holding a chick and we don’t have any extra hands for photographic documentation. For a few nests, however, I was lucky enough to have my father with us, and boy does he like to photograph things! Thanks to him I can show you what it looks like when we band a nest.

EDIT: If you click on these (or any photos on this blog) you can see them bigger.

The nest. If you click to expand it and look closely you can see the female sitting on it.

The nest, tucked next to the clump of plants in the center. If you look closely you can see Mom sitting on it.

Me taking the chicks from the nest, with Kyle ready to catch any runners.

Me taking the chicks from the nest, with Kyle ready to catch any runners.
Photo by M. LaBarbera

Often when you approach the nest, the female will flare her tail and run around on the ground to try to draw your attention away from the nest. This is a tail-on view of Mom doing that. Photo by M. LaBarbera

Often when you approach the nest, the female will flare her tail and spread her wings and run around on the ground to try to draw your attention away from the nest. This is a tail-on view of Mom doing that.
Photo by M. LaBarbera

Mom, angrily chipping at us. Photo by M. LaBarbera

Mom, angrily chipping at us.
Photo by M. LaBarbera

Continue reading

Small nest? Big babies? No problem!

Nesting moms, are you having trouble fitting all your babies into one nest? Your troubles are over! We’ve got photos to inspire you to fit all those babies into one nest in an elegant, orderly way. A successful breeding season doesn’t have to mean clutter anymore!

These eggs are a mess. Look at that one shoved under the others. Don't let this be your nest!

These eggs are a mess. Look at that one shoved under the others. Don’t let this be your nest!

Continue reading

Update on The Nest That Came Back

We banded the chicks from The Nest That Came Back From The Dead. They were all a bit small, looking about a day younger than their actual age; that might be because of their pinecone encounter, but it also might simply be that they aren’t getting much food. They hatched pretty late in the season, so there aren’t as many insects out now, and we’ve only ever seen one parent feeding them. Their “single mom” may be having trouble finding enough food for the three of them.

That may not sound great, but the important thing is that they’re alive. If they can make it another two weeks, they’ll be flighted and fattening themselves on fall’s plentiful seeds. The biggest of the chicks, ROAN, clearly can’t wait to be flying:

Big sister ROAN

Big sister ROAN

I can do it!!

I can do it!!

Continue reading

The nest that came back from the dead

This summer we have lost nests to logging, cows, and natural junco predators. None of those shocked me. A pinecone as death-dealer, however, was a surprise.

2013_NCB1When I took this picture, I thought that this nest was dead. The chick you see was completely motionless and stone cold. The pinecone—which was not supposed to be in the nest—had (we think) prevented the female from warming her chicks up, and without their mother’s warmth these very young, naked chicks quickly got too cold.

But when I took the pinecone out to count chick bodies, one of the bodies moved. My field assistant and I took the chicks—there were three, all as cold as the morning mountaintop air—in our warm hands. I still thought they were probably dead: recently dead things may twitch when disturbed.

But as the tiny bodies began to feel less chilly, they squirmed more and more.

2013_NCB2 Continue reading

Bury your baby in a pile of trash, and other chick-rearing tips

One of birds’ most endearing qualities has to be their care of their chicks. Sparrows fly in and out of nests in the rafters of gas stations, doggedly exhausting themselves to feed their hungry offspring; ducks and geese lead lines of fuzzy yellow babies across roads and around ponds; and we humans see ourselves in this tender parental care, and say “Aww.”

But child-rearing in birds is stranger than you think.

Continue reading

Nest update: OLLA’s fledgling(s)

I stayed away from OLLA’s nest for several days, as I promised, so as not to scare the chicks into fledging early; but finally I just had to know if they had fledged yet. As I approached the nest both OLLA and ALGE scolded me—but the nest was empty. I looked around to see why they were angry at me and caught sight of a fledgling in a nearby tree: BABY! I didn’t see BABY’s siblings, but there were lots of trees around, and fledglings can be cryptic if they stay still. BABY was the smallest of the three so if she is fledged and okay, it’s very likely that YAYN and MAYO are doing well too.

YAYN or BABY, from before she fledged.

Brood patches: birds bare their midriffs

Almost all birds incubate their eggs: keeping them warm while the embryo develops into a chick. In order to transfer heat better from their body to the eggs, many birds develop brood patches (a.k.a. incubation patches). The bird loses feathers from her belly, and the bare skin becomes wrinkly and swollen with fluid. In juncos only the female develops a brood patch, since she does all the incubating, but in species where males also incubate, males can develop brood patches too.

White-crowned Sparrow with a brood patch that is beginning to show edema

Continue reading