Friday, July 25, 2008

Flighty Flycatchers & Immature Hummingbirds

Hummers and flycatchers; I may be obsessed.

I am being tormented by a bird, or rather its call, and I think it’s a flycatcher. Generally early mornings and sometimes evenings I hear this call; it sounds much like ‘mewwwww’ or ‘chewwwww’ or ‘pewwwww’. This is a single syllable, sort of downward-cascading sound (accent on first part); almost a pleading sound and yes, I know birds do not plead! LOL It’s sort of buzzy or wheezy; insect-sounding, too. And it’s called over and over without variation.

On the other hand, when out once trying to locate this call I hear, I also brought a bird into my binoc’s view-finder that was definitely not a flycatcher…but I didn’t get any sort of good look at it, other than to note a thrasher-like bill. I did not see it sing. [Sigh] It’s a mystery!

This morning is yet another call. Not the same bird, I hear that one too and it’s off in a different location…these two are not ‘talking’. This one has a two syllable call; clear as a bell…one high, one low. Sort of like ‘Helll-looooo’, repetitively called as the bird moves about the neighborhood. This one sounds somewhat like the Black-capped Chickadee; it wouldn’t surprise me if it is, but I’ve got many of them around and I don’t really think he’s the one.

I have been through several bird-call sources…and just cannot find the calls!

And then there are the hummingbirds! My yard is full of ‘em and I’ve discovered the reason for the explosion; fledglings! I am seeing many little birds that do not look much like the four, adult species that have been visiting; but rather like pencil-necked, bed-headed birds of questionable parentage. LOL I’m sure they are recently fledged as I’ve seen several with sort of fluffy-butts or baby-feathers sticking out at odd angles on their shoulders or heads. Many also seem to be males, but with no iridescence; streaky throats and almost a 5 o’clock shadow of where color might be. One or two have three or four darker feathers at the throat or even are just generally darker than a female should be…but have no color at the throat. I’m fairly sure these are youngsters and it tickles me no end!

By the by...did you know a group of hummingbirds is called a 'charm'? A charm of Hummingbirds…too cool!

Personally, I think I'm charmed by the Calliope; doesn't this look like a youngster? I sure think so.

Seems to me those whiskers would be longer in an older male, no; more like this guy.


NW Nature Nut said...

Those Callipes are gorgeous, but then what hummer isn't? Very pretty birds!

Beverly said...

Yeah...and such tiny little things. I wonder if those are youngsters I have...with 'shorter beards'. I'll have to do some research.

Bosque Bill said...

At a guess, I'd say those Calliopes are not fresh out of the nest. I don't think they get even that much gorget that quickly. "Big" Sibley shows juvenile Callipe as having no gorget at all through October and just barely showing a hint of iridescence in December. He shows most species in juvenile plumage until fall or winter.

That said, I think you are right that the birds with white fluff sticking out are just finishing their first molt... graduating from diapers to short-pants, so to speak :o)

Good luck with those calling birds. Keep after 'em.

Beverly said...

I'm looking forward to the Hummingbird book you recommend on your site, Bill; I hope it will give me that kind of information. Well, and more about migration. According to what I’ve just read, Calliopes breed quite a ways north of here; would it be likely I’d ever see a juvenile Calliope?

Anybody know a book that describes how to identify juvenile birds…of all sorts? I wonder if the Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas would be one such book.

Would I ever see juvenile birds that were born in other states or out of the country? I can’t imagine so.

Bosque Bill said...

There is whole topic of juvenile v. immature v. pre-adult birds (not even counting hawks and eagles that have 1st, 2nd, and 3rd year stages.) As you get further into birding and understanding birds, you will begin to realize the importance of the stages of plumage (and the difficulty this makes for identifying some species.) Yes, there is lots to learn, but just absorb enough at a time as you go along so it stays fun.

The Smithsonian Field Guide you ordered has a very nice section on this, and they also classify the "molt strategy" for each species.

So to answer your question, yes, you will see juvenile birds for lots of species, most likely. As one example, if you get White-crowned Sparrows in fall or winter, you will likely see first year birds, as well as mature, adult birds. They breed up north, and winter in warmer climes, such as my backyard :o)

Beverly said...

Ahhhhhh, Bill…thank you so much! I remember writing a piece ( last April, and being amazed when I realized what the little checker-board-head was! I discovered a young White-crowned Sparrow, which I read should have ‘brown crown-stripes’ goes through a sort of ‘tortoise-shell look’!

I’m happy to hear my new books may go into more of this; you’re right there is so much to learn. It makes sense that birds which live for 30 years would have a longer ‘juvenile/immature’ period. Having said that, I never thought to consider where the Sparrow was hatched or that it might have already faced a rather long migration. I’m surprised that birds without adult plumage can actually do that! Mostly, I’m just eager to learn more about how to ID the ones I see.

I appreciate your help!

Bosque Bill said...

Well, when you pause to think about it, Beverly, a large percentage of birds in fall migration are juveniles. Think of all the birds that breed in the far north and winter in the far south. It's amazing the young birds make that lengthy voyage, some within weeks of getting their feathers.

As an aside, did you know that the flight feathers of first-year large birds of prey are longer than the adult feathers? Think of them as "training wheels." The larger feathers allow the young birds to fly more easily, sacrificing maneuverability for stability. This is what makes first-year raptors appear larger than adults.

Beverly said...

Well, obviously I had not paused to think about it! I only got as far as: some birds spend half their time in the south and half their time in the north…I didn’t even think about travel time or the time it takes to find a mate, build a nest or lay a clutch and hatch the eggs. I just figured birds hadda be maybe six months old when they returned ‘home’. Okay…that’s just enough embarrassment for one day!

That's awesome about the big birds; what a good idea! Obviously I need to read more...

Bosque Bill said...

Don't be embarrassed, I had to think twice before it hit me over the head :o) You'll learn, we all had to learn when we started.