Saturday, May 8, 2010

What bird is that?... Questions and answers

Question: (May 8) "My husband and I walk on the beach quite often and see bald eagles all the time. We came upon this eagle two days ago. Luckily we had our camera. Can you give me some info? What kind of eagle is it. We have never seen it in the area before. It was huge! Thanks so much,"

Laurell on Whidbey Island, Washington

Answer: Nice photo! Your bird is a 3rd year immature Bald Eagle. They get this Osprey-like whitish head with dark line through the eye at this age. This bird will be more adult-like next year, though it might not breed for another year or two. Female eagles are larger than males by 10-15%. There is variation anyway, with smaller birds and larger ones.

Question: (March 10) "Hi there,
I’m new to the PNW and am enjoying discovering my new bird neighbors. I’m not a “birder” per se, just enjoy trying (albeit mostly unsuccessfully) to identify who shows up in my backyard.

I understand that there are some regional variations to some pretty common birds that we have in the Northeast, which tends to result in me getting very excited about a “new” bird only to find it’s a PNW variety. Yesterday I noted a “new” bird hanging out with some juncos in a small tree. It looked almost like a robin, with a slightly more subdued reddish underbelly, but it was smaller and had a black beak. Is this another variation on junco? Or something different.

I know it’s difficult for real birders to answer non-birder questions…especially with the limited knowledge and skill at explaining what we see."

Allison, location not given

Answer: It sounds like Spotted Towhee, Allison.

Question: (May 3) "Hello,
I love your blog and the fabulous photos. Every year about this time I get a very brief "passing through" visit of Yellow-rumped Warblers. Maybe they're here longer and I just don't see them, but I don't think so. Clearly they are in breeding plumage. Do you know where they breed?

Suzanne, Vancouver, Washington

Answer: Briefly, Suzanne, here's the scoop. There are two forms of Yellow-rumped Warblers. Both are found in the Pacific Northwest. Huge numbers move north in spring. In early April the majority are the white-throated form, Myrtle Warbler, heading to their northern British Columbia and Alaska breeding grounds. By early May most of the birds moving through are the yellow-throated form, the Audubon's Warbler, which breed locally in the higher mountains of the Pacific NW.

The Myrtle Warbler is widespread across North America. The Audubon's Warbler is restricted to the West. The two forms freely breed together where their ranges overlap, primarily in Alberta. These were considered separate species until the "great lumping of 1973," when flickers, juncos, and orioles were lumped (some subsequently re-split). Read more on Yellow-rumped Warblers.

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