Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Baby Birds: Worm-eating Warbler

[It doesn't look like a baby, but it is - or more correctly, a hatch year bird, in "formative" plumage. Or, in simpler terms, a bird hatched and fledged this summer. This Worm-eating Warbler proved at least one pair of the species nested successfully in or near Bear Swamp, Cumberland County, NJ this year, where we caught it while operating our MAPS station last Sunday. Essentially adult-like, we knew it as a hatch year because of it's skull, which was not ossified (you can part the head feathers for a look), plus a few retained juvenile feathers and other in-hand characters. Off to Mexico! or the Caribbean Islands, or the lowlands of Central America. It will winter in one of these places, and, if it lives, perhaps return to Bear Swamp to breed next May.]

They're still in there, whether you detect them or not.

By "they" I mean all the wonderful forest nesters of south Jersey woodlands, like Worm-eating Warblers, or Summer Tanagers. But, get there after dawn, and the woods are silent. Most nesting has finished, adult birds are molting, and not much is singing. We banded a hatch-year male Kentucky Warbler on Sunday, and a hatch-year Ovenbird, too, plus the pictured WEWA.Nesting, by this small sample size, went well. And these recently fledged birds were either still in their nests or just out of them to endure the severe "direcho" storm of last week! Imagine being a baby bird, in the woods, in 80 mph wind, lightning, and hard rain.

Red-eyed Vireos still sing heartily for the first half-hour of day, then even they pipe down. Whip-poor-wills and Chuck-wills-widows sing pre-dawn, and both tanagers and almost all the other species of Bear Swamp vocalized at least a few times before 6:00 a.m. A pair of Broad-winged Hawks nested successfully in Bear Swamp too, judging by the begging calls of their young and annoyed-sounding cries of the adults off in the swamp.

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