On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions.
From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
It’s Baby Bird Monday! Then we have the last 3 installments in Botswana from Kabecoo before Benw finishes out the week by taking us somewhere I have never heard of! (In case you want to refresh your memory of the rest of the trip, just click on Kabecoo to see all of the Botswana installments.) I am sad that this Botswana set is ending!
The second week of baby birds is here! And, if you want to see the images at their original size so that some of these subtle plumage details are visible, there is a link for that in every caption. As before, young birds are at left and adult birds at right in the images below.
We’ll start with shorebirds, where there are lots of plumage differences between hatch-year birds and adults, but most of those differences are pretty subtle. Shorebird gurus look at the patterns and colors on specific feather tracts, some of which are not easily seen without a good picture or a bird-in-the-hand. We can avoid all that in this species, the Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria), where the hatch-year birds have a distinguishing mark that can be easily seen in the field. The young bird on the left has plain gray/brown on the sides of the head, neck and upper breast. The adult bird (on the right) has obvious streaking in those same areas. Click here for larger image.
Young Western Kingbirds (Tyrannus verticalis) have pale buffy edges on their wing covers, giving them a scalloped look. They will also have some other clues about their age, including very fresh (not raggedy-edged) wing and tail feathers, and a head that is slightly more pale gray than the adult version. Click here for larger image.
Lincoln’s Sparrows (Melospiza lincolni) are one of my favorite birds, and I have lots of pictures of them. For the first time ever, I got a picture of one that I am pretty sure is a hatch-year bird, since it has those yellow baby lips. And you’ll have to take my word for it, since it would require another image to demonstrate this feature, but it also has two generations of feathers in the primary coverts. Since this bird molts on the breeding grounds, it molted before it got to Kansas, and it molted most, but not all, of the primary coverts. The few retained juvenile feathers are duller and have less pale brown edging. That actually shows up in this picture, but would usually be a feature seen when you have the bird in hand at a banding station. Click here for larger image.
Female and juvenile hummingbirds are nearly impossible for me to determine ages for, but thankfully I have friends who are good at it. Here are two female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris). When I posted that picture on my Facebook page, the juvenile bird on the left was identified as such by Sheri Williamson, the foremost authority on hummers of North America. She literally wrote the book, and soon will have a new edition coming out. She alerted me to the “super fresh plumage with broad, buffy fringes visible on the crown, back, and wing coverts characteristic of juvenile plumage.”, similar to the buffy edges on the juvenile kingbird above. Click here for larger image.
Last week we looked at a juvenile male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), this week you can check out the female versions. We know that the bird on the left is female, since she is getting red feathers only on her wings and not her body or head. We know that she is a juvenile because she has baby lips, dusky bill smudges, and no black mask yet. Click here for larger image.
Next up is everybody’s favorite paint-by-numbers bird, the Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris). The young bird on the left has just a hint of greenish color on the back, as well as baby lips. Some will have a hint of yellow on the underside, and I think in different light that might also be the case with this cutie. Click here for larger image.
The other much more common bunting in this section of Flyover Country is the Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea). The young male on the left is mostly a warm chocolate-brown on the back (unlike the greenish Painted Buntings), but is starting to get some blue feathers on the tail and wings. He also has some great baby lips! Click here for larger image.
Hatch-year Dickcissels (Spiza americana) are abundant here in late summer, and they are already getting somewhat colorful. But the head is brown (rather than gray as in the adult female at right), and the yellow on the chest is not as bright. Also baby lips! Click here for larger image.
Hatch-year Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) are also super abundant here, and across North America, in late summer. It is easy to distinguish a youngster from an adult, since the former has a gray head and dark bill, and the latter has a red head and bone-white bill tip. Click here for larger image.
Finally, here is a bird with perhaps the most plumage variation of any bird on the planet, the Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis). Young birds have very fresh edges on their wing and tail feathers, a yellow iris, and a banded (not red) tail. Adults have more beat-up feathers at this time of year, a brownish iris, and red on the tail. Click here for larger image.