Monday, July 29, 2013

Bob-tailed Sparrow?

No, this is actually a Song Sparrow that is molting and has lost all its tail feathers.  Its pretty easy to fall into thinking that these summer days are a little boring in the birding world, most of the birds around us we have already identified, it’s too early to get to see the new fall arrivals , and yet there are some very interesting things that are taking place.  During the last couple of weeks Matt Hunter has alerted us to watch for birds with missing feathers and the molting process that goes on this time of year. As is turns out, all birds go through a molting process at least once, some twice a year.  It’s important at some point that their old worn feathers are replaced.  For migrating birds, this time of year is crucial so that they get new feathers before they start their migration south.  However, Song Sparrows are year around residents, so I’m not sure what the importance is to this timing.  We have seen this Song Sparrow hanging around the feeder for the past week.  My first thought was that there had been a narrow escape from a predator and in the process had lost its tail feathers. My second thought was that perhaps it was a chick that had left the nest before growing tail feathers.  After consulting with a couple of experts it was decided that this is just a part of the molting process. If you look close at the photo you can see a number of the other feathers are in state of disarray. Soon it will have all new feathers and look perfect once again. 

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