There are a number of reasons why I decided to take on this project. My first reason has to do with my interest in birds. This began shortly after moving to Victoria ten and a half years ago. With our house backing onto a wooded area, the chirping of birds is a familiar sound all year long. I often glance out the window to see birds of all forms in the yard throughout the day. Frequently I will pull out the Birds of Victoria or Birds of North America reference guides we have on hand. Unfortunately, the drawings in the first aren’t overly helpful for identification and the number of entries in the second is overwhelming. My second reason has to do with a photography course I took a number of years ago. Since that time I have been trying to think of a practical reason to buy a new camera. Taking pictures of birds requires a powerful zoom lens which my previous point-and-shoot camera could not accommodate. Perfect! My final reason was my desire to take on a new project to welcome in 2011. Hence, bird of the day was born.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Lincoln's Sparrow

Melospiza lincolnii

Small sparrow
Brown crown with gray central stripe
Gray face and eyebrow
Brown line extending behind eye
Pale eye-ring
Grayish-brown upperparts with darker streaking
Buff breast and flanks with fine streaking
White throat and belly

Although very similar in appearance, the buff upper breast with its fine streaking distinguish the Lincoln's Sparrow from the Song Sparrow. Other differences include its smaller size and the lack of a spot in the center of its breast.

Listen to its call.

Learn more about the Lincoln's Sparrow

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Willow Flycatcher

Empidonax traillii

Small flycatcher
Broad bill
Grey upper mandible / pale lower mandible
Minimal (or absent) eye-ring
Olive-brown upperparts
White throat
Whitish underparts
Dark wings with two white wing bars
Immature: (photographed)
     Yellower underparts
     Buff coloured wing bars

Listen to its call.

My first year birding, I took a picture of a Empidonax flycatcher that I wasn't able to identify. Although I felt discouraged by this at the time, I have now learned that their identification is among the most difficult for birders. It is so difficult, in fact, that the bander of this bird had to use a mathematical formula to confirm its identity. This involved comparison of the ratios of and differences between measurements of the bird’s body parts (bill length and width, wing length, tail length, etc). 

Learn more about the Willow Flycatcher

Monday, August 8, 2016

Red Crossbill

Loxia curvirostra 

Stocky finch
Thick, curved bill with crossed tip
Long, pointed blackish brown wings
Short, notched, blackish brown tail
     Brick red to reddish-yellow head and body
     No wingbars
Female: (photographed)
     Uniformly olive or grayish plumage
     Greenish or greenish-yellow chest and rump
     No wingbars
     Gray-brown back tinged with pale green
     Heavy dark streaks on whitish chest
     Yellowish rump with dark streaks
     Thin, buffy wingbars

Listen to its call.

This adult female Red Crossbill caused a few smiles last week as it was a first for the banding station. The age of the bird was determined by its wrinkled brood patch. This is a patch of featherless skin that is visible on the underside of birds during the nesting season.

Learn more about the Red Crossbill.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

MacGillivray's Warbler

Geothlypis tolmiei 

Stocky, sluggish warbler
Olive upperparts
Yellow underparts
White crescent above and below eye
Full gray hood, covering head, nape and throat
     Dark, charcoal gray hood
     Black area in front of eyes
     Paler gray hood
Immature: (photographed)
     Whitish-gray chin and throat

Listen to its call.

I haven't read anywhere that MacGillivray's Warblers have particularly short tails but this little one sure did. In fact, it was almost non-existent as can be seen in the picture below.  Anyone have any insight on this?

UPDATE:  Since my original post, I have discovered that this hatch year bird was probably going through its preformative molt. Typically during this molt, not all of the feathers are replaced.  However, I read that juveniles sometimes lose their entire tail prematurely and when it regrows it features adult rectrices.

Learn more about the MacGillivray's Warbler

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Wilson's Warbler

Cardellina pusilla

Small songbird
Yellow underparts and face
Olive green back
Dark wings and tail
     Black cap

 Listen to its call

Day two of banding turned up a number of new birds for me, including this hatch year, male Wilson's Warbler.  What a handsome bird! It's not surprising they call a group of warblers a 'bouquet'.

Learn more about the Wilson's Warbler.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

House Wren

Troglodytes aedon 

Small, compact bird
Fairly long, curved bill
Longish tail
Gray-brown upperparts
Dull, grayish-white underparts, including sides of head
Dark barring on wings and tail
     Blackish mottling on breast

Listen to its call.

This is another hatch year bird that we banded last weekend.

Most wrens are small and brown with short wings and tails which they often hold upright. So, how do you tell them apart? Well, here are a few distinguishing features that help with wren identification.
  • House Wren -- curved bill, faint eyebrow, fairly long tail and dingy breast
  • Bewick's Wren -- straight bills, bold eyebrow and white breast
  • Pacific Wren -- almost no tail, bold eyebrow, smaller and darker than House Wren 

Learn more about the House Wren.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Pacific-slope Flycatcher

Empidonax difficilis

Small flycatcher 
Pale yellow to white, teardropped shaped eye-ring
Two white wingbars 
Greenish-brown back 
Yellowish underparts 
Yellow lower mandible
     Wingbars buffy in colour

Listen to its song.

This weekend, I had the pleasure of volunteering at RPBO's banding site for the first time.  I thoroughly enjoyed the experience with one exception.  The 5 am start time was for the birds!

Not only is the experience helping with my bird identification, I'm also learning a lot about aging the birds.  This little flycatcher was one of the many birds that stopped in for a visit. Its buffy wingbars identify it as a juvenile. 

Learn more about the Pacific-slope Flycatcher. 

Additional pictures:
very young juvenile; still covered in down