Monday, October 1, 2007

Carolina Chickadee or .....

Oh, weird bird, could you be a Common Redstart?

This is the actual picture (we cropped the pic in the post below) of the possible freak bird captured by our Wingscapes BirdCam on Friday.

The experts report the following regarding this bird....

Opinion 1: Something doesn't look quite right to me for that bird being a Common Redstart, although we all know how single photos can give misleading impressions. But it sure is one heck of a strange creature whatever it is. (Upperparts don't look right for Redstart, legs maybe too thick, etc....) And its being at a seed feeder can't be right for that species....

Opinion 2: It looks like a Carolina Chickadee with the top of the head turned away from the viewer.

Opinion 3: The color in the photos is "off" in the sense that the buff on the sides seems too bright, and the mantle too brown; these are artifacts of the exposure taken by the automatic camera. The bird is cocking its head, as many an inquisitive chickadee will do from time to time. The giveaway, besides bill and leg shape, is the gray spilling onto the sides of the face from the nape, a classic Carolina Chickadee feature. Funny how one's brain fills in details to make one thing into another when the angle does not work for the brain's image processor. Most instructive, and entertaining.

Opinion 4: My vote is for a fresh Carolina Chickadee. The bird has its head tilted upwards as if looking at a raptor in the sky, so you are seeing its throat and just the bottom of its cheek patch. Most of the head/neck is not visible although a little bit of black on the nape can barely be discerned. That small bill is perfect for a chickadee but does not at all seem like a warbler bill to me.

Opinion 5: Not a Carolina edgings on wings, wrong bill size/shape, etc. ...weird bird...looks mostly like a young (HY) male Redstart from Europe, but legs look a tad thick... Have seen non-seed eaters on feeders scrounging tiny scraps of sunflower chips, etc. (eg, Pine Warblers).

Opinion 6: This is a chickadee with its head cocked sideways so that you are looking at its throat, not the side of its head. Notice there is no eye. The head of Phoenicurus looks nothing like that. Funny how birders always hope for the rarest….

Opinion 7: Virtually any European resident passerine is kept as a cage bird and captive bred in Europe. All should be close-banded, and all are imported for aviaries and bird breeders in the USA (or could be). They won't show up in a pet shop, but they will be available through major dealers. The offspring would likely also be closed-banded (to increase value by proving year of hatch/age of bird) but not necessarily. It's not required by law here as it is in their native range (to ensure the captive birds are captive bred). Annapolis has a lot of ships docking from across the globe is the next thing that comes to mind. If a migrant redstart came in to a ship it could end up in Annapolis. Seeds? Why not. Most of my seeds right now are full of moths anyway! It's more common to put out meal worms or fruit in Europe, the bird could have been just scoping out the feeders to see what was available.

Opinion 8: Common Redstart, adult male, rather washed-out in color but probably within range of variation. The confusion species might be one of the rare Redstarts or even eastern races of Black Redstart (P. ochruros) but the latter would show more black on the upper breast. Not sure if any record of vagrancy to No. America. Or whether it is ever held as a cage bird.

BirdCouple Opinion: Why can't we be home to see all the cool stuff that happens in our own yard?

Thanks to Bart Stephens for making such a cool device and Phil Davis for his expertise and also for gathering the comments and reviews of other experts.

Ok, so we are searching our woods and crossing our fingers that freak bird got captured today on our new favorite toy.

If so, we'll invite all you bird nutters over for big old bird sit... but you have to bring a bottle of corked wine.....


Hanley Family said...

It is a completely new species to be found only at your feeder!

Or I think the head tilting chickadee. But that isn't as exciting.

John B. said...

After looking at some pictures of common redstarts, I think I agree with that identification. But then the question is how it got to be there! I hope that it makes a return appearance so you can get additional looks at it!

Patrick B. said...

Plumage characteristics say that it could be a Common Redstart, but the shape and general impression say "Chickadee" to me.

Warren and Lisa Strobel said...

Patrick - We'd love to think Common Redstart as well, but ... this is a chickadee of some sort. At least that's the prevailing opinion at the moment! What a puzzle.

Thanks for the comment!

Carolyn H said...

To me it looks like a chickadee, but what kind of chickadee??? I never get interesting birds like this at my feeders! It also looks as though feathers on the top of the bird's head are missing or damaged, but that doesn't seem to help with the ID.

Carolyn H.

slybird said...

My vote is for chickadee looking up. You can see the narrow bit of black on the nape. I have no experience with Carolina vs. Black-capped though, can't help you there. The giss is right, and it doesnt match redstart.

It did look really exciting for a minute there!


Anonymous said...

Has anyone considered a possible Tufted Titmouse/Chickadee hybrid?

Anonymous said...

I look your photo.
As said, it was interesting to think it could be a Common Redstart, wich is a rare bird in Portugal.
... But, if I found the bird you pic, I wouldn't say Common Redstart. And when we look birds not identified first impression is essential.

Best regards

Joaquim Antunes