For the Birds: What’s Your Name, Little Bird?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Juvenile Junco - How could you not love this face?
Text and photos 
by Christine Southwick

Are you seeing strange birds, mostly brown stripy things that don’t look like birds in your bird books?

You could perhaps have a rare bird for this area, but more likely you are seeing juvenile birds that have been born nearby.

Congratulations! You are doing something right for the environment with your yard.

Spotted Towhee juvie
just starting to change coloring
Perhaps you have plants with berries, flowers that attract hummingbirds plus other birds, and water for bird baths.

Majorly important, you have made space for them — either with bird boxes, or trees and bushes for them to rest and to hide in.

And you are not using pesticides which kill the bugs that parent birds feed their young!

How do you learn to identify these young rascals?

Watch — do you see an adult that you do recognize feeding this mystery bird? 

Song Sparrow juvie with gape
 (colored area around mouth for parental feeding)
Dark-eyed Junco’s, especially the black-headed males, will often be seen feeding their young (the females are most likely on a second brood).

Watch for a flash of white in the outer tail feathers as they fly away — this is what is call a “diagnostic” clue for all local juncos.

Or maybe you see a gorgeous Spotted Towhee around some gawky-looking brownish-rust colored birds.

These birds are larger, and have darker wings and tails than the other funny looking Song Sparrows juvenile(juvie).

Young Red-breasted Nuthatch
How do I get to the food?
These are our year-round resident birds, so they are the ones that you will most likely see and can learn to identify.

There may be other juveniles stopping at your feeders and water spots.

Black-headed Grosbeaks (BHGR) are starting to head South. I saw a female BHGR at one of my feeders yesterday evening, at least I believe it was a female.

Purple Finches will be hard to determine gender — young males don’t show color for a year. 

Some warblers may look funny right now through August, if you do get a good look at one. Probably it is another juvie.

Another way to ID a juvie is to watch how it moves and interacts with its environment.

Male Junco feeding juvie
A chickadee on the ground, looking confused? Probably a juvie.

A red-breasted Nuthatch being mystified to the access to a seed feeder? Probably a juvie.

A Pileated Woodpecker with an orange punk head not knowing how to hammer? Probably a juvie.

You are making a difference -- you have living proof in the form of juvenile birds visiting!



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