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June 21, 2008 / stephanie

Cedar Waxwings at Biocore

This morning was a slow day for banding at Biocore Prairie. We only had five birds and closed up early around 11am. The highlight though was a pair of Cedar Waxwings. We have them out on the prairie on a regular basis but they usually fly too high to get caught in the nets. Two were extremely busy this morning collecting nest material, and eyeing our nets for loose strands. Only a few minutes after I said how much I wanted to band one, we caught them.
Here I am with the banded female. We figured it was female because she had loose wrinkly skin on her belly. This is a sign that the female has recently laid eggs.

Another characteristic of the female is a lighter throat patch just below the bill. The male’s throat has noticeably more dark feathers.

This is the male. Just a beautiful bird! The yellow tips on the tail feathers are one way of estimating the bird’s age. This male may be older than the female we caught since it has more yellow on its tail. Oh and you might notice, neither of the birds we caught have “waxy wings” despite their name. Cedar Waxwings typically have a couple of red waxy tips on their wings, but apparently it is acquired with age.
All morning we had two waxwings building a nest right in the mulberry bush next to our banding station. I’m not sure if they were the same ones we caught, but it was very nice having their company. With the waxwings in the mulberries, tree swallows and bluebirds in the nest boxes, catbirds in the shrubs, sparrows and blackbirds in the grass, and two oriole nests bordering the prairie, the area is becoming quite the bustling neighborhood. I can’t even begin to imagine how many birds’ nests are out here and how many bird families are passed by without anyone noticing.

Well, even though it was a slow morning we had yet another bonus. We caught a toad in one of our nets, here being held by future ornithologist, Henry.

Here is a tiny toad that I found in the parking lot today. I’m guessing they are the same species but unfortunately I’m not a herpetologist.

And here is a Cooper’s Hawk I spotted today, perched on top of the spotlights above the UW Track. What otherwise might be a pretty cryptically colored bird, stood out quite a lot due to the several blackbirds, robins and swallows dive-bombing it. It figures that most songbirds will be more agitated around this time of year since they are protecting nestlings.

Banded Bird Count for the Day: Song Sparrow (3), Cedar Waxwing (2)
Other birds observed: Yellow Warbler, Cooper’s Hawk, Great Crested Flycatcher

birdy art: Western Meadowlark

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