Each week, I come home from bird banding saying, “The hardest part about bird banding is…” and then I finish the sentence differently each time. Sometimes I say, “…getting the bird out of the net.” Other times I say, “…identifying the species.” Today I say, “…figuring out the age of the bird.”
Sometimes you can use the plumage to figure out age. Sometimes, wear on the feathers gives you a clue. Last Monday, Tom was a bit baffled by a Yellow Warbler and chose to use “skulling”. In this technique, the bander wets the feathers on the bird’s head to facilitate moving them aside and taking a peak through the skin to the skull. A bander proficient in this technique can use what he or she observes as clues to the age of the bird.
Our little Yellow Warbler had quite the funky do when Tom was done with him!