Aging a Bird

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.”

Yellow Warbler 1Sometimes 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!

Yellow Warbler 2
Isn’t he cute?  Actually, it might have been a “she”.  Yeah, figuring out that part can be hard sometimes, too.

Learn more:

Monitoring Landbirds


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8 thoughts on “Aging a Bird

  1. Well ??? how old was it ?? I guess it depends on the degree of fusion of the skull bones — or is it something else ??

    I envy you learning so much about bird identification and their developmental status .

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