I headed up to Powell Butte in mid-July, just in time to spot several juveniles not long out of the nest exploring the area. There are a few key indicators that can help identify a young bird in the midst of adults; sometimes they don’t have the same plumage as their parents yet, which is often the most obvious sign. Others look just like adults fairly early on, and their age can be given away by more subtle clues: Their beaks may appear too large for their head, and the “gape” (the fleshy-looking base) may still be visible. Their feathers, especially on the wings, may appear stubby. And they may still be begging for food from their parents, whom they may be larger than due to being brought constant meals!
This young Savannah Sparrow sat on a fence, waiting for the next course of its insect breakfast to be delivered. When its parents arrived, begging began – although the parents did not seem to need much convincing to fork over the food.
A small flock of Dark-Eyed Juncos had this young bird with them; you can see that the adult plumage is still coming in. The feathers on the wings are short, not quite to the point at which they will seamlessly overlap. The head feathers have not yet come in to the uniform and solid color that adults sport.
At the base of the beak on this young Song Sparrow, you can see the “gape” still showing. It’s that little bit of yellow where the upper and lower mandibles come together. As the bird gets older, this will disappear and feathers will better cover the area.
A large, mixed flock of birds had converged on a buckthorn, or chokeberry, tree to feed on the plentiful fruit. This young American Robin was staying back behind the branches, providing a challenging photographic target. The feathers of the breast are still spotted on this young bird, with just an uneven wash of the rusty color American Robins are so well known for.
You can tell that this Cedar Waxwing is not a juvenile, as it has the trademark red “wax” feathers on the wing; younger birds do not have these bright spots of color until adulthood.
Further up the tree, a young male Red-Shafted Northern Flicker sat surveying the scene. Although his red “mustache” has come in, his black bib on the chest is still developing. This will be a smooth crescent shape once all of his adult feathers have grown.
Dwarfed by the size of the flicker, a juvenile male Anna’s Hummingbird spread his tiny wings in the same busy tree. The beautiful ruby-colored feathers on his throat are still coming in. Juveniles can easily be confused with females, who may also have just a smattering of these shiny red feathers, but based on how dense these are I lean towards the juvenile male for my identification.
It’s always fun to encounter fledglings who are still a little too brave for their own good, exploring the world around them and discovering their wings and beaks. In addition to these many young birds, I also came across Brown Creeper (a late addition to this year’s list, pictured below), Spotted Towhee, American Goldfinch, Lesser Goldfinch, Downy Woodpecker, and a flycatcher, plus squirrels, a weasel, and some lovely butterflies.
To find a little more information about Powell Butte and other places for bird watching, including addresses and websites, check out my Birding Locations page.
Be sure to visit my Flickr site for more images from my trip to Powell Butte this day, as well as some of my other photographs.
Comments are always welcome!