I have recently embarked on my third year of regular window-collision monitoring at the Noble Research Center, and today I was quite surprised by what I found: this HY Carolina Chickadee (fat = 2):
It’s not that chickadees are rare, of course, they are common, year-round residents of every community in the three states in which I have been studying window collisions for the past 15 years or so. The rare thing is that in all that time, I have never found a dead chickadee at the base of window. Chickadees are too agile, too familiar with their surroundings, too sedentary, and too slow to end up smacked into a window, or so I thought. Today’s unfortunate little bird is just a reminder that any time a bird finds itself near an expanse of reflective glass, there’s a good chance that the bird will meet its end there.
But it still has me wondering. Why was this young chickadee in this unlikely location? Why did it have a good layer of fat laid down? Chickadees aren’t known to be migratory, but maybe this one was dispersing away from its natal home range. Maybe the prolonged drought is forcing even our normally sedentary species to wander farther than normal in search of food. Maybe the fact that this bird was on the move was not unusual, but my ability to detect it doing so was. We still have so much to learn even about our most common species.
I took the opportunity with this bird to provide some photos of the process I use in this long-term research. First, here are some photos of what the bird looked like when I found it.
Here is my processing station on my desk. I use a wing rule for wing chord and tail length measurements, calipers for bill and tarsus length, and a Pesola spring scale for mass. My definitive reference for identification, aging, and sexing is Peter Pyle’s Identification Guide to North American Birds, Part 1 (1997). I write measurements and other details on the back of one of my old business cards.
Finally, I wrap each bird in a tissue and place it in a zip-top bag before it goes to the freezer downstairs. In a week or so, the bird will be prepped as a specimen for the OSU Collection of Vertebrates.