15 September 2013 – Empidonax flycatcher, Traill’s type

On Sunday morning, September 15th 2013, I encountered the 47th species and 144th casualty on the study.  The find was unusual in that the poor bird was not quite dead and that, despite holding it in my hand, I am unable to say for sure what it was.

To begin, the bird was in pretty bad shape when I first found it, listing to one side and unable to perch anywhere but prone on the ground.  That said, it was alert and aggressive, and it flew from me twice before I could get a hand on it.  Its flight, however, was weak and out of control, and it was exhausting itself to get away from me.  This was a bird right on the edge: my inner intellectual monologue told me to euthanize it but my inner emotional monologue kept hoping for its fighting spirit to save the day.  I held it for some time, carried it south of the Library where it had clear flight lines in all four directions, and even carried water to it from the OSU fountain, gently dipping its snapping beak into the tiny puddle in my hand.

In the end I placed it on the ground in a juniper hedge along the quad.  It was alive when I left, but still listing to one side.  Without my intervention it would have died; with my intervention it had a tiny chance of survival.  I am counting it as a window casualty rather than a trapped bird.

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So what was it?

My first concern was that it was the Eastern Wood-Pewee from a few days ago, still hanging around and slowly wearing itself out.  This bird’s smaller size, greener back, and more bold wingbars convinced me instead that I had an Empidonax flycatcher.  Which one?  I’m guessing a Traill’s type, and probably Willow.

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