This morning I found the fifth dead Mourning Warbler on campus in the past two weeks: Four (including this one on the northwest alcove) at the Noble Research Center and one incidental find just across a small parking lot from the NRC at the Food and Agricultural Products Center.
For a bit of perspective on how unusual this is, i.e., Mourning Warbler is a secretive, migratory transient in Central Oklahoma that is far more likely to be found dead at a window than live on an eBird checklist, this was the 15th Mourning Warbler casualty I’ve found at the NRC since I began surveys in August of 2009. In comparison, I’ve only found 17 casualties over the same time period of the far more abundant and year ’round resident Mourning Dove.
This one was a hatch-year bird – so just a month or two old – with fat = 1.
Both Ag Hall and the Food and Agricultural Products Center, across Monroe St. from the Nobel Research Center – see their fair share of window collisions, too. Today, the latter building claimed this Mourning Warbler, the third I’ve found window-killed on this campus over the past week.
The Mourning Dove was still there this morning, but it has been disturbed a bit and is now on its back.
New this morning was an unfortunate Lincoln’s Sparrow at the main north entrance to the NRC. As is so often puzzling, this was a bird that had to have been traveling south to hit the glass there even though the net movement of Lincoln’s Sparrows in April in Oklahoma is north.
This bird had 0 fat, was of indeterminate sex, and looks to be a SY. Note trauma to the bill tip indicating the point of collision.
We finally had a decent cold front push through with the first nip of autumn in the air but, unfortunately, it also brought us the first Lincoln’s Sparrow casualty of fall. This was an AHY-U, bulging with fat (scored it a 3). This one is also the first window casualty in front of a treated window. I can’t tell if the bird flew into an untreated pane above the treated area or if it hit one of the treated panes. That’s a design flaw of my study, stemming from the logistical challenge of treating such large expanses of glass.
Lots of birds were moving through campus today. I found a pair of Brown Thrashers and this Grasshopper Sparrow flitting around the plantings in the southwestern alcove.
The photos illustrate how obvious it is to find many of the carcasses at the Noble Research Center. Today it was an Indigo Bunting in the southeast alcove.
This was a hatch-year bird and probably a male owing to the faint bluish tinge in the wings and tail. Were those blushes of color resigned to the upper tail coverts, female would be a bit more likely. Fat = 0 on this bird.
That southwestern alcove continues to get a workout this fall, but again, the unfortunate victim was found in front of untreated glass panes.
Today it was a hatch-year (HY) Nashville Warbler; sex undetermined with fat score = 2.
When I found the bird in position on the cement as indicated in the above photo, it had already been heavily scavenged by ants. I moved the carcass to a location on the grass on the north side of this southwestern alcove (see photo, top right) to set up a removal trial.
I initially reported “no casualties” for September 7, but Chrissy Barton’s sharp eyes found one for me.
Some time between my survey that morning and Chrissy’s walking through that entrance around noon, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird – apparently another HY male, struck an untreated pane at the southwest alcove and died. Both it, and its partner from a couple of days earlier, were removed before I got back to check on the morning of the 8th. I recorded this second hummingbird as scavenged/removed on day 0.
The HY male Ruby-throated Hummingbird I found this morning means that, for 2016, a young male of this species was both the last casualty of “spring” (on July 11th) and the first official casualty of fall.
This bird was in the southwest alcove, illustrating the urgency with which I must complete my ABC bird tape treatments of the west entrances!
Today I found a Red-eyed Vireo in the southwestern alcove and an Indigo Bunting at the main north entrance.
The Indigo Bunting was a second-year male with zero fat and an impressive contrast of old and new feathers. I left him in place for a removal trial. The Red-eyed Vireo, an ASY female with a brood patch and no fat, is the first vireo I’ve ever recovered as a window-kill from the NRC.
This morning, a dead Tufted Titmouse achieved some grim and arbitrary notoriety as the 250th window-killed bird I’ve found at the Noble Research Center since monitoring began on 20 August 2009. She’s right near the entrance to the northwest alcove, and I left her in place to see how long it takes for her to be removed.
Like so many birds I find in June, this was a female (AHY) with a brood patch. This one had a faint stripe of mulberry juice down the front of her breast and little on her beak.
Intrigued by the pattern, I queried my database for June casualties, 2009–2016. Out of 22 window-kills, at least 8 have been females with brood patches (and additional 7 might have been but the data weren’t recorded).
Thanks to Corey Riding & Co. for checking the Noble Research Center while I was away on 6/9 and 6/10.
The cuckoo and House Finch carcasses remain.
I learned on 6/15 that Chrissy Barton from Corey Riding’s team actually did find a window-killed Black-and-White Warbler on the evening of 6/11. The bird is a SY female, and I think I see a gap in the breast feathers that would point to a brood patch . . .
Today marked the first casualty of a species that is common and conspicuous on campus – a House Finch at the southwestern alcove. As seems to be the case with resident birds, June is evidently a time for post-breeding dispersal, and this bird was, like many June casualties before her, a female with a brood patch.
With apologies for the 1) poor and 2) non-existent photos . . .
I found an ASY male Mourning Warbler (fat = 0) at the main north entrance this morning. He was waaaaay better looking than these photos attest, and I bet he was even more handsome in life.
In the northwest alcove lay a female (with well-developed brood patch!) Yellow-billed Cuckoo (no photo). I left the cuckoo in place, as the ants were already doing a number on her.
In scavenging news, the starling from 5/18 was both moved and eaten: I found a remnant pile of its larger feathers about 5m away from the bird’s location. Whatever picked it up had taken it south to the bushes in front of the northern entrance.
This was an odd find, both for species and location. In monitoring since 2009, this is only the second starling I’ve ever found, despite the fact that starlings nest on the NRC in spring and roost there year ’round. Starlings are pretty well urban-adapted, however, and I guess that explains the infrequency with which I come across them. They either know how to recognize glass as a barrier or they are so likely to perch on the building as opposed to flying past it that they’re more often at a safer “stalling speed” on the wing when they get close.
Except, of course, when they aren’t, and then they’re just as susceptible as any other passerine to death by window. That happened to this inexperienced youngster (HY) at some point over the past 24 hours. I left it in place for a removal trial.
The other weird thing as I alluded above was the location: left side of the main north entrance, close to where the building begins to curve on the east side.
I found yet another Painted Bunting at the NRC this morning; this time a SY female was the victim. She didn’t have much fat, but otherwise she was in fine condition. Of course, she was a bit damp from this morning’s drizzle, so I put her in front of the fan for a couple of hours to dry her out.
Whilst I was traveling this weekend, Corey Riding took over monitoring at the NRC for me. On Sunday the 15th, Corey found this Swainson’s Thrush in the northwest alcove. For those keeping score, it’s 20 August 2009–30 April 2016: 2 Swainson’s Thrushes, and 1 May 2016–15 May 2016: 4 Swainson’s Thrushes.
Two more young Painted Buntings had run-ins with the Noble Research Center today, but at least one survived to tell the tale.
The first bird, an SY male with fat = 2, lay dead about 10m from the main north entrance today.
Once I had him squared away in my pocket, I turned to continue my route and immediately noticed a second SY Painted Bunting. This one, a female, was stunned but pretty feisty once I picked her up.
I took her for a walk across the quad to the trees outside Cordell Hall. She screeched most of the way (a good sign!), and then I placed her in a tree to give her the “perch test”, i.e., is the bird strong/coordinated enough to perch on a branch. She was, and she proved it to me by flying strongly to a neighboring tree and perching just fine, thank you very much.
Some people find this work I do to be a be a bit morbid, and I suppose I do spend a lot of time handing tragically dead birds. But this has also put me in position to save a few dozen birds too, notably a Painted Bunting and Summer Tanager over the last week. Every one of these little birds who flies away from me (instead of falling prey to some cat prowling around the building) makes the time most worthwhile.
Today there were 2 Painted Buntings, both second-year males with 0 fat, dead on arrival at the main north entrance of the Noble Research Center. I left the left one in situ for a scavenging/removal trial.
Update: I got a call about a “cardinal” that had struck the southeast alcove window at the NRC around 1:00 pm today. The bird was in fact a gorgeous ASY male SUMMER TANAGER (and me without my camera). I was a bit concerned that it was on the ground (a well-meaning woman was offering it some water) and that it let me grab it pretty easily. The bird was pretty feisty, however, and when I took it to the opposite side of the building to see if it could perch on its own among the row of oaks there, it took off and strongly flew up into an adjacent tree. It’s still dusting off the cobwebs as they say, but when I last saw it the bird was perched strongly about 20′ up in a sturdy red oak.
I’ll count this one among my stunned/trapped victims, and I’ve amended the map below accordingly.
In the last few days, the number of Swainson’s Thrushes killed by window collision at the Noble Research Center has doubled from 2 to 4. This one was an after second-year bird with fat = 1.
It’s really odd how predictably unpredictable window collisions can be. In this case, one of the most abundant migrants through our area has only rarely fallen victim to the building I monitor – despite it being a fairly common window-kill in spring at other Stillwater buildings. I’m in my 6th year of near daily monitoring for casualties at the NRC, and during that time I’ve documented Swainson’s Thrush . . .
Is it just happenstance that two Swainson’s Thrushes are killed within a few days of each other in 2016 when the previous two records were 5 years apart? Do the now 3 birds from 2015–2016 indicate that something has changed compared to previous years of monitoring? Do the two birds at the end of April/beginning of May in 2016 indicate that the primary movement of Swainson’s Thrush is a week earlier than typical? My sample is, of course, much to small to help answer such questions, but it is questions such as these that keep me going day after day and year after year . . .
The longest stretch without a casualty in 6 years was broken this weekend, with the unfortunate Swainson’s Thrush below the first confirmed window kill at the Noble Research Center since 19 November, 2015.
If you were in need of evidence to convince you that it is healthy individuals that succumb to window collisions, check out the fat deposits clearly visible in the furcular hollow and on the belly of this bird. This bird was in the prime of life.
Yesterday’s Chipping Sparrow had me worried: it was flitting about so nervously trapped beneath the south portico that I assumed I’d find it dead this morning, from exhaustion if not from something else. Instead, I was greeted today by 2 Chipping Sparrows stuck in that spot this morning. Both are still moving fine and very active, but they’re going to have to figure out that flying down is their only way out.
As for the identification on these birds, I don’t have much to go on. From up in the rafters, I get only very quick glimpses of oblique angles and undersides. I managed these 2 photos today:
To separate autumn Chipping and Clay-colored sparrows, there are a few things on which to focus. In good light, I often rely simply on the warmer, buffier breast, flanks, and crown of Clay-colored to make the call, though I always prefer a clear view of the light brown rump, as opposed to Chippings’ gray rump. There is a gray rump visible in one of my photos (not one I posted), all but clinching Chipping Sparrow as the proper ID.
The head and facial pattern of Clay-colored is bold and conspicuously absent from these birds. Clay-colored shows a bright white mustache; this is absent on the birds in the photo. Also, the birds in the photo show dark lores. This is consistent with Chipping but not with Clay-colored. Thus, I’m pretty confident that these are Chipping Sparrows.
A crisp and cool night following a home football game made for lots of birds on the move and, evidently, quite a few coming into campus. I found this morning 3 dead Lincoln’s Sparrows: southwest alcove, southwest peninsula, and southern portico. I found a dead Grasshopper Sparrow at the northwest alcove.
Trapped birds consisted of a Song Sparrow that I pushed away from the southwest alcove, and a Chipping Sparrow in the rafters of the southern portico, apparently unable to figure out that flying down was the key to getting out.
Last Sunday the 18th, I found a White-throated Sparrow at the southwest alcove and a Lincoln’s Sparrow at the entrance at the end of that alcove. There were also two trapped Lincoln’s Sparrows at the north entrance that I first found near the curved northeastern wall.
The story is a bit more complicated, however.
I was contacted over the weekend by Krista Pike who said that she had found a dead sparrow inside the Noble Research Center, and placed it outside for me to find. I wasn’t quite sure how to count a bird that died inside the building, but I ultimately decided to count it as any other unfortunate victim.
All right, it’s been several days so I’m comfortable listing that Lincoln’s Sparrow as trapped. It’s still in fine shape, but I watched it bump a window (gently) as it tried to evade me. There were at least two others and I think a Nashville Warbler hanging out in the trees by the main north entrance to the NRC this morning. It could be there are 4 trapped birds there, but I’m being conservative about how I catalog them because they are all flying strongly, etc.
Not so lucky were three other sparrows this morning. I found a Lincoln’s Sparrow at the southeast alcove and a Lincoln’s and Song Sparrow together at the south portico. All were in great shape with fat = 2 or 3. The Lincoln’s were both hatch-year; the Song was after hatch-year.
I found this trapped Nashville Warbler today, chilly in the shade on a cool morning. It didn’t look too strong when I first approached it, but it immediately perked up and flew away when I tried to see if it could perch on a nearby oak branch.
I have found Big Brown Bats on campus, but this was my first Red. Sadly, this male Red Bat was actually a window casualty at the north entrance of the Noble Research Center. I found it lying with a pool of blood beneath its head.
Autumn arrived with a thud for this poor Clay-colored Sparrow today. It was one of the fattest of these little sparrows I’ve ever seen (easily a 3 on my 0–3 scale), which was impressive for a youngster: HY-U.
There were at least three warblers trapped at the northern entrance this morning. They were frisky enough that I could neither catch them or get a good look at them. I was thinking Common Yellowthroat for at least one of them. At the south entrance portico, Corey Riding reported a dead Common Yellowthroat (no photo).
I was not able to check the NRC yesterday (9/15), but that’s when I think this Yellow Warbler actually came in and met its end in the northwestern alcove. I think it’s a HY male; fat = 2. I left the bird in place for a scavenging trial.
Today I found a window-killed Nashville Warbler in the southwestern alcove. The brownish cast to the upperparts and tapered rectrices suggest a HY bird, sex undetermined. Fat = 2. I have included a radar image of last night’s flight on a rare evening that felt a lot more like October than September.
I found our 8th Mourning Warbler of the study on Sep. 1, in the southwest alcove. It looked to be an ASY female, but I did not handle it for close examination. I left it for a scavenging trial.
The backstory for this bird is that it actually died yesterday sometime after my morning check and before Corey’s 11:30 am check. This was a broad daylight collision. I counted it here as a Sep. 1 fatality because I wouldn’t have discovered it until this morning had I been on my own. I would have noticed that the bird was not a fresh casualty, but the best I could have done was say that it died sometime yesterday after my morning search and probably before midnight. With Corey’s information, we now know that it was in place nearly 24 hrs before I detected it on my own.
On the heels of an unusually powerful cold front – with temps struggling to the 70s! today – the Noble Research Center claimed its first real fall migrant this morning, in a HY-U Mourning Warbler. This is the 7th Mourning Warbler on the project. This bird was young but it was in excellent shape and bulging with fat (scored a 3). (Apologies for the non-standard photography.)
Here’s last night’s flight on radar. Birds were on the move both ahead of and behind the storm.
Around 10:00 pm last night: Here’s the storm bearing down on us ~ 4:00 am:
I found an Archilochus hummingbird this morning at the northwest alcove.
The ants had already gotten to the bird, thereby complicating identification and encouraging me to leave it in place. The tail length and shape of p-6 suggest the more likely Ruby-throated Hummingbird, but the wing tips struck me as clubby and curved. Without better information to suggest otherwise, I’m recording this one as Ruby-throated.
Imagine you are holding a deck of cards. Now toss that deck on the floor and look at all 52 of them. Now imagine that each one of those cards represents a different species of bird. There are sparrows, warblers, thrushes, woodpeckers, etc. With the addition of a Tufted Titmouse this morning, there have now been 52 different species of birds killed in window collisions at the Noble Research Center since I started keeping track in 2009.
Today’s bird was similar: She was a second-year female with a drying brood patch and fat I would score as a 2.
According to Yogi Berra, “You can observe a lot just by watching.” My watching has just suggested to me that 100% of the Tufted Titmice that have struck windows on this campus have been females in the last week of May with some fat accumulation in the furcular hollow and a brood patch suggestive of having recently produced fledglings. Is this post-breeding dispersal? Wandering to find a mate for a second brood? Wandering after loss of a brood? Dispersal to a molting area? Questions abound, but with my n = 2, it looks like the beginnings of a pattern to me.
Thanks to concurrent surveys between Corey Riding’s project and my own, I learned Monday (5/25) of a bird that I had missed on Sunday (5/24): At the north entrance and tucked under some shrubs is a Mourning Warbler. I missed the bird on two consecutive surveys. Corey thinks it must have come in sometime during the day on Saturday (5/23).
I’m not too upset to have missed this bird – twice! – because it is waterlogged and cryptic against the background mulch on which it lies and I could only see it from a specific angle that I rarely take when investigating that section of shrubbery. The key is not to never miss a bird on a survey, it’s to conduct redundant surveys to estimate how many I might be missing. Thankfully, that number seems to be quite low, but we’ll know better what it actually is in a few months.
Both Mourning Warbler and the Swainson’s Thrush were in place this morning.
This morning I found the 51st species casualty on the project – a horribly drenched Ovenbird that needed a couple of hours in front of my space heater to dry out and reclaim its former beauty.
Can you see it? I can.
At this point, I already knew what it was. That belly was just too white.
This was a southeast alcove casualty:
Once dried and re-sheveled, I could tell that this beauty was an after-second-year bird, but its sex could not be determined. What was obvious was that it was bulging with fat in the furcular hollow and all across the belly. This bird was in prime condition.
For the 3rd consecutive day I’ve found a SY Painted Bunting at the Noble Research Center. This one looks to be SY female with fat = 0, and was lying out in the open at the northwest alcove.
Also today there was a SY male Nashville Warbler at the main north entrance. This one was fat (2) and appeared to be in excellent shape, save for the impact marks on its bill that signal a violent, but perhaps mercilessly quick, end to its brief life.
The bright yellow-green rump on this bird suggests the western subspecies to me . . .
Nashville Warblers don’t mess with Painted Buntings.
Another day, another dead Painted Bunting. This time the bird was more convincingly second-year, and a female. This 203rd casualty for the project was the 10th Indigo Bunting killed at the NRC since I’ve been monitoring there. This moves Painted Bunting ahead of Indigo, tying the former for 5th place with Ruby-throated Hummingbird on the list of frequent casualties.
With apologies for not having my camera with me today, I found this second-year male Painted Bunting lying waterlogged and disheveled on top of the right hedge at the north entrance to the NRC today.
An hour in front of my space heated dried the bird out. This bird was in great shape (fat = 2) and bright green above with yellowish breast and belly. It had three tiny patches of blue feathers coming in on the head along with tapered rects, tapered primary coverts, and parallel growth bars in the rects.
Swainson’s Thrush remains at the northwest alcove.
We’ve had soaking rains every day for most of the past week. This weather might have contributed to my failure to notice the waterlogged Swainson’s Thrush I found in the northwest alcove today. It’s not only a sodden mess on the outside, from its state of decay it seems to have spent some time in its unusual location (tucked near the edge of the sidewalk in the muddy grass) before I found it today. I suppose it’s possible to have come in yesterday morning after my check, but I think more likely it came in on May 8 sometime, and I just missed it. I’m confident that it wasn’t there on May 7. Rather than second guess myself I’ll list it as a May 10 casualty unless any of my collaborators have any information to suggest otherwise.