1 September 2019 – Ruby-throated Hummingbird and trapped Painted Bunting

There was a Ruby-throated Hummingbird in the northwestern alcove and a stunned and trapped Painted Bunting at the south entrance. The Painted Bunting was able to perch on its own and all signs this morning would indicate it recovered and moved on.

18 August 2019 – Painted Bunting

I found another Painted Bunting this morning, this time in the southwestern alcove. This one looked to be a second-year female with a still-evident brood patch.


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15 August 2019 – Painted Bunting

I did not do a survey yesterday (14th), but this Painted Bunting at the main north entrance looked as if it had been in place since at least yesterday morning. Nonetheless, it will be recorded as a casualty of the 15th.

9 July 2019 – Painted Bunting

This AHY female Painted Bunting in post-breeding condition (dried-up brood patch) met her end at the main north entrance, and was partially obscured in some bushes. This is why I don’t just check the ground; I look everywhere a bird body could end up.

Two migrants to kick off the second week of July is not what I’d call a good sign. So far, I’ve already documented 23 casualties in 2019.

Painted Bunting is the 3rd most abundant casualty on my list (26 individuals over 10 years). Only Ruby-throated Hummingbird (34) and Lincoln’s Sparrow (51) have been more often found at this site.

13 May 2019 –Tennessee Warbler, Painted Bunting, and some other stuff

My walk to the Noble Research Center revealed two window-killed birds outside the Food and Agricultural Products building, a male Yellow Warbler and Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

I also found remains (wingtips) of the Summer Tanager and Indigo Bunting that were scavenged from the southwestern alcove.

New casualties this morning were a SY male Painted Bunting in the southwestern alcove and a male Tennessee Warbler (9.5g, fat = 1) in the northeastern alcove.

23 July 2018 – Painted Bunting

All carcasses remain in place, and I was saddened to discover this new one: a second-year male Painted Bunting at the main north entrance.

As the molt sequences in this species defy my ability to explain in a coherent fashion, suffice it to say that this was a male Painted Bunting born in 2017. He spent his first winter somewhere in Mexico or Central America and returned to the Great Plains to attempt his first breeding season this spring & summer of 2018. Along the way, he molted some feathers, but he had not taken on the dazzling blue and scarlet and citron of an older male, i.e., one more than two years old. He looks to have been beginning that process, however: Check out the blue feathers coming in on the face and crown and the contrast between the green-edged secondaries that have grown in more recently and the dull browns of his primaries that were the set he grew while in the nest last year.

This poor guy was probably on his way to northwestern Mexico where he would take advantage of the monsoon-driven flush of productivity to give him the fuel to finally replace those primaries in August and September. Then he would head down further south to spend the actual winter before coming back here next May.

Alas, he didn’t make it – all because of a stupid window.


5 July 2018 – Painted Bunting

The robin from July 3rd has not yet been touched. New today was this AHY-female Painted Bunting in the southwest alcove. She showed 0 fat and a drying brood patch.

20 May 2018 – two little green birds

Though they might have come in yesterday (when I didn’t check), there were two birds in the southwestern alcove today: a Tennessee Warbler (AHY-U, fat = 2) and a Painted Bunting (SY-U <probably female>, fat = 2).


There was also a bonus at the Food and Ag Products Center: a window-killed Yellow-billed Cuckoo and a trapped Black-and-white Warbler. The warbler flew off fine as I approached.

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10 May 2018 – Painted Bunting

The hint of yellow at the gape suggests that this might be a second year (SY) bird, but it is seriously bright green. I’ll tentatively call it an SY-U because it looks to be that the brightness of the green is not a reliable character for discriminating between adult females and young males.

19 August 2017 – Painted Bunting

I actually discovered it on my 8/20 survey, but this poor little bird on the 20th was already seething with maggots so I’m comfortable calling it an 8/19 casualty. This was a second year male.  Check out the feather wear on his primaries.  He was headed south to molt and then continue on further south.

13 June 2017 – Painted Bunting

It’s mid-June and, like clockwork, I found a lady songbird today who looks to have been involved in some post-breeding dispersal.  This one was a Painted Bunting, an ASY-female with a brood patch at the southeastern alcove.


At this weird building that is the Noble Research Center, I don’t find many local birds dead at the glass.  There are no feeders, for example. It’s also not a spot that attracts a lot of baby birds.  No, here it’s pretty obvious that migrants are the source of the great majority of the 30–40 victims here each year, with big peaks in mortality during October and May.  There is another, smaller peak, however.

That third peak is “June”.  For some reason, after the collisions of the northbound migrants have died down by the end of May, birds start showing up again in mid-June.  These include migrants as well as local breeders like chickadees and titmice. What’s more, it’s common for these individuals to be females that have recently bred, judging from their brood patches.

Apparently, I am capturing at this site evidence of post-breeding dispersal in females.  It is not clear if these birds are looking for a new mate and territory or if they are dispersing to some specific place to molt. It is also not clear if this post-breeding dispersal involves successful or unsuccessful breeding attempts. With respect to today’s bird, however, I have to assume the latter.

Painted Buntings do not arrive here until the first week or so of May. With another week or so of finding a partner, territorial jostling, etc., that means they aren’t even beginning to nest until mid-May, i.e., about 4 weeks ago. It’s possible for a pair to have raised a brood in 4 weeks I suppose, but if so it would be odd for a female to skip town with fledglings fresh out of the nest.  Thus, it’s more likely that she was dispersing today following a failed breeding attempt.



15 May 2017 – Two SY Painted Buntings

May 15th was another odd one, and I’ll be glad when this pulse of window-killed migrants is passed.


On my morning survey, I found a SY male Painted Bunting at the southwestern alcove, and right in front of a treated pane.  (The bird off to the left is May 12th’s Indigo Bunting.)


That’s bad enough.  The building cost a Painted Bunting and the ABC bird tape apparently did not steer it away from danger.

Then I heard from Dawn Brown later in the day (~3:45 in the afternoon) that she had found and collected a Painted Bunting at the same location.  When I got there moments later, the Indigo Bunting was gone (so it was removed sometime during the day on the 15th), and Dawn handed me a bag with this bird inside:

Ugh – a second dead Painted Bunting. This one was more difficult to sex but also clearly an SY bird.  Note the beak damage on both individuals.

10 May 2017 – Painted Bunting and Nashville Warbler

Today I found a SY Painted Bunting at the main north entrance and a Nashville Warbler at the northwestern alcove.


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17 May 2016 -Painted Bunting

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.

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11 May 2016 – 2 Painted Buntings

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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.


8 May 2016 – Tandem Painted Buntings

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.

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16 May 2015 – Nashville Warbler and a 3rd Painted Bunting

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 . . .

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Nashville Warblers don't mess with Painted Buntings.

Nashville Warblers don’t mess with Painted Buntings.


Note impact marks on tip of bill.

Note impact marks on tip of bill.

Rufous crown coming in . . .

Rufous crown coming in . . .

15 May 2015 – Painted Bunting

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.

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14 May 2015 – Painted Bunting

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.

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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.

10 May 2014 – Clay-colored Sparrow; trapped Painted Bunting and Gray Catbird

Lots to explain today.  First, I’ve got to go all the way back to the Sprague’s Pipit from March of 2010 to find the last casualty near the northernmost entry to the Noble Research Center, i.e., the red dot on the map below:


I think the fact that casualties do show up in these odd places now and then simply highlights all the more how the various shapes presented by the Noble Research Center play a huge role in the pattern of collisions.  I have conducted hundreds of surveys since 2010 without a single bird dying at that weird spot on the building, but other locations really do seem to draw them in.  More on that in a bit.  Here, though, is the unfortunate Clay-colored Sparrow I found at that spot this morning:


It’s not much to see, I know.  That’s why I think I overlooked this bird for two days.  It was in pretty good shape, but it wasn’t in immaculate shape. The bird was face down on the ground and had some dried mud splashed up on its back.  This tells me that the bird likely came in Thursday morning during our overnight storms.  Alternatively, it could have gotten wet from the sprinkler system and then subsequently dried.  I’m going with the notion that it was a casualty during the storms and that I missed it for two days.  Anyway, I left it in place to see how long it lasts.

The other two birds I found this morning were exhausted, but very much alive and apparently uninjured. The first was a beautiful female Painted Bunting trapped in the southwest alcove.  She was slow enough for me to catch her and I released her into a tree away from the building where she flew on her own and seemed to perch just fine. She was carrying zero fat, so I’m hoping that she can find an easy meal.


I’m a little more worried about this Gray Catbird at the very-busy-this-week northwest alcove.  This bird was active enough that I couldn’t catch it, but it also didn’t fly more than a foot or so off the ground and any farther than about 10 m at a time.  I herded it out to beneath a tree where a robin was foraging so maybe it too will find some food quickly.  I won’t count either of these birds as casualties – unless I find them again tomorrow.  These are the days when I feel the greatest reward for the methodical daily surveys I do. Any day I can help keep a Painted Bunting going a little bit longer on this earth seems like a good day to me.



9 July 2013 – Painted Bunting and Carolina Chickadee

Casualties continue at the Noble Research Center this week.  Today (actually July 10th) I checked and noticed these birds here since yesterday, so I’m considering them the results of a July 9th survey that I technically did not conduct. Again, we had two birds of different species killed at the same spot on the NRC – the main entrance on the north side.


The first bird I noticed was the Carolina Chickadee, lying within arms’ reach of the Indigo Bunting I left out the other day:


About 2 m to the left of the chickadee was this female Painted Bunting:


Both birds were deteriorated (by beetles, isopods, and ants) to the point at which I wasn’t comfortable examining them for additional aging and body condition criteria.

10 June 2013 – Painted Bunting

This morning I found the second Painted Bunting in a week, strongly fueling my suspicions of some kind of local movements in early June.  This bird was also a second-year, but identifiable as a male thanks to some tiny blue feathers showing up on the crown and auriculars.

This bird too was still alive when I found it, but face down and clearly on his way out.  I thought for a moment that I would again have to euthanize a Painted Bunting but mercifully (for me) its last gasp was apparently the one it gave when I first noticed it.

This is the 6th Painted Bunting claimed at the NRC since the project began, and the 131st casualty.





3 June 2013 – Painted Bunting

The northwest alcove revealed a second-year (SY) Painted Bunting this morning, most likely a female.  I recorded the sex as unknown.



Sadly, this bird was still (barely) alive when I found it:  face down, panting heavily, and with blood flowing down the outside of its bill.  I have found live birds in three states of condition on this project, and here is how I treat them in the data:

1) alive and perky, but “trapped” by the building – These are birds that are not obviously injured but for some reason are unable to turn around and fly away from the building and on their merry way. Healthy birds that I am unable to catch I am usually able to herd away from the building, and I keep separate data on these as “trapped”.  I do not consider them window-kills, but I do consider them window-collisions.

2) alive, but impaired to the point that I can catch the bird – Often I can catch a bird that has collided with the building but shows no other outward signs of injury beyond my ability to catch it.  Sometimes these birds appear dazed, but after I grab them they attempt a vigorous escape.  If left on their own where I found them, there’s a good chance these birds would eventually fall prey to a predator in their dazed state.  I move them away from the building and place them in dense cover where they can perch safely and continue to regain their senses.  If the bird can perch strongly and flies a bit when I release it, I count it as a window-collision but not a window-kill.  I include these birds as “trapped”.

3) impaired and clearly suffering – Non-responsive birds with other outward signs of injury (e.g., bloody beak) have very little chance of recovering from their injuries.  I consider these birds to be window-kills, even in the two instances in which I euthanized the bird because it was unable to stand on a perch or was otherwise looking very poorly. 

Sadly, the Painted Bunting this morning was a #3, and it was the 2nd bird I have euthanized on this project.

19 August 2012 – Painted Bunting

I found a fairly degraded immature Painted Bunting today.  It looks like the ants and beetles have taken their toll, and also that it was in place prior to the rain Friday night and into Saturday.  I will conservatively estimate its date of collision as Friday, 17 August 2012.
As a new fall migration begins to heat up, I’m entering into my 4th year of monitoring at the Noble Research Center.  This year, I will record the approximate location on the building of all casualties and trapped birds, beginning today:

9 July 2012 – Painted Bunting

Today’s casualty will sadden my nephew: he loves Painted Buntings.

I found this female on the north side of the Noble Research Center this morning.  Like other recent casualties, I have no explanation for what this bird was doing at that location today.  We occasionally get them here in town in early May, but it’s early July and this bird should still be on a territory somewhere.  Two days ago, I found three singing males in the shrublands of the OSU “North Fields” cross country course, so it’s still breeding season for Painted Buntings.  Early migration?  Post-breeding dispersal?  Rounding up a wandering juvenile?

Regardless of her behavior that led this female to her unfortunate demise, she did have some fat laid down (fat = 1) and a dry brood patch.  I don’t have my Pyle guide on hand this morning so my assessment of her age will be tentative:  ASY.

Update: On the advice of a veritable zen master when it comes to passerine molt, this bird is now correctly aged as SY.  Thank you Bob Mulvihill for pointing out the molt limit in the top photo:  the distal alula covert is an original, issued to this bird when it fledged some time during the summer of 2011.