Fink Family Farm Bird List

Fink Family Farm Bird List

The only list I faithfully keep is a list of all the birds seen on our farm since we moved here in 1977. I thought it would be fun to ad...

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Which Finch?

 For full screen views, click on the photo. It was a very bright day so colors washed out.

We mostly have Purple Finches here in the summer but we do have the occasional House Finch. I confess I tell the males apart mainly by voice. The females are easier. But I'm thinking this is a House Finch because it can't decide if it wants to be red, orange or yellow. I know there are other criteria, like bill shape, extent of red, streaking on flanks, but I'm wondering if this is a young bird just transitioning to adult plumage and so the streaks maybe aren't so diagnostic? Any tips will be much appreciated. This bird declined to sing.

Okay, many birders have offered clues and most said this bird is a Purple Finch. Dr. Jim Moodie sees all three finches (Purple, House and Cassin's) regularly at his feeders and said:
Your bird appears to be a 2nd year male, changing from the greenish 1st year male to the reddish adult.  The large bill lets us know it isn't a house finch, along with the facial markings.

Probably the most useful information came from Judy Meredith, who explains how her birding group keys out these three confusing finches, all of which they see in their area: 

Bill is a starting place: House, curved and blunt. Cassin's, pointy with perfectly straight edge on top like when you touch 2 rulers together to make a triangle. Purple bill is stout with a bit of a curve upper
portion sometimes visible.

Undertail: House has streaked undertail, Cassin's has streaked undertail, Purple unstreaked so if it is streaked it is probably not a Purple.  Some sources say this is not a 100 percent thing so not good to
ID a bird on that field mark alone.

Breast: House, dirty pale background with blurry streaks. Cassin's, quite a white background with fine or crisp dark streaks. Purple  broad blurry streaks, brownish streaks, usually darker than streaks on House.

Tail: House doesn't have much of a fork. Cassins does, sometimes difficult to say if it has more of a fork than Purple although it is supposed to be more notched, but certainly more than House.

Color: House so variable that I shouldn't mention. Cassin's more of a pinkish tone sometimes on front, head pattern of red is more delineated sometimes with a clean cap, versus a wash. And Purple, the wash widely distributed over the bird back and partially in front in a male.

Supercilium: I won't mention because sometimes Cassin's and Purple are so similar, especially the females or young males.

So I am not offering an answer... I am just reviewing how we go through it, a field mark at a time.

John Notis also sent a shorter key without worrying about Cassin's that I wouldn't have at my place. He looks at bill, color, and "The thing that I usually see first on a Purple is a crescent across the eye and along the side of the head. It’s not often continuous or sharp like the markings on a Bewick’s Wren or BC Chickadee but it stands out to me."

Taking all this in consideration, I'm relatively sure now that my odd colored finch is a 2nd year male Purple finch, as Dr. Moonie stated. I'm getting there from the notched tail, raspberry color extending down the back (in the photos where you can see a bit of the back), face pattern (although not sure that's relevant in a 2nd year male), bill relative size and possibly curved culmen (although this is hard for me to see) and unstreaked undertail pattern. I think Judy Meredith's group has the right idea when she says:  "Some birds aren't perfect (matches) and so we tend to look for the most field marks that fit with one species."

Many thanks to all in the birding community who shared their insights and information.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Hutton's Vireo or Ruby-crowned Kinglet?

I thought this was a Hutton's Vireo when I was watching it through the brambles. But now that I see the pinkish looking foot (at least I think that's a foot), I think it must be a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. But that eye ring seems so wide... which one has such a bug-eyed look? It also seems like maybe there might be a dark area behind the second wingbar (indicating a Ruby-crowned) but I can't really tell. And I can't tell anything about bill shape with this head-on view, the only one I got. Would love to hear what it is and why.

Okay, the verdict is in and the foot tells the story. Only the Ruby-crowned Kinglet has a yellowish or reddish foot. And it is the Ruby-crowned that has a bug-eyed look. But without that foot clue, you could (and many pepple responding did) make a case for either species because the standard points are tough to see in this photo: black behind second wingbar on Ruby-crowned, not on Hutton's; tiny bill on ruby-crowned, fatter bill on Hutton's. Here is a link to an excellent page pointing out the differences:

But you need a proper photo to see them! Otherwise, you have to hope you get a foot in the photo.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Red Crossbills on the Farm!!

This morning a flock of about 30 Red Crossbills came flying and chattering in to the big fir near our house. They were so chattery when they flew I thought they were siskins. I grabbed my camera and took lots of blurry, far-up-in-the-tree photos. When I looked at what I'd taken, I saw that they were Red Crossbills. We have had them here before but only in small numbers yip yipping from one tree to another in the woods and then disappearing. This was my first opportunity to photograph them. The photos are not good, but diagnostic. After several minutes of feeding in the cones, always with the same male sitting on top keeping guard, they flew off toward the distant woods. I put a few of the photos on my bird list blog. Here are more. I love Crossbills!

Guard bird on top of tree

Friday, February 6, 2015

Leucistic Turkey?

Three turkeys that I assumed were escapees have been wandering around our farm off and on since November 19, 2014. One is blond and the other two normal turkey-colored. None of our neighbors claim them. Now that I look at the bill on the blond one (in my photos), I notice it is paler than the others. So are these wild turkeys... with one leucistic?

Okay, the birding community has not answered my question but I have by researching on the web. Wild turkeys can have many abnormal color phases, including this one according to photos I found online. I'm declaring them to be wild turkeys.

Interestingly (to me, anyway), many of the reported light colored wild turkeys seem to be the boss turkey, as this hen is. She always leads the group and decides when to move on and in what direction.

Local heritage turkey breeder Rev Woodruff says that all turkeys can interbreed, although the heavy Broad-breasted Bronze and White turkeys cannot do it naturally. They are inseminated artificially. The males are too heavy breasted to breed the females and the hens are too heavy breasted to incubate eggs. Ms. Woodruff says my hen looks to her like she has some Buff or Bourbon (heritage breeds) in her ancestry. She also says "there might be some partial barring on one of the ordinary bronze morph which suggests either some Heritage ancestry for their entire parent flock or partial expression of the genes that produce Oregon Grey" (a color morph in wild turkeys).

On the other hand, according to National Wild Turkey Federation biologist Ryan Mathis, people frequently ask if their turkeys are wild/domestic hybrids. He says it’s possible, but unlikely. Natural color abnormalities often occur among birds and so people will confuse these characteristics with those of a wild/domestic hybrid. Color abnormalities that occur in wild turkeys include black (melanistic), red (erythritic), white (albinotic) and the most commonly reported, “smoke gray phase,” which is an incomplete albino.

So I still don't know if these are wild with possibly some domestic blood or domestic gone wild. And I still wonder about that pale bill on the blond hen. I'll continue to post updates if I get more information.