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  • Merri-Lee M.

Fall Banding

Updated: Jan 24, 2021

In September, large numbers of birds are making their way south, and stopping in our area to rest and feed. It's really fascinating to see all of the birds that are passing through -- we wouldn't know about very many of them if we weren't banding, because they tend to feed quietly at this time of year, and don't advertise their presence like they do in the Spring! On the morning of September 15, we banded more than 90 of these little travellers; these photos are from that day, and another morning 10 days later.

Juvenile Ovenbird


Swainson's Thrushes have been by far the most plentiful birds in the nets this year.

On September 25, the 300th Swainson's Thrush was banded! It's great to know that these lovely birds are doing so well. We almost never see them in the wild; banding helps us to gain some information about this secretive species that spends most of its time in the dark understory of the forest.

The buffy marks on the wings of Swainson's Thrush #300 let us know that it is a young bird, hatched this Summer, and is heading out on its first journey South.

There were several Gray-cheeked Thrushes mixed in with the Swainson's Thrushes. They lack the buffy eye rings of their cousins, and ... have gray cheeks, of course!

The Veery has a subtler eye ring, less distinctive breast spots, and a whiter belly and redder back than the other Thrushes.


There were some interesting Sparrows to band this Fall:

On the 15th, there were 3 Vesper Sparrows, with their white eye rings, off-white undersides,

rusty "shoulders", and white outer tail feathers.

White-throated Sparrows are every bit as striking in the Fall as they are in the Spring. This bird, like many of the ones we caught, had been feeding on purple berries!

The Lincoln's Sparrow is a smaller Sparrow than the previous 2. Its facial markings and the streaks on the breast are distinctive. This one likes berries too....

We banded 1 Swamp Sparrow on Sept. 25.


A little House Wren was fitted with a tiny band,

as was a single Brown Creeper.

Apparently Purple Finches are expected to move down here in numbers this Fall/Winter, in order to find seeds that are scarce in the North. Purple Finches are "heavier-looking" than House Finches, and have a light stripe over the eye. The markings on the underside are more distinct , and are described as "short, dark streaks" in contrast to the House Finch's "blurry, grayish streaks" (Sibley). This brownish Female was the only Purple Finch of the day, but perhaps more are on their way.

1 Willow Flycatcher was banded on the 15th.

An Eastern Wood-Pewee was a nice surprise on Sept. 25. The wing-bars, buffy-coloured now, will be white next year. Note the slightly darker "vest" pattern and longer wings than the Willow Flycatcher.


Fall Warblers are always a pleasure to view "up close and personal".

There were quite a few Tennessee Warblers this year, and they were extremely varied in appearance. All had the trademark dark line through the eye, light eyebrow, greenish back, and white undertail feathers (coverts).

The Female Common Yellowthroat is not nearly as flashy as the Male, but so delicately, subtly attractive.

Unfortunately, the Canada Warbler is in decline in all of its range. It breeds in the understory of the forest, in brushy areas near swamps or streams, and has suffered greatly from the loss of such habitat. This bird is a young Female, with the barely visible "necklace" that would be black on an adult Male. One of my all-time favourite birdies!

The Nashville Warbler can be identified by his white eye-ring, yellow/white/yellow underside, gray cap, and spot of rust (slightly visible here) on the top of his head.

This Fall Female Cape May Warbler looks nothing like the brilliant Spring Males; however, the overall shape of the bird, and its downturned bill, help to identify it. Greenish edges along the feathers of the wings are typical of both sexes, Spring and Fall. The Cape May Warbler's diet includes Spruce Budworm -- eat 'em all, little ones!

This young Male American Redstart has patches that are brighter orange under the wing than a Female would have; otherwise, they look very similar.

A Magnolia Warbler, with slight streaks of gray on the breast, was another Warbler with flashes of yellow. The patterns of white on the tail feathers enables us to age these Warblers. This one is likely a hatching year bird.

The Juvenile Ovenbird has not yet acquired the dark, rusty orange stripe down the middle of its forehead that another year will bring. Beautiful markings, though, are they not?

We caught 1 teeny Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and he wasn't upset enough to show off his crown, but there is a hint of colour on this young Male.

This Red-eyed Vireo has brown eyes. It is a Juvenile, and will have its red eyes when it returns next Spring!

It's always a treat to see a Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) in close proximity. Their markings are spectacular.

A young Male Sharp-shinned Hawk flew into one of the nets just as we were making the rounds, and a quick bander was able to catch him! Males are smaller than Females, and Juveniles have yellow eyes, while the Adults' eyes are red.

Posing in the brilliant Fall leaves, in the early morning sunshine...

There will still be some migrants to band during October, but many of the sojourners have now passed through. Saw-whet Owls should be making an appearance soon, and they are always welcome visitors.

We wish all of the birds safe travels, and look forward to their return when Spring arrives once again!


*Many thanks to David Lamble for his patience with the birds and the human helpers! He has taught me much about the identification, habits, and safe handling of our avian friends through the years.

Thanks, too, to Pat and Harry, who allow the use of their wonderful property for banding in the Spring and Fall.


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