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Tanager Toddler

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

One of the reasons I love fall birding more than any other season is the preponderance of young birds passing through. Not only are they in confusing plumages, made to order for a Science Chimp to puzzle over, but they do the neatest things. Having raised so many young birds, I understand that a big part of learning what to eat is trying everything at least once.
So when an immature scarlet tanager landed on the spent cardinal flower stalks and began prying at the round seed capsules, I watched with great interest. Knowing that lobelia is poisonous, at least to mammals, I was intrigued. Birds generally "know" that stuff. How, I have no clue.He (his black wings gave away his sex, even at this tender age) twisted and pried, but the tanager failed to dislodge a capsule. Wonder what he'd have done had he succeeded? Swallowed it down? Knowing tanagers, he probably would have masticated it with that stout bill to see how it tasted first.Hmm. Not very fruity.Bleh, in fact. Not food. Next?I love his little blue feet in this shot. Cute undertoe.Cuter yet. He's lookin' for bugs now, about 5' from my lens, under the studio window. Wonder what he'll come up with?

Next: Eek! What's he got?


what a beautiful bird...what did he get??

That's a time tested question that parents ask their children ... "if you haven't tried, how do you know you don't like it." Same thing in the bird world I guess.

I watched a juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker going after a thistle sock. He'd whack his bill into a hole and bury it right up to his eyes! After a while he probed it a bit more gently and ate quite a bit of thistle. Someone suggested that he maybe he mistook the holes for sap wells and was looking for sap and insects. What do you think?

Little blue feet. Those are very noticeable, aren't they? Very cool to see the lad was right outside your window, especially for those cute shots.

It would have taken me hours to figure out what species this is. I know you have a lot of experience with birds and know more of them by sight than I do, but do you also keep any field guides or other books handy? Or use any helpful resources on the internet?

[And pardon me if you've covered that question before, Julie. I'm still galloping around the archives and haven't found it yet if it exists.]

What a great series of photographs! I can't wait to see what he tries next.

A great series of photos--and such a display of personality. Toddler says it all.
(Word verification--croone!)

I'm giggling about it! He's SO CUTE! Your sequence is perfect for the little lad.

Isn't he just the cutest thing! I've never seen a female let alone a juvenile male, and would not have had a clue.

First Bait and Switch and now the Cliffhanger serial post, your techniques are showing.

Those are such fun pictures--I can almost see a thought bubble filled with question marks over his little head!

He is gorgeous, and I love the captions!
This discussion is really interesting for me; a few times in late summer I saw a bird at my thistle feeder that didn't quite look like a goldfinch; had a dark beak and was a bit smaller. I thought maybe it was a juvenile goldfinch, but I wasn't sure if beak colors can change as birds age. Every guide I looked at listed other food sources for warblers and tanagers so I kind of let it go - too much mystery for a beginner I decided! I never really stopped to consider that a young bird might be 'learning by beak' at my feeder, putting things in it's mouth a grown bird would never think of, but it makes a lot of sense, right? Whattayaknow!

What a handsome little fella you found there, Julie. I absolutely love those little blue stockings.

His eating adventures remind me of my firstborn, who never passed a potential snack without testing to see how it tasted. My son, on the other hand, almost has to be held down and force-fed to try something new. Either that, or have a vat of ketchup ready to dip it in.

Can't wait to see what he gets into next. (Tho I'm guessing it has nothing to do with ketchup...)

Hello, this is ben from CNE Middle School. You are coming to my school on November 3, our 5'th Grade science teacher Mrs. Newman is very excites about your visit. Thankyou for decided to visit my school and thankyou for getting our grades out of class for a while!

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