Thursday, November 03, 2005

A Bird in the Hand

Our blogging friend (and bird bander) Bootstrap Analysis has a post today that any backyard bird feeder will enjoy. It's about chickadees, one of my favorite birds to see (and hear) in the winter. I worry about them on cold nights, knowing that their smallness makes them especially vulnerable to the cold, especially when they are inactive.

If you don't have time to read it all, at least visit her page for the great photo and read these paragraphs:

It's hard for me to imagine a worse situation than nets full of chickadees; even dozens of flesh-clamping cardinals or diarrhea-spewing robins seems more appealing. All the bossy, determined fuss you see chickadees express in the field is magnified when they are in the hand. Observe how calmly this bird sits in my net. You can see we'd been through all this before -- I had banded this bird two days previously. Note that it is hardly tangled, an easy bird to remove from the net. Note also the gleam in the bird's eye, as it prepares to launch its assault.

The moment I reach into the net, it will explode in an indignant whirl of commotion, a virtual avian tempest in a teapot. No other species squirms, wriggles, and hangs on to the net so tightly. Most obnoxious is the constant barrage of pecking, with an outstanding affinity for locating cuticles and other soft, sensitive places. I've been bitten by dozens of species of birds, and although not the most painful, chickadee abuse is clearly the most annoying.

Chickadees remain miffed throughout the banding process. It's really astounding how a 10-gram ball of feathers can make life so difficult. Inevitably when you open your hand to release them, they stick around for one final second -- in order to offer one last good, hard peck.


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