April 29th – The Saga of #0811-42811



On July 6th (my birthday!), 2007, an adult female Rose-breasted Grosbeak flew down to the feeders around the banding lab and ended up in the net there. Most likely it was fledging or had just fledged a brood and was looking for a nutritious snack. It was thin from the exertion of raising young and weighed 43.8 g. We banded it and sent it on its way.

On May 13, 2008 we recaptured the bird shortly after its return flight from the wintering ground. It was in good condition and weighed 46.6 g. We didn’t see this bird in 2009 but on May 16, 2010 we recaptured it again. Again, it was in good condition and weighed 45.7 g.

And then we didn’t see it again. No recapture in 2011 or 2012. We presumed the bird had died, succumbing to the strain of migrating back and forth between Ruthven and its wintering ground in southern Mexico or Central America, a round-trip journey of over 5,000 km at least. [Interestingly, a Rose-breasted Grosbeak was caught a couple of Springs ago at Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory at the east end of Lake Ontario – it had been banded in Columbia!] Or perhaps a predator had taken it.

But this morning there she was!! Feeding vigorously on the mixed seed in the potter trap under the feeders at net #1, next to the banding lab. I am 99.9% positive that this bird arrived during the night. Usually at Ruthven the males precede the females by a couple of days in order to defend an attractive territory but she had outraced them – she knew exactly where to go (and where the food was). When we brought her in for processing, she was carrying a good fat load and weighed 50.5 g. Despite her age (she had to be at least 7 years old) she was in great shape and ready for another nesting season….as soon as those slow males show up.

Wouldn’t it be marvellous to know the routes she has taken, the places she’s seen enroute and her winter home?

Lovely yellow underwing colouration of the female Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Lovely yellow underwing colouration of the female Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

In a similar vein, we got notification from the Banding Office in Ottawa of the recovery of a couple of “our” birds:
– a Northern Saw-whet Owl (young female) that was banded at Ruthven on October 22, 2011 was recovered at Whitefish Point Lighthouse Historical Marker in northern Michigan on April, 16, 2013. Nancy is going to try to get more information on this recovery.

-a Cedar Waxwing (AHY male) that we banded on October 26, 2011 was recovered on March 17, 2012 one mile NW from Perry, Houston County, Georgia. (This is the second Cedar Waxwing that we’ve banded that has ended up in Georgia.)

It’s just so interesting to think about where these birds were between contact events.

On the banding front….other than the grosbeak….it was pretty slow – NO long-distance migrants making an appearance (although Betsy Smith, who lives 1 km downstream, dropped in to say she had a Baltimore Oriole at her place and thumb her nose). Even the overall species diversity was down: we missed “regulars” like Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, and Flicker.

Banded 31:
1 Eastern Phoebe
1 Tree Swallow
1 Black-capped Chickadee
2 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
1 American Robin
7 Chipping Sparrows
2 Field Sparrows
1 Swamp Sparrow
5 White-throated Sparrows
4 Red-winged Blackbirds
6 American Goldfinches

Retrapped: 39
1 Mournind Dove
1 Down Woodpecker
1 Black-capped Chickadee
1 Northern Cardinal
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
1 American Tree Sparrow
15 Chipping Sparrows (they have discovered there’s food in those traps)
2 Field Sparrows
7 Song Sparrows
1 Swamp Sparrow
1 White-throated Sparrow
1 Red-winged Blackbird
1 Brown-headed Cowbird
5 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 42 spp


4 thoughts on “April 29th – The Saga of #0811-42811

  1. Amazing post. I LOVE bird banding. Regarding the Grosbeak, was she carrying a good fat load because she’s going to continue to her breeding grounds? Is she just stopping by for a snack? Or do you think she breeds nearby/on site (given previous re traps)? Why would she be carrying a good fat load having just migrated? Do a lot of the long distance migrants arrive with fat? Or does it vary? I thought perhaps long distance migrants would arrive with barely a trace for the sake of efficiency?. Should I save my questions for the lab?

  2. These are my favorite types of stories from the banding station! 😀
    Rob and I always say, when the day comes to sell our house and move, we have to sell to a couple that will continue to feed the birds, because they do remember!

  3. Are our RBGRs long distance migrants? Do we know where ours overwinter? Some as far as Peru – but those aren’t ours, right?

  4. In response to your questions:
    -my sense is that older birds have more “moxy”/experience and, so, arrive in better shape. This would include some fat to buffer against the rigours of possible early bad weather and the strain of breeding and nesting. Having NO fat upon arrival may not be the best strategy.
    -given her retrap history I think she nests in the area. It is unusual at best for long distance migrants to be recaptured from one year to the next at a particular site while in transit. For her to be caught several times would be highly unlikely if she wasn’t a locally breeding bird.
    – as to where “our” grosbeaks overwinter, it’s an open question. This woiuld be a good species for geolocator studies.

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