What a beauty – no wonder all the males are hanging around!
I wasn’t expecting much today – just more slogging over the countryside looking for nesting birds. But since I’d seen Coquette around the bait yesterday I put the trap out early just for the hell of it. What a woman! She didn’t disappoint. Half an hour later she was in it looking to enhance her already good looks with some bling.
She proved to be an “older bird” – referred to as “After Second Year” or simply ASY. In these birds (and a lot of passerines) it is possible to tell whether the bird is in its second year of life or is older than that. In female Snow Buntings you take a look at the amount of white in the greater secondary coverts. If there’s a lot of white then it’s ASY; if not so much it’s SY. (And if there’s overlap or you’re not sure then you call it an “After Hatch Year” -AHY – bird: after December 31st it has to be in the year after hatching….
The fact that she was older says that she knows how to survive – how to find food, navigate to and from the wintering ground successfully, and avoid predators. And it showed: she weighed over 36 grams (the females we catch in the Winter in southern Ontario are usually in the low 30’s) and she had a fat score of 2 (out of a possible 7) -enough to survive a couple of days of bad weather without jeopardizing egg production. This bird is a survivor…which is great because there’s a good chance that she will return next year and the geolocator will tell us where she spent the Winter and what routes she took going there and back. How exciting will that be!?