Saturday, March 18, 2006

The White-tailed Chickadee

A new species? I first noticed this chickadee in a flock of normally tailed birds a couple of days ago. Chickadees are so fast, and so not likely to linger on the feeders it's not easy to get a picture of a particular flock member. But I got a couple that give at least an impression of the tail.


Unexpected white feathers is a common phenomenon among birds apparently. A post at B and B describes A freaky chipping sparrow. And Troutgrrrl at Science and Sarcasm wrote about a white-tailed mourning dove visiting her yard. I myself have seen a house sparrow with patches of white on the wings where none should be.

A slightly different view

Something else to take into account when identifying birds. Mike of 10,000 Birds has a series, Bergin's Laws of Avian Identification that is well worth taking a look at. His law number #4, "Common birds are easier to identify than rare birds," is pertinent here. Know your common birds well, don't take them for granted, and you'll have a better chance of not getting tripped up by one with an odd patch of white or two. (B and B's freaky chipping sparrow was much whiter than that--that was a true feat of identification!)

I read something about this white feather business just in the last week or so, suggesting that there are a number of possible causes. One is diet, and in those cases the phenomenon might well disappear at the next molt. Unfortunately I can't remember where I read it--but if it comes back to me I'll add the reference.

11 comments:

John said...

That is one interesting-looking bird.

TroutGrrrl said...

Whoa! Quick work on the camera there Pamela. Great job.

I've not been able to find my white-tailed MoDo friend again darn it.

pablo said...

I've read about -- but not seen myself -- crows with white feathers. Apparently it is not uncommon. I'd love to see a pied crow someday.

Pamela Martin said...

Thanks for the comments. I was lucky that the bird hung around for a few days giving me a chance to get a picture. I haven't seen it since.

I've never seen a crow with white on it either--that would be interesting.

Mike said...

I'm really glad to hear you're enjoying my Avian ID series, Pamela!

On the subject of aberrant plumage, tony g wrote an awesome post on leucistic and albino birds, a resource I am pleased to say appeared in the very first issue of I and the Bird!

bev said...

Pamela - in November and December, we had a Chickadee with a white crescent on the back of its head, coming to the feeders. This is a shot of it - not a great view because of the angle, but enough to see the mark.

Trix said...

Interesting! Last summer I was fascinated by a bald Blue Jay who hung about the feeder for a few days.

Pamela Martin said...

Hey Mike, thanks for the link-that is an interesting overview.

And Bev, thanks for yours. Real life birds, confounding expectations. It's great!

Trix, I remember your bald bluejay (Pretty, he's not.). I think maybe this blog business is the basis of a new age for the amateur naturalist--swopping observations of the commonplace and the anomalies across regions, continents and the world. It will be interesting to see how it develops.

David Ericson said...

Just a quick follow-up: I noticeda white-tailed chickadee in my back yard, in western Connecticut, this morning (March 29, 2010). Came to computer to see if I could get help identifying what I, too, thought might be a variant of the species.

Neil said...

I have had a white tail chickadee show up the past two winter seasons. Middle Tennessee.

Anonymous said...

I have had a white tailed chickadee show up at my feeder just yesterday and then again this morning.

Couldn't get a picture, too fast for me.

Tracey
White Rock, British Columbia