My life is about living with nature – here you can live it with me!

My backyard or is it their backyard?

Ever wonder about your neighbors that don’t speak any English? I have tried pishing (strange noise birders make to get the birds to come closer) those chickadees and I found that they only pish right back at me! Yesterday Young Naturalist J and I tried to learn about these seed hungry neighbors by doing some backyard banding. We were able to recapture 7 Black-capped Chickadees and 1 Slate-colored Junco.

Black-capped Chickadee
Black-capped Chickadee

I was ecstatic to learn that 3 of these Chickadees were first banded in my backyard in 2004 (over 38 months ago!). But, what was really cool was that Chickadee xx226 has been recaptured six other times before yesterdays encounter and was also my “very first” Chickadee that I had banded at my house (29 Aug 2004). Over the years we learned that xx226 was a female and born sometime in 2003 or earlier (making her 4 years old or older)! The other two 2004 recaptures were banded as hatch year birds (born that year and 3 years old) and they have also been regularly recaptured numerous times (xx251 six times, and xx232 nine times).

Black-capped Chickadee at the feeder

We had 3 other Chickadees who were originally banded in December of 2005 (about 23 months ago). Two were adults when I had first banded them and they could have been born in 2004 or earlier (making these Chickadees 3 years old or older). The other individual was known to have been born in 2005 (2 years old) and was very nippy (nipped at J numerous times!). The last Chickadee was first banded back on the 31st of March 2007 (hung around for the summer) before we recaptured it again!

Dark-eyed Junco
Dark-eyed Junco

Unlike my year-round Black-capped Chickadees who regularly visit my feeders . . . . the Slate-colored Junco (or Dark-eyed Junco) was known by James Audubon as a Snowbird!!! Here in Western New York we call Snowbirds those older folks (humans) that go to Florida for the winter . . . . because they “in a way” migrate south! This individual Slate-colored Junco (photo above) was lucky not eaten by that Cooper’s Hawk and we learned that he was first banded by me on 11 December 2005 as a hatch year bird. That means that this bird who was born in 2005 migrated to my house its first year of life, returned to their breeding grounds, etc.. and two years later returned to my house again!!

It is soo amazing what we can learn from these banded birds and I feel good reuniting with my non-English neighbors!

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26 responses

  1. How interesting to track these birds by age and movement. They know a good backyard for sure!

    12 November 2007 at 9:42 pm

  2. did you make the feeders? great pictures of the birds. ~nita~

    12 November 2007 at 9:45 pm

  3. NaturesPalette

    How I wish I had your life. Just to be able to touch these beautiful birds and get so close. You get some really great shots, what camera do you use?

    12 November 2007 at 11:20 pm

  4. @ Ruth – Thanks and love seeing them!
    @ Nita – sorry, didn’t make them! Thanks for your kind words!
    @ NaturesP – Thanks and you should look for a bander near where you live! I was using my Sony Cybershot Point and Shoot to take these shots!

    12 November 2007 at 11:20 pm

  5. Do you report to eBird (run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology,) at all? If you don’t, already, you might want to consider it;

    13 November 2007 at 1:10 am

  6. What interesting information. Tom, would you consider doing a video post on phishing? Like a tutorial? It could be helpful.

    13 November 2007 at 1:57 am

  7. Wow, so neat that so many of those cute chickadee-dee-dees are return visitors and have been around for that long. I’ve not seen the black capped, only the Carolina here. What a fun day in your own backyard!

    13 November 2007 at 6:56 am

  8. It’s kind of funny for me (here in Alabama) to think of your place as “south”! Some of the juncos keep on going and end up here… I wonder how they decide!

    13 November 2007 at 7:33 am

  9. Lisa at Greenbow

    I am glad to know that some of your birds banded are repeats from years past. I like to think that some of our birds that migrate here for winter are returning friends. I have often wished I could band them to find out if they are repeat visitors.

    13 November 2007 at 7:42 am

  10. I would think that recapturing birds you’ve had before would be especially satisfying. Nice to know they’re still alive and doing well!
    Remarkable, when you think about it, that they’ve survived all the dangers out there.

    13 November 2007 at 8:36 am

  11. Chickadees are my very favorites. I was pretty sure that some of ours were around for years at a time, judging by their tameness and behavior….guess it is actually possible that they are.

    13 November 2007 at 8:55 am

  12. Very cool! I love that you can actually learn the history of your backyard birds.

    13 November 2007 at 9:46 am

  13. Yolanda in Saskatoon

    I once called a chickadee in close. I was standing in the corner of house and small porch, by a tree. The bird feeder in front of me. I was sheltered more or less on all sides but not exactly hiding. I kept whistling the chickadee territory song. A little fellow started whistling back and zeroed in on his intruder, me. He didn’t see me as he came closer and closer, then hopped onto the other side of the feeder. One more back-and-forth of whistling and he popped around the near side of the feeder, not 6″ from my giant human face! Oh the astonishment and shock was written in every line of every feather on his dear little body! He flapped and stepped back a little, taken aback by the sight of this great monster at whom he’d been whistling. So sure he’d found a rival, then this terrible visage confronting his tiny soul! With a little whistle of fear he leapt into the air and was gone!
    Such a dear memory for me!

    13 November 2007 at 10:08 am

  14. How great that they come back or stay for years in one area. Do you remove the old bands and add new ones or do you band the other leg? I’m sure there is a national database you report all this too but if we non-bird-banding people were to come across a banded bird, can we access the database to see its history or report it if it had been killed etc?

    13 November 2007 at 10:43 am

  15. It is incredibly interesting to know that some of those chickadees have been around for so many years. They must have great survival skills and a good supply of food. I have sensed that the birds in our yard are multi-generational and have been coming for years, but without banding I can only guess that they are old friends back for some delicious seeds. Banding really does add some great and interesting information.

    13 November 2007 at 11:14 am

  16. @ Lana – I use to do eBird until they did the upgrade and now my computer doesn’t run their program, so I am behind in updated a few years of my stuff! So, I have everything from my notebooks from 1997-2005 in eBird! until they make it so I can get onto their site again (too fancy of a site) I will wait to update it!
    @ Trixie – will work on that and would have been fun to do with Young Naturalist J this weekend! It will not be right away but will work on something, I promise!
    @ Jayne – Those are just the ones that I caught, I have a few other regulars that I normally catch that we didn’t catch in those few hours of banding! Always fun in the yard! Thanks
    @ Rurality – LOL, everywere is south for some species! does make me wonder what makes them decide how far to go!! Great question but unable to answer!
    @ Lisa – I am more than sure that some of your visitors are repeat visitors!
    @ Nina – it is very satisfying for sure! I do have many that I band that I never hear from again! I only hope in the future they do return!
    @ Threecollie – They are faves until you handle one! They are little pain in the “butts”. Don’t let them fool you!
    @ Liz – we are learning science and glad that I can share that info with everyone! What is even more fun is seeing how their weight, etc.. changes throughout the years!
    @ Yolanda – what a great experience and love hearing about your memory! thanks!
    @ Erie – Do love having them around! No, once they are issued a band, they keep that band and we only record their data! On very rare occasion for different reasons will we remove a band! There is a data base you can report your bird at this address!
    @ robin – it is great learning so much about them and I love learning so much about them! Thanks!

    13 November 2007 at 3:35 pm

  17. Hey Mon@rch, those are amazing statistics about your banded birds–especially the junco who flies far north in the summer and still comes back to your yard in winter. I’m glad you keep the records and shared this interesting information with us.

    13 November 2007 at 4:29 pm

  18. Chickadees – my absolute favorite. Fun info on their recaptures!

    13 November 2007 at 7:51 pm

  19. Grace

    Occasionally individuals have identifying marks, so that you don’t need a band number to be sure it’s the same bird. Examples are the bird you blogged about recently with the crossed beak, and the Grackle with the white feathers that has returned to the picnic area for several springs.

    13 November 2007 at 10:51 pm

  20. @ Ruthie – thanks and glad I was able to share this info with you! I keep on talking about how important it is to band, maybe this helps show some of the reasons why?
    @ Zen – they are cute for sure! Thanks
    @ Grace – we have had a few individuals like that also! And I wonder if the Grackle will return?

    14 November 2007 at 7:07 am

  21. OH what a FIND! Your blog is totally FABULOUS! Can’t wait to look around some more…. ((((HUGS))))) sandi

    14 November 2007 at 1:43 pm

  22. titus2woman – Thanks and so glad you found me! Don’t be a stranger and feel free to comment! I plan on visiting your site also!

    14 November 2007 at 9:44 pm

  23. I guess they don’t hold a grudge on you for banding them!

    15 November 2007 at 1:40 am

  24. I’m late but I’m here! Those chickadees are feisty enough to live long lives. I wonder if 4 years is young or old in bird life? Marvelous photos. Your one of the junco shows just how beautiful they are…

    16 November 2007 at 9:13 am

  25. @ Larry – well I can promise that I will not be feeding them by my hands anytime soon! LOL!
    @ Mary – So glad to see you back again! We missed you! I wonder like dog years how old this bird would be? Thanks

    16 November 2007 at 11:04 am

  26. Marg

    Oh I missed this one-how neat to see all those recaps! I’m printing this one out 😀

    And yes I think it’s their backyard

    16 November 2007 at 12:43 pm

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