Fledged Nest

When we check nests after giving the appropriate amount of time for the nestlings to fledge, I love seeing this:


Fledged Tree Swallow nest

It looks and smells terrible, being so full of poo, but this is actually a good sign. A poo-filled box shows that the nestlings have successfully fledged out of their nest. The parent birds stop cleaning up after their babies when it gets closer to the time for them to fledge, creating the build up of poo. If there was a nest with not much poo after the nestlings should have fledged, that would more likely indicate a depredated nest. I’m always happy to see poo-filled nests because that means the babies have made it out to the big world!

We have finished cleaning out most of the nestboxes now. There are just a few left but those currently have chicks on the verge of fledging.

Last nestlings of the season

We have reached the end of nestbox season as we have banded the final box – a nice clutch of 3 Western Bluebirds.


Now it’s just time to wait for the last chicks to fledge and clean out all the boxes.

The boxes will remain up year-round. Wintering birds may use them to roost, and then we’ll start checking them again in mid-March when breeding season comes again.

Last Tree Swallows of the season

These are the last 3 Tree Swallows of this season. They are nice and fat and healthy. Their parents are doing a fantastic job.


Tree Swallow chicks

And here are some photos of some Ash-throated Flycatcher chicks from this morning.


Ash-throated Flycatcher chick


Ash-throated Flycatcher chicks

Now there are 3 boxes of birds left to band, which we’ll do early next week.

Photos of the week

Here are some photos from banding the past week.


Grumpy Western Bluebird chick


Western Bluebird chick

We caught a Tree Swallow mama with food! She was about to feed her chicks. You can see she has some bugs. This is a picture Kristen took:


Captured TRES adult

And these are some of her chicks:


Tree Swallow chicks



Tree Swallow chick

Banding Walkthrough

This post will be showing how we band and measure the birds. This example will involve a nest of Tree Swallow nestlings.
After bringing the box down, we pull out nestlings one by one, holding them over the ground to poop (they tend to poop from being stimulating by touch, this is how the parents make them poop so they can clean it out), then we put them in a cloth bag so they stay in one place.


Tree Swallow nestlings in a bag

Here is our banding and measuring kit, with the bands (in the capsules), banding pliers, wing ruler, and caliper. Different species have different sized bands. For our Tree Swallows here, we use size 1.


Banding and measuring kit

We take the next band off the string inside the capsule, and place it on the right leg of the nestling. After the band goes on the leg, we spin it around to make sure the band is not stuck on the leg and is placed on properly. Here is my lovely assistant Kristen banding this Tree Swallow:


Banding Tree Swallow

Here is another picture of her banding a Tree Swallow (from different box, but different angle).


Banding Tree Swallow

With the nestlings, it doesn’t matter what order we do this all in, but with adult birds it is important to band first in case he manages to escape and fly off. Banding first also helps avoid confusion on which bird is what if there are multiple birds being measured at the same time. After banding, we take measurements.

A very standard bird measurement is the wing chord. Here is Kristen measuring the bird’s right wing chord.


Measuring wing

With the same ruler, we measure the tail length by sticking it up the middle of the tail until it hits the butt.


Measuring tail length

With the calipers, we measure the nares-to-tip (from the nostril to the tip of the bill), the skull (base of skull to tip of the bill), and tarsus.


Measuring nares-to-tip


Measuring skull


Measuring tarsus


Kristen reading off the calipers

The funnest, but also trickiest, measurement is the fat score. We basically see how fat the nestling is. We have a scale from 0-7 that determines how fat they are. We blow on their bellies to move the feathers aside and look for fat around their clavicle.


Checking out the fat score

And of course, we also weigh them. We put them in a cup on the scale. We have a little cloth bag in the cup as well to help the nestlings stay calm, since they like to grab onto things. Without the bag, they may frantically move their legs, trying to grip on something and won’t hold still.


Weighing the Tree Swallow

After that, we put them back in their nest and put the box back up so the parents can resume feeding them. 🙂


Tree Swallow nestlings



Updates along the creek

Been busy with lots of banding this week!  Here are a few of the photos:


Western Bluebird nestling


Tree Swallow nestling with a bit of a mohawk


TRES nestling


ATFL nestling


TRES nestlings


Handsome male Western Bluebird keeping an eye on us


He is banded! Check out those color bands!

We still have a few nests trickling behind to band later, and the field season will be ending soon after that.

Here’s one of the nests with young chicks!


TRES chicks