IM­POR­TANCE OF AGE­ING AND SEASONALITY

Bird Watching (UK) - - Go Birding -

The Q&A let­ters sent to Bird Watch­ing of­ten fea­ture some of our com­mon­est birds, but in a slightly ‘dif­fer­ent’ plumage. For in­stance, one of the most fre­quent ‘prob­lem birds’ is the ju­ve­nile Star­ling, which is plain grey-brown with a pale throat and dark lores. It is il­lus­trated in most feild guides, but may not stand out on the page like the fa­mil­iar, eas­ily-skippe­dover adult Star­ling. Sim­i­larly, herons in the ‘wrong’ plumage can throw the un­wary birder. Even egrets, which we tend to think of as all white, can vary with age and sea­son. Breed­ing plumage Cat­tle Egrets have much more yel­low-orange in their plumage and the bill and lores change from yel­low to pinky-red. Sim­i­larly, the Great White Egret (see pho­tos above), which is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly fa­mil­iar as a Bri­tish bird, is well known for its long yel­low, dag­ger-like bill. But in breed­ing ‘plumage’ the bill be­comes dark, look­ing like a huge Lit­tle Egret. Grey Herons are much greyer as ju­ve­niles, Pur­ple Herons, much browner. And only fully adult Night Herons (scarce vis­i­tors to the UK) have the black crown, blue-black back and clean grey wings. Study field­guides and look at pho­tos on­line to get fully fa­mil­iar with the less ob­vi­ous plumages of herons. This is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant when look­ing at a bird which may be rare; es­pe­cially as wan­der­ers are of­ten younger birds.

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