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Sep 27, 2010

This one had me confounded

Bill Salter, a friend who lives on the Oak Ridges Moraine in King Township, sent me the above picture of a bird that crashed into one of his house windows. The bird didn't survive and as Bill prepared to dispose of it, he was puzzled about the identity of the bird and intrigued by the bright pink colouring on its underwings. I too was puzzled and intrigued and sent the picture to fellow King City resident and friend, Gerry Binsfeld. Gerry is one of Canada's best birders and cleared up the mystery for Bill and me. This bird is a 1st fall (juvenile) male, Red-breasted Grosbeak. I have certainly seen Red-breasted Grosbeaks before - but usually the adult male, with its very distinctive black and white and red colouring. I know I've seen females in the company of males, but would be hard-pressed to describe them off the top of my head. Ignoring the large, thick conical bill, its overall size, and its white face markings, I was completely baffled by the underwing colour. Gerry contacted his buddy, Mark Peck, who oversees the ornithology collection at the Royal Ontario Museum. Mark expressed an interest in having this bird (which Bill Salter had put in his freezer) and arrangements have been made to pass it on to Mark for the museum's collection. I was amazed at how a fairly common bird, when see from an uncommon perspective, could confound me so. Not the case with Gerry, though, and that explains why his bird life-list is probably ten times longer than mine, or more.
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