Alas, poor little bird! We did not know it well at all.
October 5, 2011 1:27 PM   Subscribe

Identify this dead bird, please! It is a wee, greenish-yellow little thing that we assumed was a female goldfinch, but on closer inspection, maybe isn't?

So we found this bird today that appeared to have had an unfortunate run in with a brick wall. We are not expert birdspeople in the slightest, so because it was yellowish, we immediately thought it was a goldfinch, as that is the only yellow bird we're familiar with in the wild. But in our Googling to confirm, the color and pattern on this little bird don't seem to match. Plus, the beak seems a bit slender and not quite right for a finch.

More pictures (please forgive the time-traveling camera stamp):
Other side view
Coloring on the top

Details: 2.5-3 inches from head to tail (not including the length of the tail feathers). Forgot to take pictures of the belly, but it is yellow around the neck and becomes white from the chest on down. Location: central Illinois, in town (not rural).
posted by hegemone to Science & Nature (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
First guess is Tennessee Warbler in fall plumage
posted by mcstayinskool at 1:44 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

FWIW, the bird version of "fontfinder" is giving lots of warbler results.
posted by rhizome at 1:47 PM on October 5, 2011

Here's a good pic of a Fall plumage Tennessee Warbler for comparsion. Looks like a reasonable match, but interested in what other bird nerds think.

Oddly enough, I've had one bird hit my house fatally since living here (Minneapolis). It was a Tennessee Warbler.
posted by mcstayinskool at 1:49 PM on October 5, 2011

I think this is one of those confusing fall warblers they tell us so much about in birding school. My best guess is you have a warbler, possibly an immature one. Tennessee Warbler looks likely. I was also thinking Yellow Warbler [would have chestnut streaks and yellow tail posts] or an immature Magnolia Warbler or a female Yellowthroat as other possibilities.
posted by jessamyn at 1:53 PM on October 5, 2011

I had a similar bird strike my window a couple years ago. I did some looking and it was probably a Tennessee Warbler, like mcstayinskool said. That was the only time I've ever seen one.

There are other 'warblers' than the Tennessee that were very difficult to tell apart using the pictures on the internet.

Do you have a marshy area or a creek nearby? that is their preferred habitat, but they might be migrating now.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 1:54 PM on October 5, 2011

I also popped in here to say it's a warbler, although I'm afraid I can be no more specific than that with this plumage. (Get back to me when a male in his breeding plumage hits your window!)

These warblers, they are tricky. I'll try to look at the juvenile/female/seasonal plumages in my Sibley guide tomorrow (it's in the office) and see if I can get a better idea.
posted by pemberkins at 4:36 PM on October 5, 2011

Are there any crossbills that look like warblers? Because its mandibles really look like they're crossing at their tips.
posted by Specklet at 5:10 PM on October 5, 2011

Possibly a fall plumage Orange-Crowned Warbler. The eye stripe and greenish tinge tells me so.
posted by wowbobwow at 5:30 PM on October 5, 2011

Some other images of OCWAs.
posted by wowbobwow at 5:32 PM on October 5, 2011

Are there any crossbills that look like warblers?

Not that I know of. Crossbills are in the finch family, and would have thicker beaks. I think this poor guy just mashed his beak when he hit a wall.
posted by pemberkins at 6:22 PM on October 5, 2011

Response by poster: Ok, wow, I had no idea warblers were so diverse. The Tennessee and Orange-Crowned look like pretty good guesses. Regarding the crossing at the beak, we were guessing it was the point of impact, as there was some blood around it.

So, in a weird coincidence, this afternoon we spotted another very similar dead bird on the opposite side of the building we noticed the first. It was being pretty well worked over by maggots but it had very similar coloring, except the yellow under the neck was somewhat more golden, rather than the slightly green tinge the one in the pictures.

As far as marshes or creeks go, there's a creek about 2 miles one way and a river 2 miles the other way, so perhaps they were on the move?
posted by hegemone at 6:57 PM on October 5, 2011

Could it possibly be a vireo? None of the shots give you an idea of how long the tail is compared to the body, but it's a possibility.
posted by Gilbert at 9:46 PM on October 5, 2011

Okay, I've flipped through my Sibley guide, and I'll toss another tentative vote at Tennessee warbler.

Here's why I say that. Your bird looks to have whitish undertail coverts (see this pic: the yellow patch is what I mean by undertail coverts). The other warblers that seemed reasonable matches to me (Orange-Crowned, Yellow*, juvenile Mourning, juvenile Yellowthroat) are yellower there, while yours seems to be whitish there. Admittedly, it's a little hard to see in the pictures.

Other things that match (female) plumage in the Tennessee:

-The wing bars should be narrow and pale on a Tennessee warbler; these look right. (Here's a more obvious example of white wing bars on a different species.)
-The greyish eye-stripe is right.
-The pale yellow "eyebrow" (supercilium) over the eyestripe is right.

So that's my line of reasoning, for what it's worth.

*Some first-year Yellows have whitish undertail coverts, but those are drab grey all over.
posted by pemberkins at 6:06 AM on October 6, 2011

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