One of the toughest challenges a birder is likely to face out in the field is also one of the most common — identifying juvenile songbirds.
For many birds, juvenile plumage is different from any appearance later in their lives. It’s often more camouflaged than adult plumage. And songbirds generally show the plumage only for a short time. Most start to molt out of it within a few weeks of leaving the nest. No wonder it can be unfamiliar to even experienced birders.
This article by ID expert Kenn Kaufman will help. Illustrated with telling tack-sharp photos from Brian E. Small, he describes five juvenile songbirds, showing how different they can look from adults and pointing out principles and patterns you can apply to countless other species.
Kaufman was elected a Fellow of the American Ornithologists’ Union in August 2013. He’s the author of over a dozen books about birds and other wildlife. His popular column “ID Tips” is a highlight of every issue of bimonthly BirdWatching magazine.
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