Friday, April 1, 2011

Baby birds are strange

Actual scientific drawing from Saunders (1956)

Very strange indeed. It seems like the random tufts of fuzz on newly hatched chicks are just for decoration. What other purpose could they serve? Warmth? It does look warm, but there's not enough of it. There are apparently names for each little patch, too. I came across a 1956 paper in the journal Bird Banding (by Aretas Saunders) that describes the fuzz from several species, and gives names to each fuzz patch. I don't necessarily see the corresponding patches on the nestling photos that I have (see below), but maybe it varies by species (the drawing is of a chipping sparrow). Maybe I should actually read the article. Here are the patches (refer to numbers on the cute yet scientific drawing above):

1. coronal      } capital
2. occipital     }  tract
3. dorsal
4. humeral
5. femoral
6. caudal
7. secondary   }  alar
8. primary       }  tract
9. crural
10. abdominal  } abdominal
11. lateral        }     tract

Here are some pics of alien nestlings from my files:

 Acadian flycatcher
eastern meadowlark

blue grosbeak

 grasshopper sparrow

field sparrow

Lit cited
Saunders, A. A. 1956. Descriptions of newly-hatched passerine birds. Bird Banding 27:121-128.

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