Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader John Harshman sent some photos of bird banding; his notes are indented.

On the fourth Tuesday of every month, Edgar del Valle nets and bands birds at the Oaxaca Ethnobotanical Garden. It happens we were there on one of those Tuesdays and took some pictures.

This is a dusky hummingbird Cynanthus sordidus being removed from the net. In contrast to many birds, hummingbirds seem completely resigned to their fate.

And here he is after removal:

Here’s a rufous-backed robin Turdus rufopalliatus, one of many robin species found in Mexico. And here’s a biogeography conundrum for you: why are there lots of species in the genus Turdus south of the U.S., lots of species in Europe and Asia, but only one species in the U.S. (with minor exceptions close to the southern border) and Canada?

This is a berylline hummingbird, Amazilia beryllina:

And a blue-gray gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea (finally, a bird you can find in Chicago!) calmly waiting for release:

JAC: If you’ve read this far, and appreciate the photos, please think of donating a few dollars to the Official Website Charity, Feline Friends London.

The captured birds are removed from the net, weighed and measured, given a metal leg-band with a unique number, and released. Here’s the rufous-backed robin having his band crimped around his leg.

And here he is having his wing measured and molt status assessed.

A great kiskadee Pitangus sulfuratus, a flycatcher in the process of evolving into a kingfisher, complains loudly about his treatment.

And he goes into a bag preparatory to being released.

This dusky hummingbird is being released. One odd thing about hummingbirds is that it takes them a while to decide to leave your hand, and it takes even longer if you lay them on their backs. There’s plenty of time to take a picture before they buzz off.

Bronzed cowbird Molothrus aeneus. Like its U.S. congener, it’s a nest parasite, and this is a female.

Finally, this isn’t a bird, but it’s one of my favorite species from the ethnobotanical garden. This unexciting little pod full of seeds is teosinte, Zea mays parviglumis—the ancestor of domestic corn.


  1. Posted March 20, 2019 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Nice photos! Thanks for the photo of the teosinte. I’ve always been curious about it.

    • Posted March 20, 2019 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      Yes – I’d never seen a photograph until now, just drawings. Wonder what it tastes like?

  2. Posted March 20, 2019 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Lovely pictures. That reminds me. I should ocntact my friend who went off to study/conserve Kakapos in NZ

  3. Posted March 20, 2019 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Great to see the teosinte!!

  4. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted March 20, 2019 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Interesting post!

  5. Posted March 20, 2019 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Very interesting. No idea why there is but one species of Turdus in the U.S., but the ‘usual suspect’ reason is that they have not been here very long. I know they have a very broad geographic range here.

    • John Harshman
      Posted March 20, 2019 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      But if they haven’t been here very long, why are there so many in Latin America? Presumably the genus originated in the Old World and passed into the New World through North America.

      Should I say that I don’t have an answer either? It’s a mystery to me.

      • rickflick
        Posted March 20, 2019 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

        I think a current theory is that modern song birds originated from South America. Not sure of the dates, but maybe 50 mya. The robin is in the thrush family which has a number of representatives in North America. I think the European robin is not closely related to the American robin.

  6. rickflick
    Posted March 20, 2019 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    These are beautiful birds. Bird banding is an essential method of tracking bird migration. I feel like rolling up my sleeves and lending a hand.

  7. Mark R.
    Posted March 20, 2019 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Nice to see so many North American relatives and migratory birds in Oaxaca.

    I wonder how long it would take to domesticate teosinte into the corn/maize we consume.

  8. Wayne Y Hoskisson
    Posted March 20, 2019 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Great photos. I am surprised that some birds can be calm when handled.

    I have tried several times to contribute to Feline Friends of London. Each time the payment page says the payment cannot be processed. I have emailed my credit card company and they have responded that I should be able to make a payment in England. I emailed them again after another attempt. If they cannot figure out what the problem is I will try another card.

  9. Posted March 20, 2019 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful birds! The hummingbirds are so tiny and poignant in a human hand.

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