February 1, 2019
| Chickadee With Deformed Beak by Ann Walsh |
For the third season in a row, Cornell Lab and our sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited are rewarding registered FeederWatchers with BirdSpotter prizes. After entering bird counts (aka data) into the FeederWatch website, participants have the opportunity to share a story, memory, or tip. Our third Data Entry contest prompt was:
Regularly watching your feeder area gives you a greater chance at witnessing an incredible event! Tell us about a memorable moment that occurred at or near your feeders.
Congratulations to our randomly selected winner, Ann Walsh! Ann wrote about an unusual Black-capped
Chickadee that came to her feeders one day:
I was very concerned with a chickadee I saw the other day. At first I thought there was something lodged in his beak that he was trying to remove, but he came closer and I was able to see him better. His beak was quite deformed. I have not seen him since although I am watching for him. He was able to pick up food, and obviously this deformity did not happen overnight, so I hope he is a survivor!
Though it seems like it would be a pretty big obstacle for this bird, Ann happily reports that the chickadee was able to eat, and, because it was seen in winter, that means it has successfully survived many months since fledging (perhaps years!). Birds with odd looking bills have been seen by other FeederWatchers too. In the early 2000s, Project FeederWatch collected 215 reports of bill deformities; Black-capped Chickadees were reported most frequently, making up 30% of the reports. In 2016, a team of USGS researchers identified a novel virus that has been linked to deformed bills, otherwise known as Avian Keratin Disorder. You can learn more about their research and view a gallery of Unusual Bird photos on our website. If you see a bird with a beak deformity, report it to the USGS researchers in Alaska!
Thanks to everyone who participated and shared their stories! Participants can still submit their story to our latest prompt. Enter to win on the Count Summary page that appears after you submit your next FeederWatch count online at FeederWatch.org. Interested in becoming a FeederWatcher? Join the fun and you could win great prizes!