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Wild teenagers identified by their strange attire

COF writes from Knifley:

Earlier this year we had Rose Breasted Grosbeaks at the feeders. Today I saw an apparition! This avian was approx 8 inches with a grosbeak type bill. The head was identical to a female being brown with prominent white streaks running over the eyes and down the neck but the body was almost that of a male grosbeak. The back was black with some white streaks and the underside was pure white with a triangular crest. However, the crest was orange, like a Robin's breast rather than the rose patch. Please tell me that this was a mutant or a species not in my "Birds of Kentucky Field Guide." The alternative is that Miz Emily is right again - I'm just a Crusty Ole Fool that gets confused entirely too easily.

--Cof at Dun Roman, high on a ridge above beautiful downtown Knifely

Dear COF: We think you're probably on the right track. We've seen a lot of juvenile birds recently that look mostly, but not quite exactly, like their parents. The family resemblance is unmistakable, even if they dress funny and wear strange colors.

According to Sibley's, during the first winter a Rose Breasted Grosbeak can have an unstreaked orange breast, similar to the Black-headed Grosbeak (and the American Robin). Since the Black-headed Grosbeak is rare in Kentucky, we think you probably got it right the first time, or spotted a hybrid.

-- Pen

This story was posted on 2007-09-25 16:11:01
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