Alaskan birds at risk: Widespread beak deformities in resident species




The team creeps silently across a well-tended lawn, eyes drawn to a small wooden box perched several meters up a lone birch tree. The first biologist is armed with a broom in one hand and a bug net in the other. Her partner wields a lunchbox-sized plastic case and a tree-climbing ladder that looks like an oversized radio antenna. A neighbor peers out her window from across the street to watch the unusual spectacle.

A small black-and-white bird zips toward the box’s tiny, round opening and both women raise binoculars to their eyes in synchrony. A specific combination of metal and colored plastic bands on the bird’s legs identify this Black-capped Chickadee, which was banded two years earlier as a nestling. “It’s the female,” Colleen Handel whispers, and Lisa Pajot nods as they duck behind the cover of a large spruce tree. The bird - named “Red-white-red”, in reference to her color bands - appeared healthy in the nest as well as the following winter, when she was caught in a mist net set up nearby. The next summer, however, “Red-white-red” appeared at a residential nest box with a severely deformed beak. The overgrowth worsened, and, now, the upper mandible curves down and back toward her breast, while the lower extends up, crossing the upper at a nearly 90-degree angle. The effect is sobering. Even from a distance, this teacup-sized bird carries a conspicuous appendage that more closely resembles a pair of mangled scissors than any recognizable seed-cracking beak.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Alaskan birds at risk: Widespread beak deformities in resident species
Series title Birding
Volume 39
Issue 5
Year Published 2007
Language English
Publisher American Birding Association
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center
Description 8 p.
First page 48
Last page 55
Country United States
State Alaska
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional metadata about this publication, not found in other parts of the page is in this table