[Tweeters] Tailess Towhees

Gary Bletsch garybletsch at yahoo.com
Tue Apr 12 12:18:53 PDT 2022

Dear Greg,
Interestingly enough, the only record of a tailless SPTO in my personal database is one that I saw on 12 April 2007 on Orcas Island, exactly fifteen years ago today.
Other tailless passerines that I have noted include the ones listed below.
Song Sparrow, 25 August 2003, 1 April 2010, 6 July 2021;
Red-winged Blackbird, 27 August 2008;
White-crowned Sparrow, 19 August 2011, 9 August 2012;
Golden-crowned Sparrow, 11 October 2011;
Swainson's Thrush, 8 August 1993;
Black-capped Chickadee, 12 February 2020.

That seems like a small set of data from which to draw conclusions, but it is interesting that, out of ten records, two were from April and five from August.
I could probably find more of these records, but my database includes so many comments regarding cattails, white-tailed deer, long-tailed weasels, cottontail rabbits, and such like, that I am disinclined to go through the entire list!

All of these were adult birds; I have excluded fledglings and juveniles that had short tails, because sometimes those young birds simply have not yet grown a full tail yet.
I have always suspected that most small passerines missing tail feathers were lucky individuals that had escaped from attacks by raptors or "outdoor cats."
Yours truly,
Gary Bletsch

On Tuesday, April 12, 2022, 11:42:47 AM PDT, Greg Pluth <gjpluth at gmail.com> wrote:

Tweets -Over the last few days I've been noticing a male Spotted Towhee with absolutely no tail feathers. I have seen this several times with towhees only over the years. I'm not sure if they were all at this time in the spring. Though I've never heard other birders (or anyone for that matter) discussing it, I'm nearly positive I can't be the only one to have observed it. I also have not seen tailess birds subsequently sprouting new stubby tail feathers. I have conjectured to myself that there may be a cat somewhere with a mouthful of tail feathers, and I can't imagine an April Towhee molting out all tail feathers at once.

Anyone out there knowledgeable on the subject? I'd be interested to know!
Greg PluthUniversity Place

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Tweeters at u.washington.edu

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