How to mark Life Stage annotation for "First Winter" birds

Some bird species do not achieve their adult plumage for years. I’m not sure how to mark the Life Stage annotation - adult or juvenile?

Example for White-crowned Sparrows I photographed a few days ago:

First winter - Stripes on head are brown, not black as in adult. The bill is a darker orange pink. The auriculars are pale. (all from Sibley app)

Adult - This is an adult photographed on the same trip.

Since some birds do have their full adult plumage by their first winter, they will likely be given an Adult annotation. This bird is the same age, but just hasn’t developed adult plumage yet, so is recognized as a youngster…

What do other annotators do in this situation?


An “immature” option has been requested for birds but has not been implemented (discussion here: Let’s Talk Annotations).

Barring the addition of that option, “juvenile” is the most appropriate term in my opinion. Though many observers choose to leave annotations blank when the ideal terminology is not an option.


Just to clarify, these two individuals are not the same age. The first link is a Second-Year bird (it was born in Spring/Summer 2022, so is in its second calendar year of life and holds a formative plumage). The second link is an After Second-Year bird (meaning it was born in Spring/Summer 2021 or earlier and holds definitive adult plumage).

1 Like

Any non-maturely plumaged bird is a juvenile in iNat terms.


The way I interpreted this was the OP was not claiming the individuals in the two observations were the same age. They were saying that a hypothetical individual of a species that molts directly into their definitive (adult) plumage during their post-juvenile molt (e.g., Horned Lark) would be annotated as an adult in their first winter, while species that have a distinct, post-juvenile but pre-definitive (immature) plumage (e.g., White-crowned Sparrow) would be a “youngster” despite the two birds being the same age.


Thank you for the clarification, but I am not sure I understand. I thought I did point out that they are different ages. It seems as if you are saying the same thing I did. I called the first bird a First Winter bird and the second an adult based on plumage.

1 Like

Exactly! Thank you for explaining. I don’t have the experience or knowledge to express my thoughts in the way that you did. You are an excellent interpreter of informal Citizen gibberish to formal Scientific language.

1 Like

Thank you. That does make annotations easier, just not as descriptive for the birds that take more time to molt into their adult plumage.

One option is to use an observation field rather than an annotation. Bird Plumage allows you to distinguish between four categories: natal, juvenile, subadult (immature), basic (adult non-breeding), and alternate (breeding) plumages.


This topic was automatically closed 60 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.