Unlike migration banding, summer banding offers us a glimpse of birds in active molt - a fairly short period in a bird's life cycle. But due to the plumage differences in male AMRE, this bird's molt was exceptionally interesting!
Male AMRE have delayed plumage maturation, meaning that HY and second-year (SY) birds look completely different than their adult counterparts. In AMRE, young males are gray with yellow accents, gaining minute black splotches by their first spring. Whereas adult males are black with orange accents. This plumage difference always makes aging adult male AMRE simple: if the bird is black and orange in spring, it's an after-second-year (ASY); if its black and orange in the fall, its an after-hatching-year (AHY). During the pre-basic molt in late summer, young males will begin replacing their gray and yellow feathers for black and orange feathers, producing the bird's definitive basic (or adult) plumage. The bird we captured today is undergoing that molt right now, showing off a very unique look during this transitional phase.