The story starts like this: on January 27th, 2013, ornithologists at Old Dominion University
were conducting their usual banding
session at the Virginia Zoo. Capturing birds in near-invisible mist nets draped about the station, the group encountered an unexpected bird that had all the drab 'oliveness', wing bars, flat bill, and body structure unique to the genus Empidonax
. Still, the team could not give it a leg-band. To band a bird, one needs to have identified its species, but this drab bird with worn plumage, representing a genus whose plumages are often not distinguishable even when fresh, had to go without.
Remarkably, the bird was caught again in the same location nearly a month later, on February 23rd. Given the time of year, the bird was beginning to molt. While being removed from the mist net, the bird shed four tail feathers — an opportunity.
It was time to figure out what this out-of-place bird was.