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Photo Quiz Answers

For quite some time now, we at Birding have been endeavoring to put a human face on our fabled (and hated?) photo quizzes. Two years ago, in a post to The ABA Blog, I outlined our basic approach to photo quizzes; click here to read that old post, and to get some background on the matter.

Let’s now discuss the March 2012 Birding Photo Quiz, with answers appearing in the current (May 2012) issue. Quiz Bird A, Tom Johnson tells us, is a Bay-breasted Warbler. Quiz Bird B is a Yellow-shafted Flicker with carotenoid issues. And Quiz Bird C is a Long-tailed Jaeger.

Did you get all of them right?

I’m here to tell you that I did not. I guessed Blackpoll Warbler on Quiz Bird A, I guessed a hybrid (Yellow-shafted Flicker x Red-shafted Flicker) on Quiz Bird B, and I did in fact guess Long-tailed Jaeger on Quiz Bird C.

Something that tripped me up on Quiz Bird A was the date: October 23rd is getting quite late for Bay-breasted in New Jersey, but it’s okay for Blackpoll. We’ve all heard about the danger of relying too much on a single field mark, and, in this case, I placed too much emphasis on the “field mark” of seasonal occurrence.

12-3-13-F01 [Quiz Bird A]


As to Quiz Bird B, I blundered because I live in the eastern half of Colorado. Where I live, hybrid flickers are common. You see a flicker with characters of both parental populations, and you say “hybrid.” But there are other explanations for red-and-yellow flickers, as Tom Johnson explains in the text of the print version of the May 2012 issue.

12-3-13-F02 [Quiz Bird B]


I said I guessed right for Quiz Bird C. Emphasis more on guessed than on right. I guess (ha!) I noticed the bird’s two outermost primary shafts, along with the bold barring on the tail coverts. But, y’know, I could be talked out of this one. Several very good birders “guessed” something other than Long-tailed for this jaeger. For starters: Y’all okay with the bird’s bill?

12-3-13-F03 [Quiz Bird C]

Before we proceed (I’m almost done!), I oughtta briefly address the matter of how I got to “Baypoll” (Quiz Bird A), Northern Flicker (Quiz Bird B), and jaeger (Quiz Bird C) in the first place. In a nutshell, I did so via heuristic data processing, which may or may not sound like gobbledy gook to you. For more on heuristics, see Chip Scialfa’s excellent article in the March 2012 Birding; see also the discussion right here at The ABA Blog about the May 2012 Birding Photo Quiz.

Let me wrap up now with a question—or, rather, a suite of questions—for all of you. Did you get all of these right? If so, how’d you do it? If not, join the club; and, if you don’t mind, could you let us know where you erred? And a final question: Are sure about that jaeger? Are you positive that flicker’s not a hybrid, after all? Are you fully convinced about the “Baypoll” ID?

We’d love to hear from you!


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Ted Floyd

Ted Floyd

Editor, Birding magazine at American Birding Association
Ted Floyd is the Editor of Birding magazine, and he is broadly involved in other programs and initiatives of the ABA. He is the author of more than 100 magazine and journal articles, and has written four recent books, including an ABA title, the ABA Guide to Birds of Colorado. Floyd is a frequent speaker at birding festivals and state ornithological society meetings, and he has served on the boards of several nonprofit organizations. Mainly, he listens to birds at night.
Ted Floyd

Latest posts by Ted Floyd (see all)

  • Neither Tom nor Ted mentions the (to me, subtle but obvious) pink wash on the flanks of the Bay-breasted Warbler pictured above–which leads me to ponder aloud something I’ve noticed for a while. I have often, while birding, been confronted with a “Baypoll” that was obviously pink-washed to me, but which was not to my companion. I wonder if this is caused by an increased (or decreased) color sensitivity in the red-green range of the observer.

  • Ted Floyd

    I wonder about that, too. ~12 years ago in Birding, Jim Williams wrote about red-green sensitivity issues for birders.

    As to Michael’s first sentence, my interpretation is a bit different. In the print version of this article, Tom Johnson writes, “The flanks on this bird are relatively bland, lacking an obvious peachy or bay wash that would be a dead giveaway for Bay-breasted Warbler.” Tom also writes, “The bird lacks obvious peach or buff on the flanks[.]”

    So I would say Tom mentions that field mark, although he twice says it’s not “obvious” (Michael’s word).

    Alright, so it’s a Bay-breasted Warbler. Moving along, is everybody out there okay with the jaeger?

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