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Birding Photo Quiz: Let’s Work It Out Together (Part 1 of 2)

Here is the first of two quiz photos appearing on p. 72 of the November 2012 issue of Birding magazine:

12-6-17-01 [sandpipers]

Here are some hints:

First, a biggie. The photo is from Cape May, New Jersey. The photo was taken in September.

The second hint is that there appear to be 13 birds in the photo. Let’s number them like this:

Top row, left to right (i.e., front to rear): Birds 1, 2, and 3.
Second row: Bird 4.
Third row, left to right: Birds 5 and 6.
Fourth row, left to right: Birds 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12.
Bottom row: Bird 13.

What do you think they are? Please enter your comments and join the conversation below.



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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)

  • Reuven

    I’d say all Lesser Yellowlegs except bird 8 (Pectoral Sandpiper) and 12 (Stilt Sandpiper)

  • Ethel Griffies

    Will this be like previous quizzes in that the answers will never get posted online?

  • Ted Floyd

    Hi, Reuven. Could you tell us what led you to those IDs?

  • Ted Floyd

    The answers were, in fact, posted online. Here:

    But what’s so fun about answers? The best part is working it out together.


  • Ted Floyd

    I ought to point out, too, that the answers will appear in the January 2013 Birding.

  • Ted Floyd

    Given that we’re in Cape May, New Jersey, USA, a flock of 13 Gray-tailed Tattlers seems unlikely.

    But let’s take seriously what Stephen Siaw is saying. Check out these photos of Gray-tailed Tattlers in flight:

    Hmm… Not so dissimilar from, well, yellowlegses… Recently, the tattlers were placed in the same genus as the yellowlegses.

    Gray-tailed Tattler is a Tringa, it’s the same size as Lesser Yellowlegs, it’s got yellow legs, and nonbreeding adults are plain grayish overall–just like Lesser Yellowlegs.

    So, seriously, y’all, why aren’t these Gray-tailed Tattlers?

    Thanks, Stephen, for reminding us that anybody can put a name on a bird, but that only good birders can explain why a bird is such-and-such a species.

  • David Rankin

    Let me start out by admitting that I hate explaining my ID, because it makes me put into words when I instinctively see, which is so much harder than just saying what I know it is. But it’s a great skill, and it really helps you see and ID things better, and taking a closer look at a bird sometimes shows you it’s not what you first knew it to be…

    Reuven said…
    “I’d say all Lesser Yellowlegs except bird 8 (Pectoral Sandpiper) and 12 (Stilt Sandpiper)”

    I agree with the above statement, with the possible exception of number 10. Focusing on the 10 birds that look the same, we have a flock of sandpipers with medium sized bills, longish thin wings. The bills size and long, projecting feet puts us in mind of tringa sandpipers. Focusing on the species likely to be in Cape May in Spetember narrows it down. The underwing pattern, rather vague and speckly, is good for greater yellowlegs, and the bills looks large enough to be greater yellowlegs. The bills are too short to be dowitchers, godwits, curlews or stilts/avocets, and the birds appear too large to be peeps, too thin to be pluvalis plovers, too big to be the other plovers, and lack the underwing pattern of solitary or stilt sandpiper or willet. Bird number 8 is smaller, with a defined brownish chest, sharply demarcated with the white breast. This pattern, and the underwing pattern, along with the size and smaller bill, are perfect for pectoral sandpiper. Bird number 10 is a bit smaller than the yellowlegs, with shorter wings, a bit more defined pattern, a noticeable supercillium and a longer, slightly curved bill. All these features point towards stilt sandpiper.

    Now for bird number 10. I can’t see where the bill ends, and when I try to click on the picture to enlarge it I get an angry error message, but it looks to be a bit longer than the others. The wingshape is equally hard to judge, but it appears to have smaller wings, and the pattern doesn’t quite fit for yellowlegs. I suspect this is another stilt sandpiper.

  • Ted Floyd

    What do the rest of you think about Bird #10?

  • Not sure but I think I am seeing the same ID marks on 10 as I am seeing on the Yellowlegs. It looks more like #5 than #12.

  • Ted Floyd

    Something that interests me is that pretty much all of our analyses here have depended, at least implicitly and in most cases explicitly, on comparison. Even though this quiz contains 13 birds, I think it’s actually easier than if it contained only 1 of the 13 birds in the image. And that seems paradoxical to me: easier to ID 13 birds than just 1.

    This quiz serves as a reminder of one of the fundamentals of bird ID: Look around; pay attention; check out all the other birds in the vicinity; see how they stack up with one another, and with any particular bird of interest.

  • Peter Q

    The quiz answers are NOT posted at Oddly answers to a different quiz from September 2012 ARE posted there.

  • Ted Floyd

    Are other folks having this problem? I go to:

    That takes me to a page where I click on:

      Answers to the shorebird photo quiz, p. 56

    And, sure enough, the answers to this shorebird quiz pop up there.

    Anybody else not getting this result?

  • Ted Floyd

    Very soon, by the way, Birding Online content for recent issues will be conveniently linked from the top of this page:

    Indeed, the Nov. 2012 content is already linked therefrom. (And the Jan./Feb. 2013 content is, of course, front and center.)


  • Ted Floyd

    It’s up now. Go to:

    Along with all the Birding Online content for the current (January/February 2013) issue, you’ll see links, right across the top of the page, to Birding Online for the November 2012, September 2012, July 2012, and May 2012 issues. (We started Birding Online in May 2012.)

    For archived content going back all the way to the February 2004 issue, click here:

    I think we have all the kinks worked out, but please let us know if you’re having any problems. Thanks!

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