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Photo Quiz, Jan./Feb. 2013 Birding, Part 1 of 3

Hello, everybody!

In keeping with recent tradition, we’re going to try to work out together some provisional answers to the Photo Quiz in the current (January/February 2013) issue of Birding magazine. The “official” answers, provided by QuizMaster Tom Johnson, will appear in the forthcoming March/April 2013 Birding. But there’s no reason we can’t discuss the quiz together right now.

First things first. The photos. We’ll do this in three installments. Here’s #1:

13-2-12-01 [Quiz Photo A]

The photo is from Port Aransas, Nueces County, Texas; the date is late February.

Let’s go out on a limb here: We can safely venture that practically any human being will be able to tell that we’re looking at ducks. That narrows things down a bit.

Let’s go further out on that limb now, and venture that many readers of The ABA Blog will be able to put names on a few of these ducks. At the same time, we can be confident that other ducks in this photo will not be all that easy for many of us. So we have a nice mix of ID challenges here, running the gamut from easy and affirming (that’s good) to difficult and challenging (that’s good, too). There’s a little bit of everything here, and, really, that’s how it is with much of the overall birding experience.

Oh, we need to have some agreement about we’re talking about. We have twelve (12) ducks in this image. Going from the lead bird (left) to the rear bird (right), we’ll call them A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, and L. They’re ordered according to the tips of the bill: The duck with the leftmost bill tip is A, then B, then C, etc., all the way to the duck with the rightmost bill tip, L.

In the next few days, we’ll post Parts 2 and 3 of the January/February 2013 Birding photo quiz. In the meantime, let’s see what we can do with these ducks. Please enter your analyses in the “comments” field below, and please take a few moments to explain your thinking. If you think duck G is a female Steller’s Eider, please say why…

Have at it!

P.s. And if you want an additional challenge, be sure move along to Part 2 of this three-part quiz.


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  • My guesses:
    A. Cinnamon Teal (male) – dark reddish brown plumage.
    B. Blue-winged Teal (male) – white crescent on face, white hip patch.
    C. Blue-winged Teal (male) – white crescent on face, white hip patch.
    D. Blue-winged Teal (female) – white crescent on face, white eye-arcs.
    E. Green-winged Teal (female) – white bars on back of secondaries.
    F. Blue-winged Teal (female) – white crescent on face, white eye-arcs.
    G. Green-winged Teal (female) – it is hard to see, but looks similar to E.
    H. Blue-winged Teal (female) – hard to see but looks like D and F.
    I. Green-winged Teal (female) – white belly
    J. Green-winged Teal (female) – white bars on back of secondaries.
    K. Green-winged Teal (male) – rufous head with green behind eye, buffy streak on tail.
    L. Cinnamon Teal (female) – reddish overall.

  • Briana C

    I agree on all counts with Jackson. Lovely Cinnamon Teals, too. I love the color.

  • Elias Elias

    I am using bill shape and size, over all size and underwing pattern. L is like G. They are subadult male GWTE. H–a female–has same bill shape as all in that cluster therefore she is a GWTE. I count 1 CITE, 4 BWTE and 6 GWTE.

  • Elias Elias

    7 GWTE. Oops.

  • Hi Ted, Answer from across the pond here in cold and grey Cambridge: Cinnamon Teal, Blue-winged Teal, followed by a group of Green-winged Teal with what looks like a female Cinnamon bringing up the rear.

    Edit: What Jackson said…

  • Yet another excellent illustration of how much more difficult it is to identify birds from a photograph than in life!

    Bird L is tough in this photo, but I suspect would have been easy in the field, where we could have waited a moment for a better angle on neck length and belly color. My thought is that in “reality” the neck is shorter than it seems in the image, the belly paler, and the whole bird grayer: I think it’s a Green-winged Teal. The head is blocky and the bill short, but it’s the underwing that I believe identifies the bird.

    The underwing pattern of that species (or pair of species, or whatever we think this week) is distinctive, with long white axillars giving way to a narrow and tapering whitish bar across what I guess are the median underwing coverts, contrasting with dark lesser and marginal coverts and dark remiges. Look at the underwing of Bird I and the underwing of this Bird L, and compare them with the much blander, more extensively and diffusely pale underwing of Bird D.
    So that gives me:

    A Cinnamon Teal
    B Blue-winged Teal
    C Blue-winged Teal
    D Blue-winged Teal
    E Green-winged Teal
    F Blue-winged Teal
    G Green-winged Teal
    H Green-winged Teal
    I Green-winged Teal
    J Green-winged Teal
    K Green-winged Teal
    L Green-winged Teal

    By the way, if I got any of these wrong, I’m claiming it’s because I lost track of the labeling system.

  • Edit: I always forget you can make these pictures bigger. When you do, you can see the creamy patch under the tail, too.

  • Quick comment: Bird L is the tricky one here, it would appear. The current “consensus”–emphatically not the best way to ID birds!–is Cinnamon 3, Green-winged 2. Anybody else want to chime in on L?

    It’s interesting to me, by the way, that this has boiled down to Cinnamon vs. Green-winged–not usual confusion-pair in the North American “teal” complex.

    Speaking of “teal” in quotation marks, what about Northern Shoveler? Yeah, what about it? Ordinarily, with its honking big bill, the Northern Shoveler bird can’t be confused with anything except a Roseate Spoonbill or Rick Wright’s dog’s tongue. But the shoveler is, in many ways, more teal-like than the Green-winged Teal. Think about a fairly distant flying female Northern Shoveler; awfully Cinnamon-like…

  • Gabe Cohen-Glinick

    Not an expert, but I would say Green-winged Teal for L, due to head and bill shape/length.

  • Ted Floyd

    Now it’s Cinnamon 3, Green-winged 3. Does Blue-winged get the tie-breaker? How ’bout Baikal?… 🙂

  • Larry Gardella

    I see Bird L as a GW Teal and go along with Rick on all the ID’s. For more obfuscation, what about a hybrid Cinnamon X GW. See

  • Ted Floyd

    The official answers, courtesy of Birding Photo Quiz Editor and ID expert Tom Johnson, appear in the March/April 2013 issue of Birding, which ought to be reaching members’ mailboxes right about now.

  • Mark Sutherland

    Bird L looks like a late hatch male cinnamon teal.

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