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New Photo Quiz: November/December 2013 Birding

Photo Quiz time!

Here are the New Photo Quiz images in the November/December 2013 issue of Birding magazine.

Birds are marvelously complex, and no bird species ought to be reduced to a single field mark. Which is a clue to this photo quiz…

Each of our quiz birds is posed in such a way that you cannot see a key field mark, perhaps the key field mark. Please tell us (1) what key field mark is obscured or invisible, and (2) how you identified the bird anyhow.

Here goes:

13-6-16-01 [Quiz Bird A]

Quiz Bird A

13-6-16-02 [Quiz Bird B]

Quiz Bird B

13-6-16-03 [Quiz Bird C]

Quiz Bird C

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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)

  • Terry Bronson

    Assuming the posted information is all that’s available, since I have not yet received the Nov.-Dec. issue, I may be going waaaay out on limb, but here are my guesses:
    #1–Hudsonian Godwit. The long straight 2-toned bill, black tail with white on the upper part of the tail, and wing stripe that extends to the inner part of the wing initially seem to be a good match for Black-tailed Godwit. However, the pattern of black-and-white on the tail and the overall dull brownish color of the upperparts lead me to Hudsonian. I think the white on the inner part of the wing could be within the realm of variation. As for the bill, Hudsonian should have a slight upturn, but I think the bill is turned just enough sideways to make it appear straight–that’s the missing field mark. Of course, a hybrid between these 2 species would explain everything!
    #2–Steller’s Jay. A really wild guess, considering the white on the wings, which Steller’s shouldn’t have. Perhaps the bird just took off from snow? Or the feathers are so widely spread so that the white of the sky shows through. The angle of the head obscures the crest, which is the missing field mark. The bird does appear to have bluish underparts except for a darker breast.
    #3–Cory’s Shearwater. The bluish underparts appear to be a reflection. Note the bird is so close to the water that it has one wingtip in the water, which may account for that. The underwing pattern with dark wingtips and all-white underparts are a good match for this species. The missing field mark is the yellow bill, but I think the lighting is playing tricks on us here to make it appear darker than it is. I’d even go further and say this might be what Sibley calls the Mediterranean form, which has the irregular border between black and white on the wingtips.

    • David Bell

      I think you got the first two ID’s but the missing field mark on the godwit is the underwing (black in Hudsonian, white in Black-tailed). You can see a tiny bit of black right at the back of the wing, leading to Hudsonian along with your reasoning. Second is Steller’s Jay – missing the crest but can see the black head and blue underside. The third photo is a Buller’s Shearwater – the missing field mark is the cool pattern on the upperwings and back. Identified by all-white underside, smallish (apparent) build, and blue-gray upperparts and bill.

  • Anya Auerbach

    1) Hudsonian Godwit. I’m the least certain on this one, as the dark underwing which would distinguish it from black-tailed godwit is not visible. Structure, especially shorter bill, seems better for Hudsonian.
    2) Steller’s jay. The shape of a jay overhead is familiar from the autumn migration of blue jays in my area, but the combination of blue belly and black head and breast = Steller’s. The retrices look pale with light shining through them.
    3) Buller’s Shearwater. I’ve never actually seen this species, but I adore procellariformes. Howell’s North American tubenoses guide describes the brilliant white underwings of this species as distinctive, as well as the upperwing pattern. My first thought had actually been Manx (I’m an Easterner) but this bird is paler below, with a cleaner neck pattern and much slimmer body.

    • Ted Floyd

      Well, there seems to be agreement that Quiz Bird B is a Steller’s Jay.

      I’d like at this point to follow up on an observation by Anya Auerbach. What’s up with the pale primaries? In particular, why are the primaries so pale, but the secondaries so dark? Also curious is the dark at the base of the primaries; that must be the greater primary coverts showing from the dorsal surface of the wings, yes? What’s going on here? What’s causing this striking pattern of dark and light?

      [Also, a note of terminology. The rectrices-with-a-very-often-omitted-c are the flight feathers of the tail; the remiges are the flight feathers of the wing, i.e., the primaries, the secondaries, and maybe or maybe not the whatever-the-heck-the-tertials-are. Singular rectrix and remex, and there’s a fun article on all of this in the December 2002 Birding, pp. 568-576: “Peterson’s Rowboat: The Origin and Survival of a Metaphor,” by Rick Wright (who else?).]

      • Terry Bronson

        Ted, are you playing at being a Christmas elf? The intial post had the Godwit flying from left to right; now it’s flying from right to left.

        • Ted Floyd

          Those naughty elves…

          Thanks for noticing, Terry. You’ve touched on a behind-the-scenes matter for us at ABA publications, namely, image placement. There are different schools of thought, for sure. Simplistically: journalists in the broadest sense vs. birders in the broadest sense. Don’t assume the latter are always right.

          Well, Terry, I have a question for you: Does the bird look different in the new orientation? Your answer may well affect editorial policy at the ABA. Seriously, we very much pay attention to member feedback. Look at how different Birding is in 2013 compared to 2003; a lot of that change reflects member input.

          Other than NIB and heard-only [insert smiley-face], everything’s on the table.

          • Terry Bronson

            I can discern no difference in the bird when comparing the left (in the rotating banner on the blog home page) vs. right-flying orientation. I think, though, that since English is read left-to-right, a left-to-right-flying bird seems more “normal” than the reverse, where the bird is going “against the flow.”

      • Anya Auerbach

        In response to your question, Ted. Blue jays, at least, have pigmented inner remiges and tail feathers. Well, not pigmented, but have a feather structure such that blue light is reflected and the feathers appear blue (with white tips and black barring). The primaries, however, are semi-transparent grey, and so light would shine through them more easily. I can’t picture Steller’s jay wings from memory, but I’m almost positive they’re the same.

  • Andrew Keaveney

    Quiz Bird #1 — Black-tailed Godwit — Straight bill throughout length. Legs project well beyond tail, with the tarsi clearly showing beyond tail tip. Is that a hint of white I’m seeing on the right wing linings? 😉 … and yes, I could have sworn that bird was flying in the other direction a minute ago…

    • Ted Floyd

      What can I say?–birds have wings. They do things like that.

      Elfishly yours, –T. Floyd

      • Andrew Keaveney

        Andrew Keaveney

  • You can see a tiny bit of black right at the back of the wing, leading
    to Hudsonian along with your reasoning. Second is Steller’s Jay –
    missing the crest but can see the black head and blue underside. The
    third photo is a Buller’s Shearwater – the missing field mark is the
    cool pattern on the upperwings and back.

  • JT

    Quiz bird A looks like a Husonian Godwit. Bird B is a Steller’s Jay. Still thinking about bird C, guess Buller’s Shearwater.

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