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Photo Quiz, November/December 2014 Birding


Update (Jan. 21, 2015): Tom Johnson’s full analysis of this photo is available to ABA members. Click here for the full-color PDF download:



This has to be a trick. You’re right–it is. This bird was photographed off Cape May County, New Jersey, February 2014. Tom Johnson’s analysis appears in the print version of the November/December 2014 Birding, winging its way to ABA members right now.

Meanwhile, what do you think it is?

14-6-10-01y [featured photo] - LO-REZ

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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)

  • Jack Rogers

    Is this not a White-winged Scoter????

  • William von Herff

    A black duck with a white “eye comma” means either White-winged Scoter or the species (?) Velvet Scoter

    Due to the bill, I’m pretty sure it is not Velvet, as Velvet would have a more yellow bill with a smaller knob at the base.

  • Chris Sloan

    Velvet Scoter

  • Charlotte aka Prairie Birder

    White-winged Scoter

  • Nick Block

    Seems good for an adult male “American” White-winged Scoter (Melanitta fusca deglandi) to me. Orange bill with a nice bump on top eliminates Velvet Scoter (M. fusca fusca), and the brown flanks and smooth bill bump seem to eliminate Stejneger’s Scoter (M. fusca stejnegeri).

  • Nick Minor

    Add to Nick’s comment that there doesn’t appear to be a yellow “lip” along the upper tomium, and that the crown is slightly peaked toward the front, I think we can rule out fusca and stejnegeri. Here’s a great breakdown of this complex with some Ian Lewington Illustrations for those interested:

  • Evan B.

    I would agree that the bird is an adult male White-winged Scoter in breeding plumage.

  • Peter

    It is a White-winged Scoter. Not falling for it, ABA!

  • Robert A. Proniewych

    It is an American White-winged Scoter, Melanitta fusca dglandi.

  • Ryan Z.

    “American” White-winged Scoter.

  • cestma

    Sherlock Holmes.

  • Ted Floyd

    Tom Johnson’s analysis of this bird is available here:

    • Ted Floyd

      What’s cool about Tom’s analysis is that it tells us how to identify all six (yes, 6) scoters that are known or suspected to occur in the ABA Area:

      American White-winged (this bird)
      Stejneger’s (multiple records from western North America)
      Velvet (to be looked for along the northeast coast)
      Black (the common black scoter in North America, but not the Common Scoter)
      Common (to be looked for along the northeast coast)
      Surf (look for it in the surf–and on big lakes inland)

  • Ted Floyd

    If you’re an ABA member, check out this excellent scoter ID article by British expert Martin Garner:

    The article has kindly been made available to ABA members through Birdwatch magazine. Birdwatch is in many ways the British counterpart to Birding magazine. Learn more about Birdwatch in this interview in Birding magazine with Dominic Mitchell, Editor of Birdwatch:

    • S Steeves

      White-winged scooter.

  • Ted Floyd

    Nice paper in Western Birds, 2012, on the three taxa (two species? three species?) of white-winged scoters:

  • Pingback: Birding Online: November/December 2014 « ABA Publications()

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