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Photo Quiz: June 2016 Birding


Take a look at the front cover of Birding, vol. 3, no. 1 (January-February 1971):

Birding front

That was so long ago, humans evidently hadn’t yet invented art. Why, they were still using Roman numerals!

Now flip the magazine over, and check out the Table of Contents, printed on the back cover:

Birding back

Take a closer look:
Birding Jaeger

Even in the earliest days of the ABA, jaeger identification was a challenge. So it is nearly half a century later. Here is the “Featured Photo” in the June 2015 Birding:

15-3-15-01 [Pomarine Jaeger - main image]

Photo by © Tom Johnson.

Yep, this is a jaeger. It’s not a Flesh-footed Shearwater. It’s not a Herring Gull or a Heermann’s Gull. Neither is it a Hermann’s Gull or Heerman’s Gull. (And it’s certainly not a HEGU.) It’s a jaeger of some sort.

What sort?

And for a bonus, what’s notable about this jaeger, photographed off Santa Barbara County, California, November 2014?

Say, back to the January-February 1971 Birding, if I may. Here’s another close-up:


In case anybody thinks agitating for Hawaii is some new-fangled cause of the Johnny-come-lately millennials… This issue has been around as long as jaeger ID.

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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)

  • Nate Dias

    Looks like an immature Pom Jaeger to me – the heavy barrel-chested build alone eliminates LT Jaeger and Parasitic Jaeger…

    • Ted Floyd

      Regarding the immature part of the equation: Talk to me.

      • Tony Leukering

        I’d call it a Pom on, among other features, the thick-based bill and the wide-based wings centered on the body (roughly the same amount of jaeger in front of the wings as behind). I’d also call this a juvenile on the lovely fringed upperparts feathers and that there seems to be no indication of the bird initiating any post-juv molt. I think that the rusty tone is a red herring.

    • Ted Floyd

      Does anybody wish to comment on Nate’s ID based on a single field mark?–and a jizz/gestalt/”impresssion” field mark at that. Mind you, I’m not saying Nate’s wrong–neither in terms of the ID per se nor the approach to ID. Nevertheless, the conventional wisdom is that successful jaeger ID depends on assessing a suite of field marks. (Remember all the articles and books on opercula, gonydeal expansion, and the like??)

      Maybe we’ve been overanalyzing jaeger ID all these years??

      • Tony Leukering

        I’ve disagreed in print (Colorado Birds, Jul 2003) with the term “barrel-chested.” I don’t know what it means and I’m sure that many birders either also don’t or mis-interpret its meaning. The “chestiest” jaeger species is not Pom, but Long-tailed. IMO, Pom is pot-bellied: the lowest extent of the body in flight tends to be centered on the wings; on Long-tailed, that point is typically at the chest and Parasitic tends to be intermediate betwixt the other two (with obvious variation due to sex and, perhaps, other variables).

        With the close wing hiding the outline of the underparts, determining how pot-bellied this bird is is impossible, though the slope of the chest suggests the adverb “very.” The bird certainly does NOT have a notably chesty appearance.

  • Matt Brady

    Another thing to consider is the timing: Long-tailed Jaeger is virtually absent from California by November (only a handful of records in eBird). The caption also states the bird was photographed “…off Santa Barbara County, California”, which to me indicates the bird was well offshore (probably in deep water outside of the Channel Islands). It may not be common knowledge, but in California Waters, Parasitic Jaeger is a littoral bird, generally sticking close to shore where it’s favorite prey (small terns) occur. Pom, on the other hand, occur well offshore, and are the default Jaeger beyond maybe five miles from shore. If the caption had said “…off Santa Barbara, California”, then it would be less clear that the bird was photographed well offshore, and thus this would be a moot point.

    • Ted Floyd

      Spot on, Matt, and, indeed, this bird was well off Santa Barbara County’s mainland shores; it was out amid the Channel Islands, just as you have surmised. So much about bird ID comes down to location, location, location; and date, date, date.

  • Julian Hough

    The deep, convex body, broad wings and a relatively broad tail combined with a deep-based, but short bill are all pro-Pomarine structural features. The lack of molt, with all neatly-fringed feathers age it as a juvenile. In November, it is typical of juvenile Pomarines to be in juvenile plumage, but the main point I think that most birders debate is, “Why do we not see JUV Pomarines regularly – on either coasts?” Given the number of pelagic trips it is surprising that this age class isn’t better represented. It appears juveniles are late migrants, presumably moving far offshore at a date when many pelagic trips have stopped regular sailings. In New England winter trips in the mid-Atlantic to look for Alcids don’t come across juveniles which suggests an hypothesis that they perhaps move through in numbers in a narrow window during the month of November?

    • Tony Leukering

      I, at least partly, disagree with Jules’s migration-timing opinion. In Colorado, Pom is the default jaeger sp, with a large majority of occurrences there being of fall juveniles. Despite dogmatic pronouncements by some birders on the temporal parameters of occurrence timing of Juv Poms in the Lower 48, Colorado has played host to multiple September juv. Poms.

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