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Birding Photo Quiz: October 2017

The “Featured Photo” in the October 2017 Birding, arriving soon in ABA members’ mailboxes, prompts three questions:

1. What the heck is this?

2. If you have a general idea, why is it this one and not that one?

3. Even if you know exactly which one it is (it’s this one, not that one), why does the bird look this way?

This striking bird was photographed by Mia McPherson. A detailed analysis of this bird (and others like it), by Peter Pyle and McPherson, appears in the October 2017 issue of Birding.


The usual request: Please let us know your reasoning. If you think it’s a Thayer’s Gull, please let us know how you got to “gull” in the first place.

Answers forthcoming, but, first, let’s have some fun together with this one!



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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)

  • John Gluth

    Eared Grebe, melanin-challenged form. 😉
    ID based on structure – Subtly upturned bill, longer and more sharply pointed than is typical of Horned Grebe (HOGR); forehead slopes gradually up from base of bill, merging seamlessly with peak of crown; crown feathers dramatically peaked above/just behind eye, contra HOGR where peak is well behind eye; neck slightly longer and slimmer relative to HOGR.

  • Terry Bronson

    Although the peaked head strongly suggests Eared Grebe, the fairly substantial bill looks too bulky and long. Horned Grebe looks better to me, though the peaked head seems awry. As for the color, this might be one of those bleached birds from Lake Mono in California or a similar salty lake.

    Except for the peaked head, I think a case could also be made for a very young Western or Clark’s Grebe, where the bill is similar to the bird in the photo, not being completely grown. Such birds are apparently pale gray and white and have not yet acquired their darker adult plumage.

  • James Muller

    Looks like a Horned Grebe, rather than an Eared Grebe. The bill and head look larger than Eared, and the tip of the bill is white. Even on a leucistic bird, that white bill tip should be diagnostic.

  • Pingback: Another Birding Photo Quiz: October 2017 « ABA Blog()

  • Pingback: Birding Online: October 2017 « ABA Publications()

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Recent Comments

  • Steve Hampton, in #ABArare - River Warbler - Alaska... { Photo by Clarence Irrigoo! Great guy that makes birding on Gambell possible. }
  • Nate, in Rare Bird Alert: October 13, 2017... { That's fair about the weather timing. I recall the observers saying something about Hurricane Nate being involved, but how much is not clear. As to... }
  • Gary Bloomfield, in Birding with a Tricorder... { Great essay, Ted! Feel sorry for the guy in the photo who's wearing a red shirt, though. }
  • Steve Shultz, in Rare Bird Alert: October 13, 2017... { I believe the NC swift was seen on Saturday, October 7 (unless the date indicated by the observer on the photo was incorrect). Nate did... }
  • Rick Wright, in #ABArare - Yellow-breasted Bunting - Newfoundland & Labrador... { What a great bird! Sadly topical: }
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