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Birding Photo Quiz: February 2019

It’s usually the case with the “Featured Photo” in Birding that we on the editorial and authorial side of things know, or think we know, what we’re dealing with, ID-wise. That’s not the case, though, with Feb. 2019 Featured Photos—yes, plural. Here we present photos of two birds that have been well documented yet stubbornly resistant to our efforts at identification.

Featured Photo 1. Wellington County, Ontario, April 2016. Click on photo to enlarge.

First up is a duck—we’re quite certain of that! After that, though, things get murkier. The bird’s colors and structure, in combination, don’t match those of any species in the ABA Area.

Second is a—hmm, what kind of bird is this anyway? A passerine of some sort, yes, but, after that, opinions begin to diverge.

As always, we start with date and location, quite possibly the two most important “field marks” for any bird in any context. The duck is from Wellington County, Ontario, April 2016, and the songbird is from Manatee County, Florida, May 2017.

These aren’t the only photos of these birds! To view these birds in different angles, please see the “Featured Photo” spot in the Feb. 2019 Birding, arriving in ABA members’ mailboxes right now and posted to the ABA website [ABA online account required for full access] a few days ago.

Featured Photo 2. Manatee County, Florida, May 2017. Click on photo to enlarge.

A final thought. In confronting weird birds—whether in real life or in photos—it is good to be of two minds. On the one hand, it is always advisable to consider the possibility that an apparent rarity might be a simple color variant or, even more simply, stained or dyed or otherwise blemished. But on the other hand, it is also valuable to be receptive to the possibility that you have a true rarity in front of you, perhaps even as yet unrecorded in the ABA Area. We’re not saying! Because, as we said at the outset, we don’t even know.

Please use the “Comments” section below to tell us what you think about these birds. As always, we kindly request that you explain your thought processes to us. If you think we’re dealing with a Smew, say, and a Semper’s Warbler, please tell us why.

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Ted Floyd

Ted Floyd

Editor, Birding magazine at American Birding Association
Ted Floyd is the longtime Editor of Birding magazine, and he is broadly involved in other programs and initiatives with the ABA. Ted has written 200+ magazine articles and 5 books, including How to Know the Birds (National Geographic, 2019). He is a frequent speaker at birding festivals and has served on several nonprofit boards. Join Ted at The ABA Blog for his semimonthly spot, “How to Know the Birds,” celebrating common birds and the uncommonly interesting things they do.