American Birding Podcast



March/April 2013 Birding “Photo” Quiz

Here’s an image of the quiz bird in the March/April 2013 issue of Birding magazine:



Where to start? Well, it would be helpful to note the date and location.

Ask, and ye shall receive. The photo is from the third week in April (like, right now), and the location is southeastern Arizona.

Need more? Here’s a 26-second video of the bird:


Note that this isn’t a birdsong quiz. You can hear some background noise, but that’s not the point of the quiz. The bird is just out there, doing exactly what this species does on its spring migration.

If you have prior experience with this species, you’re probably thinking this is an easy quiz. Fair enough. But give thought for a moment to what’s going on here. This quiz is easy precisely because of the video. We don’t have an illustration of the bird; the vocalizations are, at best, equivocal; the videograb is so poor that it would never, ever, be published in any self-respecting field guide; and there’s absolutely no written description—except that I’ve told you the date and location.

In other words, we have a resource here that cannot be provided by a traditional field guide. It’s a resource that could form the basis for a fantastic next generation of field ID apps. But not yet. Today’s apps, I think it’s fair to say, take material from print field guides, and then repackage it in an e-medium.

How about a field guide app that basically starts over? Instead of giving us the still photos and illustrations and written words from field guides, how about an app that gives us short instructional videos? Anybody want to get to work on that project?

Meanwhile, what do you think this bird is?

A request: If you know what the bird is, please explain to a hypothetical new, keen, smart birder from Tennessee, Ontario, or South Korea why she ought to believe you.

Please note: This video is used with permission of the videographer. Full credit will appear in the published photo quiz answer and analysis in the May/June 2013 Birding. Full credit will also appear right here in a few days—after we’ve had a bit of a chance to work out the ID together.