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Photo Quiz: February 2016 Birding

First things first. Where are we? It makes a difference if we’re off North Carolina, say, vs. central California. Answer: Neither—this bird was photographed off Kona, Hawai‘i Island, this past November.

No fair! These images are supposed to be from within ABA Area waters! Well, storm-petrels and other “tubenoses” get around, and we maximize our chances of correctly identifying a vagrant by knowing the birds from outside our region.

There’s something else. With global ocean warming a reality, we can expect major range shifts for seabirds in the years ahead. The birds that now occur in warm waters off Hawaii (and elsewhere) may well become a part of our avifauna in the not-too-distant future.

Finally, a clue. Peter Pyle recently discovered a specimen of a Band-rumped Storm-Petrel well off Monterey County, California. (Not close enough to make it onto the California list, but still.) And, again, with global ocean warming upon us, the Band-rumped Storm-Petrel is one we definitely should be looking for off the west coast of the ABA Area.

Alright, enough with the clues. (And red herrings?) What IS this bird? And why?

Off Kona, Hawai‘i Island, November 2015. Photo by © Deron S. Verbeck–Cascadia Research Collective.

Off Kona, Hawai‘i Island, November 2015. Photo by © Deron S. Verbeck–Cascadia Research Collective.

Peter Pyle and colleagues’ analysis of this appears in the February 2016 Birding. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In an expanded version of the article, Pyle et al. discuss the ID of the “white-rumped dark storm-petrel complex.” The expanded version features 27 additional photos, and treats in depth the problems of age, plumage wear, and geographic variation.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. For now, let’s see if we can work out the ID together.