American Birding Podcast



Birding Photo Quiz: October 2019

First things first: a nostra culpa. The Oct. 2019 Birding went out a while ago, and we simply forgot to post the online version of the photo quiz! In our semi-defense of that oversight, we have been tremendously busy with Birding of late, with four issues going out in the last four months of the calendar year. Alright, enough of that. Let’s take a look at the October quiz bird:

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Box Elder County, Utah; June 2019. Photo by © Mia McPherson.

With those long, arced wings and the broad bill, it’s a kind of swallow. The general blue-and-orange hues get us to the Barn–Cliff–Cave trio, with Barn ruled out by the short tail that isn’t deeply forked. So Cliff or Cave it is. Cliff Swallows have pale above the bill (“headlights) and dark on the throat, whereas Cave Swallows have dark above the bill and pale on the throat. So…

Yeah, something’s amiss here.

This is in fact a juvenile Cliff Swallow, photographed by Mia McPherson, a regular contributor to Birding and a Mentor in the ABA’s 2020 Young Birder of the Year program. Juvenile Cliff Swallows exhibit variable white splotching on the face, which, fascinatingly, the adults use to recognize their own young in immense colonies. It’s like a barcode or ID number, basically. How cool is that.

Okay, so we spilled the beans. This is a Cliff Swallow. But how about THIS swallow, also photo’d by Mia?—

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Box Elder County, Utah; July 2009. Photo by © Mia McPherson.

What species is it? And, as always, why? Please don’t just say “juvenile Bank.” Tell us how you separated it from a juvenile Northern Rough-winged Swallow. Etc.

As always, thanks for you interest in and support of Birding, The ABA Blog, and the ABA!