Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mystery Bird ID Quiz #7 Answer!

Here's another view of the "mystery" bird.

Yes, you are all very sharp and perceptive! It IS indeed a yellow-rumped warbler in fall plumage, taken last fall in southeastern Ohio. The bird was snagging insects on a warm morning from the railing of our deck.

I guess it was a bit of a curveball to show a fall warbler instead of a spring/breeding-plumage bird.
Male yellow-rumped warbler in spring.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Mystery Bird ID Quiz #7

I found an old compact flash card from my digital camera in my camera bag the other day. Out of curiosity, I popped the card in my Mac and found a series of bird images on it. Since this image (above) and several others of the same bird had never been downloaded, I decided to make this bird the subject of the next Mystery Bird ID Quiz here at Bill of the Birds.

This one may seem rather easy. Or not. Please make your best guess via the comments section on this post and we'll see how birdy your brain really is.

Good luck!

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Mystery Bird Quiz #6


While waiting for the imaginary holiday being of your belief set to come down the chimney/appear on the mountaintop/emerge from the old lamp I thought you might like a birding brain teaser.

I photographed this bird at Florida's Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February a few years ago. Can you tell me what it is?

And no, its not Phyllis Diller's wig resting on two chopsticks.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Mystery Bird Quiz #5 Answer


All right. Nice guesses all around, people! I agree that this one is a toughie. The correct answer is Cape May warbler. And I believe the bird is a fall adult male.

The first thing you notice about this bird is the striped upper back and the bold white wing bars. Unfortunately the "clincher" field mark of a fall Cape May (the contrasting, lime-colored rump) is not visible. but the bold wing bars and the yellowish wash on the part of the face that's visible are great field marks for a fall adult Cape May. Some fall adult males still show a lot of the rufous in the faceā€”but this one does not.

A Blackburnian warbler in fall does share the Cape May's white wing bars, but the Blackburnian's are bolder. Also a Blackburnian in fall would show pale or white lines (not streaking) along a blacker back.

A black-throated green warbler in fall has an unstreaked upper back.

Blackpoll warbler is another good guess. But I think the larger wing bar is too obvious for a fall blackpoll. And the bird is too yellowish overall, especially in the face.

Below are a few other Cape May warblers in various seasons.

A fall Cape May warbler showing the classic, clinching field mark: the contrasting lime rump


A fall Cape May warbler male. This bird is retaining hints of it breeding plumage coloration. Note the huge wing bar.

Breeding-plumaged Cape May warbler in spring.


Breeding-plumaged Cape May warbler in spring. Note the rufous face and the bold wing bar.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Mystery Bird Quiz #5


Here's another birding-brain teaser for you. This photograph was taken in my yard in southeastern Ohio in early October.

Here's a closer look:

I'll have the answer here in a day or so. Good luck!

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Tennessee Warbler


Congratulations to all the contestants in last Friday's Fall Warbler ID Quiz. Alan Pulley, who blogs at this location, was the first reader to correctly name this mystery bird as a Tennessee warbler. Nice detective work, Alan!

My silence over the weekend was not due to my disapproval of the various guesses on the mystery bird's ID. Rather, I was blissfully out of touch with the Web while performing at The Berkeley Spring (WV) Fall Birding Festival. While there I got to see some old birding pals, make some new ones, and had the amazing experience of seeing nearly 1,000 migrant blue jays streaming overhead in groups of 6 to 40 during our Sunday morning bird walk at Sleepy Creek Retreat. No life birds, but a life birding experience seeing so many blue jays in the space of a couple of hours. The hurricane rains did nothing to dampen our spirits.

Now back to our mystery bird.

I did not use an image that showed the bird's face and head. Seeing the faint crowned appearance, the pale supercilium (line over the eye), and the very thin bill would have been really easy clues to the bird's identity.

The best initial step to take when trying to identify a drab fall warbler is to ask yourself: "Does it have wingbars?" If it does, you've already narrowed your potential species options to those WITH wingbars.

Next, check to see if the underparts are streaked. This narrows your choices even further.

(For a great synopsis of this process, get yourself a copy of Identify Yourself: The 50 Most Common Birding Identification Challenges. Eirik A.T. Blom, Julie Zickefoose, and I each wrote chapters covering the warblers in ways that we find helpful and memorable. Bird ID experts Jeffrey A. Gordon, Marshall Iliff, and George Armistead also share their knowledge in the book, which was published by Houghton Mifflin in 2005).

So what DID my mystery warbler photo show? It showed a bird with a uniformly greenish back and rump, with no obvious wingbars or tail spots. It appears to be only slightly lighter-colored below, with no obvious streaking on the underparts.

This eliminates chestnut-sided warbler which would appear paler/grayish-white below and which would show obvious wingbars. Pine warbler would show obvious wingbars, too and would be streaky below. A Cape May warbler would have a duller-gray back, but a lime-green rump. This bird's back and rump are the same color.

Orange-crowned warbler is an excellent guess. This is another Vermivora warbler, like the Tennessee. Both have finely-tipped bills; both are varying degrees of drab yellowish-green; and both lack obvious wingbars. (Please note the the orange crown on this species is not a field mark and is extremely hard to see.)

There are a few other clues that help to steer the identity of this bird to Tennessee warbler rather than to orange-crowned. The lack of streaking on the underparts, the lack of a yellow undertail (not well displayed in my photograph, sorry), and the location where the bird was seen: southeastern Ohio. Orange-crowned warblers are fairly unusual in the East in the fall, whereas Tennessee warblers are a very common fall migrant. (Tennessee warblers are rare in the West.)

Having grown up as a bird watcher in the East and Midwest, I am much more familiar with the Tennessee warbler than I am with the orange-crowned warbler. Every fall I see dozens and dozens of TNs on my farm. In 16 years there, I've seen exactly one orange-crowned.

Bathing Tennessee warbler. Photo by Julie Zickefoose.

Here is a fall Tennessee warbler bathing in our Bird Spa. Note the supercilium, the finely tipped bill, and the greenish back.

Sorry for the headless bird ID quiz photo. In the next one, I promise to show the head and face.

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