Mystery Bird Public Comments for 1998
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The finch is a Purple Finch. The bill is not as conical as a Cassin's
Finch, and the culmen looks decurved. I do not see a hint of an eyering and
the streaking of the underparts looks typical for PUFI. The streaking on
the undertail coverts is not all that unusual for a PUFI.
The Grackle! Where was the photo taken? I guess it is a female Great-tailed
Grackle. Does the bill seem short for a Great-tailed Grackle?
Michael J. San Miguel, Jr.
Glendora, Ca USA - Wednesday, December 09, 1998 at 22:20:58 (PST)
I have little to add to what's been written lately concerning the identity
of these birds -- I mainly want to remark on the general difficulty of
identifying birds from photos, even "frame-filling" shots. The use of flash
can be particularly treacherous, since we don't see birds so lit in the field.
It seems natural to believe that we're seeing a flash-lit bird in "optimal"
light, but we're often seeing things that aren't normally visible, and that
may not represent valid field marks. Subtle marks we'd pick up on in life
get blown out or otherwise distorted. It may be getting redundant, but birders
need to fully appreciate these concepts, particularly when documenting rare
birds or reviewing the claims of others. We'll never know if the finch is
a hybrid, but it seems much more likely to me that it's simply a Purple Finch
in strange light.
Trabuco Canyon, CA USA - Wednesday, December 09, 1998 at 18:45:12 (PST)
Well, the finch mistake was one of the more enjoyable ones that I have made.
I do think the bird is a Purple, and probably not atypical at that. To me
the underpart streaks look relatively sharp and the background of supecilium
rather white for a Purple Finch. However, I do think that this is a creation
of the flash photography. The bill and eyering comments were right on.
Everett, WA USA - Tuesday, December 08, 1998 at 19:13:03 (PST)
I commented on these early so that I would not be swayed by those with
more expertise than I have. At the time I was pretty certain that the finch
was a Cassin's, and not so sure about the Grackle. Most agree with me on
the Grackle, and most of the experts do not agree on the finch. This has
been a great learning experience for me. I have a couple of comments and
questions to add. I am intrigued by Kenn Kaufman's comment about a possible
hybrid. I think there may be some points in favor of this possibility. As
I said in my original post, the breast streaking looks rather dark and distinct
like Cassin's, but the flanks look more diffuse like a Purple. Also the position
of the greater coverts makes it appear to me that this bird is holding the
wing at an unsual angle. Wouldn't this expose more of the side and flanks.
If so, I think that the streaking in this area on a Cassin's is generally
more diffuse. Is this correct?
Also, because of the angle of the bill, can we really be sure that the culmen
is curved, and is this feature somewhat variable? I haven't really paid close
attention to female finches, since they are usually associated with males,
and are often vocal making identification much easier. I thought there is
variation in the distinctness of the eyering on Cassin's Finch so wasn't
bothered by the lack of an eyering, but now I'm not so sure. One other question
on Alvaro Jaramillo's reasons in support of Purple Fi nch. Isn't "lack of
a distinct malar stripe" indicative of Cassin's Finch instead of Purple Finch?
I still think that this has more features supporting Cassin's, but think
that it could also be a Purple/Cassin's hybrid.
Gary W. Potter
Sanger, CA USA - Tuesday, December 08, 1998 at 16:29:21 (PST)
The female grackle is an adult in heavily worn plumage, not a juvenile as
suggested in some comments. By late May the color on the underparts (which
would suggest whether the subspecies is nelsoni, monsoni, or something in
between) is completely bleached out and worn off. The slightly mottled appearance
of the underparts is also due to heavy wear. Juveniles have some buff-ochre
on the underparts and vague blurry streaking.
San Diego, CA USA - Thursday, December 03, 1998 at 19:00:19 (PST)
The Carpodacus finch looks like a Purple Finch to me, of the race
californicus. The points which convinced me have been made by others. In
particular, I concentrated on the bill shape, lack of eye-ring and lack of
a clear cut malar stripe. I see californicus with streaks in the undertail
coverts sometimes, this is not a big deal.
The grackle is difficult but my guess, based on looking at a lot of skins
of these guys is that this is a nelsoni Great-tailed Grackle. The cold tones
on the underparts, general pale colouration and marked supercilium are typical
of this form. Boat-tailed Grackles (females and juvs.) are warmer coloured
below and show a steeper forehead. This bird is likely in its first basic
plumage or definitive basic, it is not a juvenal. The eye colour is dark,
suggesting that its a younger bird, but from what I have seen Great-tailed
Grackles can keep dark eyes through the first winter and first spring. Retained
dark eyes in this species are much more common than in Common Grackles or
Brewer's Blackbirds, not sure why. Having said all that, 'great' grackle
indentification can be almost impossible at times and perhaps many of these
birds are not identifiable with complete certainty. Note also that some of
the western Mexican forms of Great-tailed Grackles, including nelsoni, are
structurally more similar to Boat-tailed Grackles than they are to eastern
(prosopidicola) Great-tailed Grackles.
Half Moon Bay, CA USA - Wednesday, December 02, 1998 at 21:53:07 (PST)
Assuming the Carpodacus finch is not a Cassin's X Purple hybrid, it looks
to me like a Purple Finch, probably of the race californicus. The bill looks
somewhat long, but the culmen is curved; even at the slightly indirect angle
of this shot we should be able to see the straight culmen of Cassin's. Streaks
on the undertail coverts are actually fairly common on western Purple Finches,
and the quality of the streaking on the remainder of the underparts (mostly
rather broad and blurry) is much more typical of Purple than of Cassin's.
The slightly "frosty" look of the supercilium (and back stripes?) is slightly
bothersome, but that could be an artifact of lighting, and the lack of a
distinct pale crescent immediately below the eye would be very unusual for
Cassin's Finch. If there are more photos (that might support the hybrid theory)
it would be interesting to see those, but if it's a "pure" bird then it must
be Purple, not Cassin's.
As for the female grackle -- I wouldn't want to call it without knowing the
locality... but my field sketches of female Boat-taileds indicate a much
less distinct supercilium, primarily because the crown darkens only gradually
toward the center, failing to provide a clear upper edge to the supercilium.
In that regard, and possibly in head shape, the photo suggests
Tucson, AZ USA - Wednesday, December 02, 1998 at 16:47:33 (PST)
I was preparing to offer comments when nature called. I came back in here
to find my opinion has already been registered by Michael Patten! Oh well...
this bird strikes me very much as a Purple Finch owing to the fairly strong,
muddy, contrasting face pattern (the bird looks to me as if it has a dark
malar), a Purple Finch-like bill, what look like shortish wings, and, most
of all, lack of a complete or very nearly complete eye-ring. I can't recall
ever seeing a Cassin's Finch of any sex, or any age for that matter, that
did not have a reasonably complete pale eye-ring. As many of us have, I've
seen Purple Finches with a few sparse streaks on the undertail coverts so
this does not put me off. The bill looks big at first glance but it is not
especially large when the bulk of the entire bird is taken in. Also it is
not strikingly conical to my eyes. The apparent pale edges in the coverts
gave me pause, as did a hint of white background in the upper back, but it
was a flash shot so who knows what that might indicate.
USA - Wednesday, December 02, 1998 at 15:14:05 (PST)
I feel pretty confident that the Carpodacus is a Purple Finch. The breast
streaking is blurry, the bill not especially long, it lacks a buff eyering,
and the culmen is distinctly decurved. I suppose that the bird might be
troublesome given the fine streaking on the undertail coverts, but its not
that uncommon to see this feature on Purple Finches. When Purples have undertail
covert streaking it is invariably finer than the breast and flank streaking.
I'm having a hard time judging the coloration of the upperparts and breast
streaking, but they seem to have an olive tone, suggesting a californicus
Purple (as opposed to a purpureus Purple or Cassin's).
Okay, I'll bite - where was the grackle photo taken? It sure looks like a
young Great-tailed, and a nelsoni at that given the relatively pale underparts,
but if this bird was photographed at Long Island or someplace like that I
want no part of it. In other words, I won't pretend for a minute that I can
tell Boat-tailed from Great-tailed in this plumage (or at all unless I hear
Michael A. Patten
Riverside, CA USA - Wednesday, December 02, 1998 at 15:03:42 (PST)
I do not have the experience to add to the debate on the finch; to my
inexperienced eye it looks like a straightforward but rather short-billed
Cassin's - I must be missing something, so I hope someone will tell us duffers
what the issue is?
Concerning the grackle, I am surrounded by G-ts and regularly see small numbers
of Commons; I rarely get time to study B-t's on the Texas coast, but recall
that juv B-t's (July) did look more "cold"-toned below than G-ts. In eight
years here (and far too many G-t grackles) I have never seen one this cold
whitish below. IF it is a G-t it must be just days out of the nest (the bill
shape suggests this also).
Fort Worth, TX USA - Wednesday, December 02, 1998 at 14:48:59 (PST)
Female Carpodacus finches are often difficult, especially on a photograph
without sound! However, I think that the finch is definately a female Cassin's
Finch. It appears to be rather "chunky". There is too much face pattern for
house finch, and not enouth for Purple Finch. Female Purple Finch should
show a dark malar streak which is not present on this bird. Also the background
color on the breast and belly looks whitish like it would on Cassin's, and
the streaking looks rather thin and distinctly contrasts with the whitish
background, also like it should on Cassin's. The thin dark streaks on the
undertail coverts also seems to indicate female Cassin's. Although the bill
looks a bit too small for Cassin's and the wings seem too short for Cassin's.
I think the appearance of the wings may be due to the angle of the photo
rather than actual short wings. In total this bird adds up to Cassin's finch,
perhaps a juvenile.
The grackle is probably an immature Great-tailed. The heavy bill and colors
would eliminate all but Great-tailed and Boat-tailed. The scaly pattern on
the breast indicates to me that this bird is an immature, which could account
for the brown eye. The strong face pattern and the flat forehead would indicate
Great-tailed also. I admit that I have little experience with Boat-tailed
Grackles, and do not know if age affects the head shape, but based on experience
that I've had with adults of both species, I feel certain that this mystery
bird is a Great-tailed Grackle.
Gary W. Potter
Sanger, CA USA - Tuesday, December 01, 1998 at 20:20:53 (PST)
The finch looks like a Cassin's to me, despite its unusual location. The
finely streaked undertail coverts fit Cassin's (some Purples do show coarse
streaks there), as does the dense fine streaking in the supercilium and the
lack of an obviously contrasting malar stripe.
The grackle looks like a Great-tailed to me, despite the dark eye. The head
looks quite flat and the supercilium very pale. Boat-taileds should have
a more rounded forecrown and a less contrasting supercilium. If this bird
is indeed a GT, then the dark eye means it would be a juv, and May seems
quite early for a juv. Nonetheless, I still think the bird is a GT Grackle.
Everett, WA USA - Tuesday, December 01, 1998 at 16:13:19 (PST)
After reading the comments on Pyle's figure 100, I got out a slide I took
of a nesting female Costa's Hummingbird in the desert of Kern County about
10 miles north of Red Rock Canyon. I identified the bird on the basis of
tale shape, white unspotted throat, and call notes. The primaries closely
resemble the mystery bird. P-6 and P-7 are virtually alike. P-8 through p-10
get progessively harder to assess due to the exposure of the slide, but the
back side of the right wing shows that p-10 is very nearly the same width
as P-6 & P-7. The nest decoration also closely resembles the mystery
GARY W. POTTER
Sanger, CA USA - Wednesday, November 25, 1998 at 10:46:58 (PST)
The Hummingbird on the left looks like it could possibly be a Rufous-Allen's
hybrid. Does this occur?
The Hummingbird on the right looks ot me to be a female Anna's, not a
Black-chinned, as it is lacking in a dark line under the eye.
Fort Bragg, CA USA - Saturday, November 14, 1998 at 09:31:06 (PST)
Thanks to Paul Canover's insights from his banding experience, I did some
photo research with Pyle's "figure 100" in hand (that figure contrast the
folded primaries of Archilochus with "other small hummingbirds"). There are
very useful photos in Esther & Robert Tyrell's 1985 book "Hummingbirds:
Their Life and Behavior -- A photographic study of the North American species."
All photos are spectacular and in color.
Page 30 has a perched male Ruby-throated showing the very narrow p1-6 which
are much narrower than the broad outers.
Page 72 shows an imm male Black-chinned with the same basic pattern. The
mystery photo (right hand bird) does NOT have an Archilochus wing.
Page 112 is a full page incubating female Anna's. The photo spectacularly
shows that the inner primaries are as wide as the outers, again totally unlike
the mystery bird [and consistent with the original point made by Paul C.].
Pages 120-129 have more Anna's in a full nesting sequence, re-enforcing this
Pages 115-119 have a nesting sequence of Costa's. Alas, on the best photo
of the female it is hard to see the primary structure, but that structure
IS apparent on the growing nestlings up to the point they are ready to fledge.
Since these primaries will be worn through the first-winter, they should
essentially be "adult-like". These show inner primaries that start out about
half-the-width of the outers (esp. p9 as the "easiest-to-see" outer) but
gradually increase in width until p6 is about 2/3 the width of p9 (and very
similar to p7). This is the pattern I see on the mystery bird when I enlarge
Pages 106-107 contrast the nests of Anna's, Costa's, Allen's, and Black-chinned.
The mystery nest could only be Anna's or Costa's based on the examples shown,
and Costa's is closest.
While the mystery bird can only be a Costa's, one should note the evidence
now developing for variation in the primary patterns of Calypte. Not only
does Paul C. show that Costa's may be variable (including the variation shown
by the mystery photo), but I note that male Anna's on page 51 has a different
primary pattern than the female on page 112. While the female's p1 and p2
looked essentially as wide as p9, the male's do not but, instead, start out
narrow and get progressively wider toward the outers (like the mystery bird,
but the individual shapes of the inners are different than the mystery bird
which I believe to be a Costa's). Thus both Calypte may have variations from
the "norm" shown by the figures in Pyle or Baltosser.
This has been a very fine learning experience.
Pacific Grove, CA USA - Wednesday, November 11, 1998 at 14:35:02 (PST)
in my two previuos posts to the site i favored archilochus, but on further
review of closeup video of all the 'small hummers' of the u.s., i give that
notion up and admit confusion!
although the diagrams in pyle and baltosser [also his key] indicate even-width
primaries for calypte, and narrower 1-6 for archilochus, i'm coming to the
conclusion that these features are subject to interpretation, and maybe not
elucidated well enough.
here's what i'm finding:
archilochus--the inner six are narrower. they are in fact so much narrower
that 6 is about 1/2 of 7.
'p1-6' should be interpreted in a collective sense, and the phrase in the
key could just as easily read 'p6 distinctly narrower than 7', if it weren't
for cases in molt where 6 is absent.
the shape of the primaries is wrong for both archilochus. i had reservations
about this, and after looking at close-ups of bchu and rthu, can see that
the tips of the inner primaries are much more angular--regardless of variation
due to age/sex-- than those of the nest bird.
calypte--my only video of costa's is a male. on it, i can see pp2-10. 2 is
oval-tipped, 3-10 are somewhat angled at the tips [like a modified scimitar],
with rounded 'corners' to each feather. 5 is noticeably narrower than 6,
but 6 and 7 are equal in width.
where baltosser's key states that, 'inner primaries approx equal to or greater
than outers', it appears to me that in some cases, at least with costa's,
this should be interpreted as 'at least some inner pp', or again, even a
comparison of p6 vs. p7. in other words, 'inner primaries' should not be
interpreted in a collective sense.
don roberson pointed out to me that the female costa's in 'master guide'
seems to show the same pattern of narrower inner primaries as the quiz bird;
however, another picture [the only other picture of a perched female costa's
i could find--talk about an under-represented bird] elsewhere shows distinctly
even-width primaries. i assume, from n=a whopping 2, that there is variation
in the width of the innermost pp. i wish i had more, clearer photos available
of female costa's to compare to the oval-tipped inner pp of this quiz bird.
the representation in baltosser is diagrammatic, and doesn't match up in
terms of overall shape to the quiz bird [but relative length of 'arc', not
shape, was the feature being portrayed]
anna's of both sexes seem to have narrower, oval-tipped p1 and 2 in my footage,
but the rest are very angular and distinctly equal in width, giving the wing
a strong saber shape.
calliope--the best shots i have of calliope are of a hy male. oddly enough,
it shows oval tips to its inner pp much like the quiz bird, and like the
quiz bird, a gradual widening of the inner primaries until p6 [p5 is distinctly
narrower than p6]. however, again, p6 is equal in width to p7.
in terms of the quiz bird, the inner pp are narrow and oval-tipped, widening
outward as they go.
however, p6 is equal in width to p7, so i abandon any thought of it being
as costa's seems the most likely at this location according to people who
bird there, i can't argue, especially as i have no ammo to argue with! the
only other hummer i can see with a wing anything like this is calliope.
USA - Wednesday, November 11, 1998 at 07:16:30 (PST)
Hey, great typo in my first sentence in my last post, eh?
Brighton, CO USA - Saturday, November 07, 1998 at 12:20:30 (PST)
I want to through in my comments on the hummer-on-a-nest photo. I agree
with all the comments on nest construction- all BCHU nests I've seen in AZ
and CO (n>8) have not had lichen adornments. I also have to strongly agree
with Don R. that Pyle (1997) is an amazing resource that too few birders
utilize. Despite its focus on banding and birds in the hand, there is much
that is useful to the field birder. Through some proselytizing (and a good
deal with a bulk order), I got some 20+ CO birders to purchase the book,
90% of whom are not banders.
Brighton, CO USA - Saturday, November 07, 1998 at 12:19:36 (PST)
I see I made a misstatement in the following comment. I meant to suggest
(2d para) that p1-p6 in Archilochus all looked narrow in Pyle's figure 100
(not p5-10 as stated). Sorry for this mistake. -- Don
Pacific Grove, CA USA - Saturday, November 07, 1998 at 11:46:31 (PST)
I have not studied hummingbird i.d. much and admit to being very weak
in this field. However, I'm trying to decipher Pyle (1997) with reference
to these photos, and I seem to be coming up with stuff that is different
than some other commentators.
On the right-hand female, if I understand Pyle's figure 100 properly (and
maybe I don't understand it), we can easily see primaries 1-9 with p10 being
somewhat hidden. In contrast, the secondaries are that tiny little bunch
of feathers below p10. Is this right? If so, the primary pattern is much
more similar to the right-hand figure in Pyle's figure 100 ("other small
hummeringbirds" which would include Calypte) and is not like the left-hand
figure which is Archilochus. This is because p5-10 in Archilochus are all
very narrow and seem about the same width, while the same feathers in Calypte
are broad (like the photo) and just get slightly smaller in-wards.
If my understanding of the feathers are correct, the primaries are just fine
by Calypte, as is the nest (pointed out by others), so the i.d. of Costa's
Hummingbird make sense.
This also makes sense from a distributional standpoint. In s. Monterey County,
adjacent to the Pinnacles, there is no habitat appropriate for Black-chinned
but much that could support Costa's. Indeed, according to Gerow & Van
Vuren's 1987 list for SBT, Costa's has bred at the Pinnacles while Black-chinned
is considered "rare summer resident" anywhere in the county. I feel that
Costa's is the presumptive hummer in the Pinnacles (other than Anna's) and
not at all "out-of-range" as stated by some, and that Black-chinned would
be the much rarer species here (see our Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Monterey
County for much more info on distribution of these two species -- including
mistakes in the old literature -- in the adjacent county).
As to the male Selasphorus, Pyle says that adult male Allen's has upperparts
that are primarily or entirely green, including the rump. This would also
include the nape. The bird in the photo clearly has a rufous nape, and at
least much rufous to the rump. Wouldn't this make this fairly clearly a Rufous
Hummingbird, esp. in "summer" (presumably July-August)? Have I gone off wrong
I want to thank the many who have commented on these and
earlier birds, because I sure have learned a lot from these discussions.
Pyle (1997) and similar banding works are hard to get used to, but boy there
sure is a lot of great stuff in them!
Pacific Grove, CA USA - Friday, November 06, 1998 at 15:20:16 (PST)
I don't think the left hummer can be IDed based on this photo. An argument
could be made that because there are rufous feathers among the green back
feathers that this is a green-backed Rufous. However, this characteristic
may apply to the upper back only.
The photo of the right hummer shows the narrower secondaries compared to
primaries of a BCHU (and all archilochus?). I thought that the bill ruled
out BCHU because of the shortness but others pointed out that it was difficult
to tell whether or not the twig obscured the bill. If the twig does obscure
the bill, there does appear to be enough decurving and possible length for
a BCHU. I wish that I had enough experience with COHU to make some points
for/against it. It seems that the nest material and location noted by others
should be a good indication of COHU.
Les Chibana <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Palo Alto, CA USA - Friday, November 06, 1998 at 10:06:47 (PST)
i have practically zero experience with costa's, so i'm on thin ice there.
i would expect variation in the width of primaries, but the width of the
inners here is less than half that of the outers. that seems pretty extreme.
one thing that looks odd to me is the shape of the inner primaries. maybe
i'm just thinking of imm males, but it seems that the outer web of archilochus
is narrow compared to the inner. the inner primaries here seem cut down the
middle by the shaft.
i definitely need to study up on that.
anyone have good wing pictures of ad female black-chinned? i don't have quick
access to anna's pictures, and nothing that good on costa's.
i agree that the color of the crown feathers looks a bit too metallic green
for black-chinned, but i wonder if this is actually a result of flash, which
appears to have been used. notice how pale the whole side of the face seems.
and there does seem to be some spotting on the throat, though not much.
at 200x i can see a fair curve to the bill, so bill shape doesn't rule out
all in all, i still don't see anything that completely rules out bchu, although
i want to look at better shots of the wings of all possibilities.
it's a great study bird for sure, and a great test for existing id criteria.
USA - Friday, November 06, 1998 at 09:50:27 (PST)
Since Joe took the trouble to remind me of my earlier post to Frontiers,
I guess I owe him a contribution here. However, I must admit that these pictures
merely emphasize how hard hummers are. The male selaphorus is fairly similar
to the bird that prompted my post, although this one seems to have more green
in the back. However, the way the rufous bleeds into the back would make
me lean towards a 'green-backed' Rufous. A couple of male Allen's I looked
at last year more closely showed clean green backs. I don't if this is typical
of all Allen's.
As for the other hummer, I find Black-chinned and Costa's females really
hard to separate and don't much to offer here. I doubt the projection of
wings beyond the tail means much on a sitting bird. I've claimed Costa's
twice at this location (once a male, once a couple of fem/juvs), but I easily
could have misidentified all these birds. I haven;t seen Black-chinned although
there is some riparian habitat there that could hold them.
Milpitas, CA USA - Thursday, November 05, 1998 at 22:35:09 (PST)
I will comment on the female hummingbird and, as is appropriate with females,
I note we already have differing opinions. I agree that the shape of the
primaries is interesting and more suggestive of Archilochus, but I also wonder
what type of variation exists. I think those that have pointed out the
nestmaterial difference have an interesting point and I join them in leaning
away from Bl-chinned. In addition, there are two things that argue against
B-c to me. First the throat is very unspotted, like Costas and unlike almost
all (even fresh HY) female BCHU. Second, I am seeing rather bright green
flecks in the forecrown. BCHU can have some green in the crown but whether
they can have it near the tip of the maxilla is an open question to me. Thus,
I find it hard to belive that an individual that happened to be photographed
also happens to be that one in a X? that has green in the froecrown.
I suppose my only hesitation is that Ruby-thorated may not be eliminated.
It would be interesting to me if this bird was identified in part by call.
If so, I think the committee needs to see this picture. Female RTHU have
cleaner throats and greener crowns. I could not get the necessary level of
detail on primary shape to make any conclusions. So, I do not think it is
a BCHU and feel a stronger case can be made for Costa's.
Irvine, CA USA - Thursday, November 05, 1998 at 19:45:42 (PST)
I just got a new (well, used) fast computer so I can finally look at your
pictures. I very much doubt the Selasphorus on the left can be identified
to species from this photograph. The nest on the right, decorated with lichen
or something that gives it a mottled appearance, is not a Black-chinned's
nest, which looks like a smooth yellow sponge. So I infer the bird sitting
in it is a Costa's. Thanks much for your efforts.
San Diego, CA USA - Thursday, November 05, 1998 at 18:46:32 (PST)
the bird on the nest is an archilochus. the primaries appear to narrow
in width from outermost in, while in calypte, they are of pretty much equal
width throughout [so calypte hummers are definitely ruled out]. the bill
seems short, but is the twig in front of or behind it? i can't see the outermost
primary well enough to judge its shape [club-shaped in b-c, more attenuated
in rthu]. odds would be astronomical against it being a rthu [picture was
taken in ca, right?], so it's almost certainly a black-chinned.
check out wm baltosser's article on archilochus and calypte, and the latest
edition of pyle.
tallahassee, fl USA - Thursday, November 05, 1998 at 18:34:20 (PST)
I thought that, since I'm a CO birder, I'd respond to Joe's comments on
the STJA in the October quiz. (Yes, I'm just getting around to viewing that
one.) The bird depicted looks fairly typical of CO STJA, though the impression
of a dark band on the chest is at least a little intriguing. When BLJAs first
started showing up in CO, there were a few records of F1 hybrids and, I believe,
some F2 hybrids. However, now that BLJA is an established breeder in towns
and in gallery forest in eastern CO (and, presumably no need to pair with
STJA since there is an abundance of potential conspecific mates), there have
been very few recent records of hybrid jays in eastern CO.
There are occasional records of BLJA in western CO and one would presume
that the possibility exists that hybrids could be produced in the future
To summarize Andrews and Righter (1992), the first CO BLJA record was near
the KS border in 1903 with first nesting out there in 1905. First Denver-area
record was in 1917, but as of 1939, it was still considered a rare straggler
in the Denver area. It is uncertain when they first started breeding in the
Denver area, but they were recorded as breeding for the first time in Pueblo
in 1970. The first records of hybridization with STJA were noted near Boulder
in 1969 and offspring and backcrosses were observed until 1978, with single
hybrids observed at Granby in winter 77-78 and in the springs of 1980 and
1982 (origin unknown).
So, I would be interested in knowing where and when the pictured STJA was
Thanx for the truly informative quizzes!
Andrews, R. and R. Righter. 1992. Colorado Birds. Denver Mus. of Nat. Hist.,
Brighton, CO USA - Thursday, November 05, 1998 at 18:33:56 (PST)
Because of the green on the back, the hummer on the left at first glance
appears to be an adult male Allen's. However, the rufous flecking in the
green leads me to believe that it is an immature male Rufous. Since the
photograph was taken in the summer it is likely a fall migrant. Rufous
Hummingbirds begin their fall migration rather early. Also, the tail is difficult
to assess in this photograph (at least in the resolution on my screen), but
the black tips appear to be rather pointed, more on the order of Rufous than
the tips of an Allen's.
The bill of the bird on the right looks too short and too straight for a
Black-chinned. The length is probably an artifact of the twig on the left
which appears to obscure the tip, but I think that the bill would appear
to be a bit more decurved on a Black-chinned. I would also expect the
Black-chinned female to show a darker auricular smudge than this bird has.
The fact that the nest appears to be decorated externally with lichens also
seems to eliminate Black-chinned. The aridity of Pinnacles National Monument
would be ideal habitat for a wide-ranging Costa's. The white, relatively
unmarked throat, the barely noticable auricular smudge, and the bill shape
would seem to favor female Costa's also. I agree with Jane Strong that this
is most likely an out of range Costa's
Gary W. Potter
Sanger, CA USA - Sunday, November 01, 1998 at 21:26:18 (PST)
Arghh. These were really, really tough. Could hummer1 on the left be an
immature male rufous? Male because of the amount of red, rufous because of
the broad shape and the pattern of black on the seemingly very worn tail
feathers. And might hummer2 on the right be an out-of-range Costa's? Although
the head and throat have some Black-chinned characteristics, e.g., no white
line behind the eye and no dusky mask, the throat is very light and clean
with just a few small specks and the wings seem long compared to the rounded
tail. However, in all the pictures I looked at, the Black-chinned nests were
made of plants fibers and spider silk while the Costa's nests were decorated
with lichens and such as is this one.
Monterey Park, CA USA - Sunday, November 01, 1998 at 18:40:44 (PST)
Some belated comments on the oriole of a few months ago. My comments back
then were a little uncertain, mainly since I worried about some of the hybrid
possibilities one can get in W Kansas. However, I should note that Cimmarron
County is well within the Bullock's zone, where hybrids, particularly very
intermediate hybrids are not common whatsoever (based on field studies where
I was assisting Jim Rising on research on oriole hybrids). In any case I
am now convinced that the bird is an adult female Orchard Oriole. The bill
pattern with the black tip, and the bill shape is incorrect for any
Baltimore/Bullock's hybrid. They show a solidly grey lower mandible and cutting
edge of the upper mandible. On a tangent, why don't birders use maxilla and
mandible, the correct names for those parts rather than upper and lower mandible?
The thickness of the legs etc. may be due to the odd posture the bird is
Half Moon Bay, CA USA - Monday, October 19, 1998 at 20:25:57 (PDT)
Seeing these photos (particularly the left hand side bird) makes me realize
how little I really know about what icterids look like. My thoughts may be
a little more tidy now that I have looked at a lot of skins, but I still
get frazzled by some of these birds.
The left bird is an immature (First Basic) Audubon's Oriole based on bill
structure, bill colour, the greenish upperparts and nice yellow underparts.
Scott's Orioles have obvious dingy (olive) tones in this plumage, so one
can count them out. The real ID problem would be an immature male Bar-winged
Oriole of Mexico (presumably this is a moot point since the bird was likely
photographed in the US). In any case the Bar-winged would show a thinner
based bill and black on the forehead but not the crown, at least not that
evenly. It would be interesting to know if this bird is still undergoing
its first prebasic moult, or if it is an immature male with such a small
extension of black on the crown and nape. Yellow on the tail in immature
Audubon's (and many other orioles) is typical.
The right hand bird is a pretty typical Bullock's Oriole due to the bill
pattern (look at the almost solidly grey lower mandible), and facial pattern.
A Streak-backed Oriole would show a black tip to the lower mandible, among
other things. My gut feeling is that this is a young male, but I would not
be confident of that unless I saw the wear state of the wing feathers. Young
males should show some contrastingly newer and fresher coverts, tertials
or even central rectrices.
HMB, CA USA - Tuesday, October 13, 1998 at 03:36:23 (PDT)
I spent quite a while with my field guides before going to the comments
page. The bird on the left I would call an Audubon's because of the color
up to the high back (although I have never seen one!!) The bird on the right
is a Bullock's. Boy, that sounds confidant does'nt it? Well the first comment
I came to was from Robb Hamilton and he called it the same way so if we're
wrong we're not alone!! Thank's for the fun!
Imperial, CA USA - Wednesday, October 07, 1998 at 13:34:14 (PDT)
I'm not used to having to rule out Audubon's Oriole during my daily
meanderings, but the left-hand bird looks quite a bit like a young one -
particularly in the yellowish-green crown/upperparts. The fact that a Texan
photographed the bird compounds my suspicions in this regard. The tail looks
fairly yellow, however -- a bit more like I'd expect a young male Scott's
Oriole to look. Oh well -- I'll stick with Audubon's.
I can't count the number of times I've called birds that look like the right-hand
oriole a young male Bullock's, so why quit now?
Trabuco Canyon, CA USA - Tuesday, October 06, 1998 at 21:54:31 (PDT)
This is a frustrating set of photos for me. I'll have to disqualify myself
on the left one (but that is not a hint), and I don't see enough information
in the plumage of the right oriole to do more than eliminate a number of
species. For that one, I feel pretty comfortable throwing out Scott's, Orchard,
Audubon's, and any Balti-lock's types. That leaves Hooded, Streak-backed
or Altamira. In Texas, we've seen many juvenile Altamira's misidentified
as Streak-backed and the identication difficulties in that set are
under-appreciated. But this bird (on the hand) doesn't look big enough to
me for the oversized Altamira, so that leaves me in the Hooded/Streaked-backed
no-man's-land or "Clueless in Austin"! I just wonder if those black-tipped
yellow allular feathers are of use in the identification.
Austin, TX USA - Tuesday, October 06, 1998 at 06:01:05 (PDT)
Left-hand bird is a weird Bullock's oriole. Temptation to say something
like Hooded, but the bill is too heavy.
Right hand bird looks like Streak-backed Oriole. These are "seat of the pants"
guesses. Cheers--and what fun!
Toronto, ON Canada - Monday, October 05, 1998 at 14:06:40 (PDT)
To begin with, both birds are first spring males.
Because of the yellow (not orangish or whitish) belly and black around the
eyes, chin and chest, the bird on the left is either a Hooded or an Orchard.
The bill is short and not curved suggesting an Orchard; however, an immature
Hooded could have a short bill, but I think this bird is not immature, but
first spring. The tail is very short, also an Orchard characteristic. The
black is more extensive (covering the whole eye region) than on a Hooded
and the head is very "dusky" suggesting darker things to come. I think this
is an Orchard Oriole in the not so early spring.
The bird on the right is also yellow on the belly and seems quite small.
The black eye line, black throat patch and semblance of a white wing patch
suggest Bullock's. There is no color at the corners of the tail (Baltimore),
but I can't really see the base to check for color there (Bullock's). The
belly is yellow orange not burnt orange. Considering all these features,
I would go with Bullock's in the very early spring.
Monterey Park, CA USA - Thursday, October 01, 1998 at 14:18:38 (PDT)
OK, I took a quick guess at them both. The jay hits me as a typical Steller's
under poor lighting conditions for photography. It may be the scan, but the
contrast is so stark between light and dark (note how the forehead streaks
look white when they are really blue) that I don't trust the colors in the
The sparrow is a real ringer. What about juvenal Lark Sparrow? I see the
eyering and the hint of a facial pattern. I can't see any white in the tail,
but the tail is pretty blurred.
McKinleyville, CA USA - Monday, September 28, 1998 at 21:47:02 (PDT)
I am not an expert, but I would like to ask: has DNA research been done
on Cyanocitta jays recently? Are Steller's and Blue actually separate species,
or are they perhaps closer than that, so that intergrades of various kinds
would be possible?
SF, CA USA - Thursday, September 24, 1998 at 16:11:28 (PDT)
Another two fine birds chosen by Joe.
Sparrow: The head pattern (especially 1-the buff anterior and grayish posterior
supercilium and 2-the narrow bright white central crown stripe contrasting
with the dark well-defined lateral crown stripes) is sooooo nice for Grasshopper
Sparrow that it is hard not to bite at the bait and call the bird a Grasshopper.
But something seems very wrong. Dave hit it on the nail. The tail seems way
too long for a Grasshopper Sparrow and the bill looks too small. Also, to
me, Grasshoppers have a very flat headed look (the big bill contributes to
this) which the quiz bird lacks. I also don't like the streaking on this
bird, either, but feel that the wingbars are okay for Grasshopper (but not
other Ammodramus). I am left totally baffled. I, too, await the Heavies.
JAY: I can see that over-exposure could account for the pale body of this
bird, but the contrast between the blackish head and bluish body are unlike
any Steller's Jay I remember seeing. Then again, I don't see any macrolopha
Steller's. The vague dark outline of a bib on the chest might also be a remnant
from a Blue Jay heritage. Could this bird be a backcross with one parent
a Steller's Jay and the other a Steller's X Blue?
Another Great Quiz
Everett, WA USA - Saturday, September 12, 1998 at 23:11:12 (EDT)
I cheated (no, I didn't ask Gary, even though he's a neighbor of mine);
I looked in Rising's Sparrows book. Grasshopper Sparrow, illustration 32A,
fresh plumage to be sure. Le Conte's has an all-ochre supercilium with a
gray ear patch; Grasshopper has the two-toned ochre and gray supercilium
with the ochre auriculars like this bird. Same colors, different pattern.
I guess this one has a LeConte's flavor because the bird seems so bright.
Davis, CA USA - Thursday, September 10, 1998 at 16:21:31 (EDT)
I think the jay show 'soft' characteristics suggestive of a Steller's
X Blue hybrid but the bird strikes me as a Steller's. If the paleness of
the underparts and the undertail coverts is somehow attributable to the harsh
low light, then I see nothing that would lead me to believe it isn't a Steller's
Jay: it has short, vivid, white forecrown streaks like a Rocky Mtn. bird;
the back, even in harsh light, appears to be very dark with a slaty cast;
the apparent ghost dark necklace is clearly a contour break in the feathers;
there are no white spots or other overt hint of Blue Jay expression. Perhaps
we're being treated to a backcross but I have to think based on this one
shot that it can't be argued persuasively to be a hybrid. If someone can
teach me otherwise, I'm all ears (or eyes). // The sparrow has a flaring
black postocular line and restricted blackish lateral crown stripes, suggesting
some Ammodramus. I am also tempted to go with this generic guess based on
the sorghum or some similar veg alone the fenceline. However, the bill seems
a bit on the small side for a Grasshopper Sparrow, and the buff tipping
-especially its precise pattern- on the greaters and medians suggests
Zonotrichia. Most of all it seems the tail is quite long and lanky,
straight-sided, with feathers of approximately even length and possibly
squarish-ended. The coarse breast streaks and buff sides also suggest a Zono.
Is this a very strange young White-throated Sparrow? I will guess the photo
was taken in September. Thanks, Joe, for a couple of humbling experiences
this month. I await the weighing-in of the Heavies among us.
Arcata, CA USA - Thursday, September 03, 1998 at 15:02:43 (EDT)
I think it is a Steller's Jay, inland, Rocky Mt. race because of the white
streaks over the eye. The crest is not visible because we are lookng at it
straight on and the bird is sort of hunched down. The overall color is very
light as is the twig it is perched upon probably because of the exposure
of the film and the brightness of the day.
I think the other bird is a Florida grasshopper sparrow, an adult in fresh
plumage. Because of the angle of the view, the slope of the forehead and
the shortness of the tail would not be as obvious as if it were a sideways
shot. I think the plumage is fresh because of the highlights visible on the
lateral crown stripe and the tips of upper wing coverts are not worn. It
is not a LeConte's because it does not have a grey ear patch; not a Henslow's
because it has no black whiskers; and not a Baird's because it has a light
not ochre median crown stripe. It also clearly shows a supercilium buffy
yellow before the eye and greyish white behind the eye. I guess the Florida
subspecies because the overall color is dark brown not rusty or pale, and
the belly is more white than buffy.
I also think I may be all wrong, but I know I learned some things and had
fun doing it.
Monterey Park, CA USA - Thursday, September 03, 1998 at 00:17:45 (EDT)
The jay looks to me like a hybrid Blue X Steller's. The white striping
on the head suggests the Steller's genes are of the southern Rocky Mountain
race diademata. Such hybrids have been recorded in Colorado (Andrews and
Righter, 1992. Colorado Birds) .
Still thinking about the sparrow.
Tabor, IA USA - Wednesday, September 02, 1998 at 20:05:46 (EDT)
Well I agree the jay looks like a Steller's of the Rocky Mountain race,
macrolopha, but this is a photo quiz so I suspect a trick. The sparrow is
a toughie. The small bill and steepness of the head, plus the long-looking
tail would seem to rule out Grasshopper Sparrow. Next in line would be Le
Conte's Sparrow, but the cheek color and tail length bother me. My best guess
would be Le Conte's, but I dunno.
San Jose, CA USA - Wednesday, September 02, 1998 at 18:13:40 (EDT)
I believe the jay to be a hybrid Steller'sXBlue. The barring in the primaires
and purplish cast to the back suggest Blue Jay parentage, but the vertical
forehead strips and blueish belly suggest Steller's Jay influence.
I pretty much give up on the sparrow. It seems like a hybrid Zonotrichia
with something else, but it's hard to judge its size, which would
USA - Wednesday, September 02, 1998 at 17:56:34 (EDT)
The jay looks like the inland race of Stellar Jay, but there is something
about the color of the belly that doesn't look right - appears to be a brighter
blue than I remember. It appears to have a shorter crest as well - possibly
a juvenile bird?
I'll stick my neck out on the sparrow and without consulting any books before
making a decision something tells me this is a LeConte's Sparrow. All that
buff, the white stripe down the crown, and the white underbelly lead me to
this conclusion - another juvenile bird?. The one troubling thing is that
eye ring. It might be helpful to know what time of year these pictures were
taken. Oh well, this is great fun! I look forward to the other comments.
Thanks Joe for another great quiz!
Minneapolis, MN USA - Wednesday, September 02, 1998 at 16:28:51 (EDT)
I photographed the Swainson's Hawk in early May near California City (desert
of Kern County). It is a rather typical immature plumage, as some suggested,
but is seen rather infrequently in our area. When the bird flew over, some
of the birders were quite perplexed as to what species it was. Some people
felt it may be a Ferruginous Hawk. Recently, I showed this at a get together
of birders and Ferruginous Hawk was mentioned again. The remnant upper breast
pattern is diagnostic for Swainson's, but the bright white underwings might
make Ferruginous a reasonable guess.
In doing some research for a book on birds of the region I have reviewed
late May reports of Ferruginous Hawk in Kern and adjacent areas. There are
only a few such published reports but I would guess they pertain to this
plumage of Swainson's Hawk. Of course, odd things (and late birds) occur;
but this plumage needs to be specificaly eliminated as the timing of a late
May immature Swainson's Hawk is perfect and Ferruginous Hawks are unexpected
in this area after mid-April.
The black commas at the bend of the wing are marks some associate with
Ferruginous, but are also typical of young Swainson's. A Red-tailed would
not show these commas and then have white underwings, without a dark patagial.
Further, they would have a darker belly band and here the dark is confined
to the upper breast. Similarly, an im White-tailed Hawk would have more dark
lower on the body, more on the belly and lower breast. And, their wing linings
would not be so white. Even pale birds tend to have flecking which would
not leave the commas standing out as they do on this bird.
Matt Heindel <mtheindel @
Irvine, CA USA - Monday, August 24, 1998 at 11:37:21 (EDT)
The first bird looks like a typical juvenile Swainson's Hawk. This is
basically what most of the thousands of juvie birds I have seen wintering
in Argentina look like.
The second bird blew me away, I have never seen anything like this in North
America and would not have believed it if someone had described it to me.
I thought that Ruddy Ducks **always** had pale cheeks. This is a Ruddy Duck,
obviously an aberrant one. If I was in Chile I would have called it an Andean
Duck which is what it strongly resembles except for the odd pale flecking
on the breast (is this an effect of the photo?). Also I am unclear on what
winter Andean Ducks look like. The dark rufous brown body feathering and
black bill suggests a winter male (Ruddy) to me, but given the aberrant plumage
of the bird it is probably not safe to age and sex the bird.
Half Moon Bay, CA USA - Monday, August 17, 1998 at 22:06:40 (EDT)
In the interest of discussion, let's play pretend. If I was standing on
the coastal plain of south Texas with this hawk soaring overhead, would it
be possible to identify it as an extemely pale juvenile White-tailed Hawk?
Or, are they never so pale as to be lacking any appreciable belly-band
(belly-band therefore ruling out Swainson's Hawk)? Wing shape, dihedral,
and size seem to make this a possible confusion in real life if a White-tailed
could be this pale. But, in real life, I live in Iowa and have no experience
with White-tailed Hawks. Just wondering.
Algona, Ia USA - Tuesday, August 11, 1998 at 23:07:45 (EDT)
Greetings and Salutations.
The hawk is an immature Swainson's, and is not really at all atypical. See
the photo on page 67 of Wheeler and Clark's Photographic Guide to North American
Raptors. Matt showed me the first Swainson's that I ever saw in that plumage
some 12 years ago or so.
Regarding the duck: According to Madge and Burn's Waterfowl, there are four
stifftails that show a ruddy body and blackish head, one of which is a subspecies
of Ruddy. When I first saw such a bird at the Salton Sea, I presumed that
it was an escaped individual of one of these taxa. This summer, I saw two
in Everett, WA, and feel that they really are aberrant Ruddies. The problem
is this: all of my aberrant Ruddies and the potential escapees show/showed
ruddy bodies and blue bills. This bird is dull with a dark bill. So, rather
than being an aberrant male, it might just as well be an aberrant female.
It is almost certainly a Ruddy, in any case. One thing it is almost certainly
not is a Masked Duck. Aberrant Ruddies with all black heads have been called
Cheers Steve Mlodinow
Everett , WA USA - Sunday, August 09, 1998 at 20:21:20 (EDT)
I'll also chime in on the hawk as an immature Swainson's. Moreover, this
is precisely the plumage we see in (presumed) one-year-old birds returning
northward through Texas in April and May. The wing shape and flight feathers
are typical and diagnostic (when they can be viewed this well), although
the black bar on the underwing primary coverts can lead an incautious observer
to call out "Ferruginous" at times. The underparts of this individual are
more lightly marked than many we see passing over, but the distinct form
of an incipient adult breast band are visible. One aspect I've not researched
is how long it takes for Swainson's to acquire full adult plumage.
I'll "duck" the second mystery bird. I think it's "ruddily" identifiable
to species and that's as far as I'll go. "Jamaica" anything different out
of that one?
Austin, TX USA - Friday, August 07, 1998 at 21:04:52 (EDT)
I'd agree that this is an immature Swainson's Hawk. The wings look great
for SWHA. While they typically hold the tips in a more pointed fashion, spread
fingers can be seen sometimes. The underparts are a bit more confusing, but
there's a lot a variation as the birds mature.
Davis, CA USA - Tuesday, August 04, 1998 at 16:20:48 (EDT)
Greetings Morlan Junkies...
Quiz Bird "A" appears to be an Immature light morph Swainson's Hawk.
Quiz Bird "B" is a Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis of some form. I've seen
a great deal of variability of Ruddy Duck head coloration. I'm unsure of
the status of O.j. andina and O.j. ferruginea in N. America as a possibility
of a vagrant. I suspect thought that either of the previous would be extremely
rare. Therefor, I would think that the mystery duck is an aberrant eclipsed
plumage nominate race Ruddy Duck. I'm unclear why I'm differentiating this
from a aberrant female, but I've never seen a female with an all dark head.
Is there the same variability in females as there is males?
Also, looking at _Waterfowl: An Identification Guide to Ducks, Geese, and
Swans of the World_ By Steve Madge and Hilary Burn, it appears in the
illustrations that the breast and flanks of males are generally more checkered
with white then females. Is this a mark?
I'm also unclear as to if this might be a melanistic individual. The bird
still has its white undertail coverts,and white checkering on the chest.
Could melanism be confined to the head, and would that be what is actually
going on here?
I will look forward to hearing comments on the Ruddy Duck questions.....
Shoreline, WA USA - Sunday, August 02, 1998 at 21:10:24 (EDT)
Since I photographed this "mystery bird," it seems worthwhile to forward
some additional information. My field notes for 19 June 1990 read:
"Crossing the dry riverbed [on a dirt road in Cimarron Nat'l Grasslands,
Kansas], found a dazed just-fledged oriole in the road. The oriole was all
yellow below, with shortish bill ('mirror' on base of lower mandible),[the
bird] was very small (looked small in my fist), slightly grayish cast to
scaly fresh back. I judged it an Orchard Oriole, although I'm unsure of their
status [here]. Tail green & growing (central rectrices half-grown). See
After I got the photos back I initially labelled them Orchard Oriole, primarily
on size and color. The reproduction of color on Joe's website is excellent
on my computer; the bird was very yellow and had no orangey tinge. Nor did
it show any white to belly.
Some time later I had second thoughts because the bill looked thick and the
"mirror" on lower mandible seemed odd to me. I wondered if a fledgling hybrid
Bullock's X Baltimore might be indicated (esp. the fresh nicely-edged feathers
on the back giving a grayish tinge) and perhaps a "fledgling" might account
for the small size. I relabelled the slide "Bullock's X Baltimore?". Later
I crossed that out and just wrote "mystery oriole." I showed it to Joe Morlan
recently, but instead of giving me the clear answer I usually expect from
him, he thought the i.d. was still mysterious.
In the public replies posted, Matt Heindel's analysis of ageing is impressive
(even if he got the locale wrong -- it was Kansas, Matt, not Arkansas). At
the end of the day, I feel it is ageing that will determine this identification.
If this is not a very young bird, the small size ("looked small in my fist"
when I picked it up and placed it on the branch) is consistent only with
Matt says this cannot be a juvenal bird because of the wear. Looking at the
tertials, they do appear very worn in a wear pattern consistent with old
age (not damage). Matt also says this cannot be a first-summer bird ("second
year" in banding lingo) because the primary coverts are the same generation
as the secondary coverts on the upperwings. This is apparent in the photo.
I have read Peter Pyle's new banding guide ("Identification Guide to North
American Birds, Part I") on this point, and Matt correctly cites Pyle on
My feeling in the field that this was a juvenal bird was based on the very
small size, the fresh back feathers (with scaly tips), and the growing tail.
But I cannot account for the worn tertials if this is a juvenal. According
to Pyle, June is a time when only 5-25% of after-second-year Orchard Orioles
can be aged on the criteria in the guide; in other words, it is an unsettled
time of year from a molt standpoint. June 19 seems very early for a full
adult to have fresh back feathers and molting its tail, but I guess that
is possible for either an injured bird or one that has already raised a brood
of young or otherwise stopped its nesting cycle. I thought the bird had been
just hit by a car (which is why it was sitting in the center of the road)
but maybe it was just otherwise sick or injured and went into an early
The analysis of wing length by Matt suggests Orchard, and the comments posted
by others give good reasons to support this i.d. However, Robb Hamilton points
out that "N. Oriole" also has long wings. The covert pattern (white tips
to greater & median coverts only without white indentations; see the
new article by Lee & Birch in the Aug 98 issue of Birding) is not consistent
with either Bullock's or Baltimore, and I would expect hybrids to be
intermediate. The pattern is fairly close to a "pure" Baltimore but the white
tips to greater coverts on the mystery oriole seem much too broad for that
species and, if a Baltimore, why did it entirely lack orange tones?
The bird did not strike me as being particularly heavy-legged in the field,
so any suggestion of this character is probably just because I was so close
the bird. Matt shows that some adult female Orchard Orioles can have a dusky
shadow to the lores (as does this bird). Finally, my "in-field" feeling that
the bird was very small is consistent only with Orchard Oriole. At this point
I am inclined to label my slide "adult female Orchard Oriole" although I
still think the exact state of molt is odd.
I thank everyone who contributed to this discussion. My only regret is that
we obtained no direct input from Great Plains birders who more regularly
see these problem birds.
Pacific Grove, CA USA - Thursday, July 30, 1998 at 20:50:46 (EDT)
I just popped in for a late night peep and, naturally, couldn't resist
this most interesting quiz! I really appreciate the range of educated opinion
out there and feel we're all learning a lot from this exercise. It gave me
an excuse to look through my Coues Key to North American Birds, where I learned
that the Orchard Oriole (I. spurius) was "formerly called the 'Bastard Baltimore
Oriole,' whence the undeserved name."
I throw my lot in with the hybrid Baltimore x Bullock's crowd. My reasons
are: 1) the lesser coverts and scapulars are dusky/olive, darker than I'd
expect on a female Orchard; 2) the legs and feet really do look strong and
heavy to me (per Pyle, Bullock's & Baltimore take the 1A band, Orchard
the smaller 1B); 3) the dark lores are atypical for Orchard; 4) the shallow
forehead appears wrong for Orchard; 5) the bill looks fairly heavy to me;
and 6) while I'm cautious with these internet images, it appears there's
a fair amount of whitish fading in the underparts, another strike against
Orchard. Matt addressed the point that this bird's wing is longer than the
tail, favoring Orchard over Hooded -- Baltimore & Bullock's share this
trait with Orchard; in fact, the ratio of wing:tail is greater for the latter
I guess I'd prefer the bird to be more orangy, but don't see why a hybrid
female couldn't be this yellow (particularly considering the vagaries of
scanned electronic images). So, while recognizing that others have identified
points favoring Orchard over other contenders, I favor the hybrid theory.
And I can't wait to hear what that blackbird is!
Trabuco Canyon, CA USA - Thursday, July 30, 1998 at 04:18:14 (EDT)
I agree with Matt that the oriole appears to be an Orchard. My reasoning
is not as thorough as his, and I have nothing to add to his fine discussion.
Regarding the blackbird- it appears very dark, thus implying a Bicolored-type
RWBB or a Tricolored. The warm color on the back that I see on this bird
should eliminate Tricolored BB, as pointed out by Jason and Bert. Also, the
bill shape seems quite stout for a Tricolored. I have not been impressed
by the usefulness of this character in the field, however. On the other hand,
Pyle's oft referred to tome gives ratios of exposed culmen length to depth
at nares. The ratio I got from this photo was 1.7-- a bit low for ad RWBB
and very short for Tricolored (I measured the photos in the Master Guide
as well, and got proper ratios, so my technique must not be too far off).
Perhaps the low value is due to this bird's apparent youth. So, I really
think that the blackbird is a Red-winged, but what kind? I am embarrassed
to say that I am not certain of the meaning of the bright whitish tips to
the median coverts. Obviously the plumage is quite fresh. I just don't know
if juv Bicoloreds can show this. One might think that since adults don't,
juvs wouldn't either. I am also troubled by the apparent white streaks in
mid-belly. These are too far to the posterior for Tricolored, and I believe,
for Bicolored as well. Thus, I suspect that this bird may not be a Bicolored
either, but I am speculating on this point. Cheers. Steve Mlodinow
Everett, WA USA - Saturday, July 25, 1998 at 19:04:44 (EDT)
The oriole is really neat and indeed, we might all benefit from some help.
I have struggled with this but believe it is an ASY female Orchard. In the
caption, we were told it was photographed in June in Arkansas. That may be
a bit unfair using this as a starting point as if it were southern TX or
AZ, we should consider some of the Mexican species. (I looked at them and
did not see anything that I felt applied here by the way.) Also, given the
date, I am surprised some people are calling this a HY bird. Any oriole in
AR born before June would have to be very fresh and we would see even edges
throughout the upperparts. This is definitely not a young bird. What some
people may be confusing is the term first-year, meaning a bird born last
year and is in its first full summer (therefore a SY bird). But, if this
were a SY bird, we would see some contrast in either the primaries, pp coverts,
tertials, etc., and everything I see looks uniform. There is molt in process
as we have some uneven feathers, but the feathers seem to be of similar age.
As Pyle has pointed out, most birds have molt strategies such that if this
were not an ASY bird, we would see some contrast with paler brown feathers
in the above-mentioned groups of feathers.
I think we can ID this even without agreeing it is an ASY, but that does
make it easier. The leading candidates are Hooded, Baltimore and Baltimore
X Bullock's, something which must be given consideration anywhere, particularly
in the middle of the country.
The bird has a fairly thick bill but with little apparent curve. The body
appears (on my screen anyway) to be yellow with a greenish tinge, as opposed
to orange-yellow. It appears as if it has backed into a parking place making
tail length and shape very difficult. But, a feature I feel is great on Orchard
is the length of the wing, as measured from the shoulder to the pp tip, being
longer than the tail. No matter how I measure this, this bird shows a tail
shorter than the wing, a good sign of Orchard, and certainly a bad mark for
Hooded. While discussing Hooded, let's finish eliminating that by the bill
shape and length. While first fall birds can show very short bills, this
bird is older than that and even if you do not concede ASY, I believe a SY
bird would have a longer, more decurved bill. (The biggest problem here is
determining if the angle of the bill is allowing us the right angle to judge
this feature.) Finally, although we cannot see the tail well, the feathers
look of fairly even length, as oppsed to the distinctly rounded tail of Hooded
caused by shorter outer rects.
The coloration eliminates a Baltimore as it is too greenish-yellow. A Bullock's
is not indicated as the belly elmininates a female and the face pattern
eliminates a male. Again, it is important to realize this bird is more than
a month old to reach those conclusions.
The real problem is with a hybrid and, it is possible this is a hybrid, but
I do not think so. First, the color should still have some orange tones to
it (although I would like to know what the original slide looked like in
terms of tone). Second, the wingbars do not look right. The median bar seems
to be evenly tipped with white. In a Baltimore, my pics show the white is
indented by thin balck shaft streaks, which I see none of. Bullock's are
even more heavily indented with black. So, I would be surprised to see a
hybrid to have such clean white tip.
There are four items which may cause concern with Orchard. The legs looked
a bit thick to me, but after I realized part of that was due to the back
leg overlapping the front, it was less of an issue. Second, the bill looked
a bit thick, but given the shorter nature of the bill, I do not see how that
mark would work better for any of the alternatives. third, the lroes are
dark and most Orchards do not have this. I believe that HY birds are pale-lored.
But, I have photos of a female in TX in spring with dark lores. Finally,
I see Orchards as having a more rounded forehead and this bird is not impressive
in this way. But, this may not be a consistent feature either.
Sorry to be so long, but this is an interesting quiz. I feel it is almost
certainly an ASY female Orchard. But, if the original has a more orange-tone,
a hyrbid Baltimore X Bullock's is a possibility.
Irvine, CA USA - Saturday, July 11, 1998 at 13:54:19 (EDT)
The oriole is indeed curious. As with shorebird id, at first I wanted
to age/sex the bird but that's problematic (with my limited skills at least).
The curious bill shape (and extensive white base), the *apparent* short tail
and the awkward posture (did someone say something about "soft" id
characteristics?) all suggest an HY bird. But the coverts (and tertials)
don't look particularly fresh to me; they look rather worn or disheveled;
that would suggest an SY and probably a female, given the lack of male plumage
characteristics. Were it not for that glitch, I wouldn't have a problem calling
it an HY Orchard (sex unk.), so for my money, I'd call it an SY female Orchard.
The bill shape keeps nagging at me. It just doesn't have the shape of
Orchard...or *any* full grown oriole. Perhaps I'm just not used to studying
bill shapes at point blank range. If, in fact, this is an HY (i.e. fledgling)
oriole on the plains of Kansas, with a short bill and a not-fully grown tail
(conjecture), I'll throw up all my cards in the air and come down with...just
for fun...an HY "Balti-lock's" Oriole (hybrid).
Blackbird: Female/young Tri-colored? I've been confused by streaky fledgling
Brown-headed Cowbirds on the West Coast, but my confusion on those was guided
by their almost grosbeak-like triangular bills. Not with this one.
Austin, TX USA - Saturday, July 11, 1998 at 11:30:44 (EDT)
At the risk of being laughed out of this web page, when I looked at that
oriole full-page, I seemed to be able to make out the vestiges of a male
Bullock's head pattern. Could this be a young male? I have absolutely no
references with me at the moment, as I am on an errand of mercy back to Michigan.
My first impression of the blackbird is certainly Tricolored.
Mary Beth Stowe
San Diego, CA USA - Thursday, July 09, 1998 at 19:31:02 (EDT)
I feel that the oriole is a female Orchard oriole, but I am concerned that
the upperparts appear rather pale for Orchard. The bird appears too small
for Scott's but the upperparts fit Scott's better. A really tough call.
The Blackbird appears to be a young female Red-winged blackbird. The breast
is too pale for Tricolored in my opinion. However, I must admit that I have
very little field experience with Tricolored.
Thanks for the quiz,
Frederick, MD USA - Wednesday, July 08, 1998 at 18:34:55 (EDT)
The blackbird is obviously a Bicolored-type Red-winged or a Tricolored blackbird.
These two forms are often difficult (if not impossible) to separate in the
field. However, this bird shows some warm, bright coloration on the throat,
back, and wing feathers, which is typical of fresh female Red-winged but
not Tricolored. Al Jaramillo posted some very interesting thoughts on
ID-Frontiers about this group some time ago.
We agree that the oriole is an Orchard, although the coloration seemed a
little weird at first. The only other possibility would be a very pale female
Baltimore, but overall impression, structure, and plumage color seem to rule
this out. We don't consider Hooded to be a problem in this case.
Jason Starfire (visiting from Seattle) and Bert McKee
Pescadero, CA USA - Friday, July 03, 1998 at 21:50:24 (EDT)
I perceive this to involve the Hooded / Orchard oriole problem right away
and, with little experience with females of either species, I would suggest
the oriole is an Orchard based on straight edge to mandible, somewhat
modest-looking bill not vaguely suggesting a 'cuckoo-bill' as I have noted
for Hooded, and what seems to be a distinctly shortish, not-visibly-rounded
tail. The feet look small, and the bird looks jammed into a tight posture
I might think a smaller oriole would do (talk about soft criteria for ID).
The icterid is clearly an Agelaius blackbird by plumage, sharp elongate bill,
pale-tipped median coverts, and general look. The white-looking wing-bar
suggests a young male Tricolored Blackbird but this is a species I seldom
see and don't know well at all.
USA - Thursday, July 02, 1998 at 18:20:02 (EDT)
For the Oriole:
One has to rule out Hooded & Orchard first, given the extensive yellow
underparts, especially in the center of the breast. However, the bill is
not decurved (or long?) enough for a typical Hooded immature or female.
Therefore, it would most probably fit Orchard. Of course, a size comparison
for the small Orchard verses the larger & longer bodied Hooded would
be nice. So our guess/assessment is Orchard Oriole.
For the blackbird, we have not seen this much breast streaking in Cowbird
before, nor wingbars this marked. The smallish bill is interesting. I want
to rule out Red-winged (the most common and logical choice) first. But aren't
Tri-coloreds smaller billed Red-winged Blackbirds? Without going to our
references, my first assesment would be Tri-colored, just slighltly over
Red-winged. But I wouldn't call it a Tri-colored for sure until I checked
references out, because Trike's are much less common breeders than R-Ws
Bob & Carol Yutzy
Redding, CA USA - Wednesday, July 01, 1998 at 21:56:49 (EDT)
These are both tricky! My first impression of the oriole is female Orchard,
but I'm far from positive. The bill doesn't seem decurved enough for Hooded.
The coloration seems pretty good for Orchard, but the position of the tail
makes judging its length difficult.
The icterid is confusing too. Again, I'm going to go with my first impression,
of Brown-headed Cowbird. The bill seems too short for a RW/Tricolored Blackbird.
But it is not perfect for a B-h Cowbird either, which should have a more
rounded culmen. But the rest of the "jizz" of the head reminds me of B-h.
Lacking good references, I'm wondering how a Shiny Cowbird, say, a molting
juv., would look. Can anybody comment on this?
Cleveland, OH USA - Wednesday, July 01, 1998 at 14:29:20 (EDT)
My guess would be an Orchard Oriole, as it lacks the whitish belly or
orange tones of a Baltimore or Bullock's Oriole. It also appears brighter
than the Scott's Oriole's I've seen. The blackbird reminds me of birds I
saw in winter flocks of Red-winged BB's in California; Red-winged Blackbird
was my first thought as the page loaded. Of course, depending on where this
was in CA, you might also consider the Tri-colored BB.
Moscow, ID USA - Wednesday, July 01, 1998 at 13:01:33 (EDT)
I think that the oriole is a HY Baltimore. The other is a Red-winged
Toronto, ON Canada - Wednesday, July 01, 1998 at 10:56:00 (EDT)
Greetings and Salutations. The tattler looks like a Wandering to me as
well. The extensively graysides (looking actually dark gray) fit in well
with this. Also, the supercilium does not appear to meet over thebill--in
the fashion of a Least Sandpiper--which is fine for Wandering but not for
GT. Also, the supercilium doesnot really seem to extend behind the eye, as
it should on most (but probably not all) GT Tattler. I do not likethe nasal
groove as a mark. Even with some stellar looks, I've been unable to see it
in the field and I can notsee with certainty in some nice photos at home.
I am basing these opinions on just one GT that I have seen plusreferences,
so it is possible that the range of GT includes what is visible on this bird,
but I do not think thatis the case. For good photos, see the Hamlyn Photographic
Guide to Waders of the World by Rosair and Cottridge.Also, there is a good
discussion in Paulson (1993), Shorebirds of the Pacific Northwest.
Everett, WA USA - Saturday, June 13, 1998 at 18:55:58 (EDT)
I'm going have to agree with Don and call the Pacific shorebird a Wandering
Tattler_Heteroscelus incanus_. WhenI first looked at it, Gray-tailed Tattler_H.
brevipes_ popped into my mind, but only because of the bird that wasobserved
at recently Kehoe Beach on Point Reyes. By no means at all am I any sort
of Tattler expert, but I thoughtsome brief observations might be of some
As always the first step is to age the bird, and as Don said, it appears
to be a FYB bird. Don's wing covert theoryand time of year sound good to
me. No need to expand on that.
Looking at the bill, more specifically the nasal groove. I have a hard time
determining where the groove ends.When fist glancing at it, it appears to
be short, but I think that when you look closely you can see a bit of agroove
extending a few mm. farther, in my opinion making it to the half way point,
which is good for Wandering.It's interesting to note that, when looking at
such a close up photo as this and still not be able to for "sure"be able
to see where the nasal groove ends, and after hearing Don, and others point
out it is such a hard markto see in specimans, how good of a mark is this
really? To have someone call a bird such as this a Gray-tailedbased on nasal
groove seems semi-ridiculous, but then again, I've never seen a
Look at the forehead, and notice that the superciliam becomes very diffuse
through the area extending over thebill. From what I can gather from Hayman
and the Geo-guide, this is good for Wandering. Gray-tailed should showa stronger
white in that area.
I could be just imagining this,but that loral area seems *dark*, but that
just a gut feeling I guess, but its partiallysubstantiated in my mind, because
the photo is so over-exposed, and for that loral area to that dark, seems
likeit would be odd for Gray-tailed. Although, remember I've only seen a
handful of Gray-tail pictures and don't knowif that is a reliable mark. Would
someone with more experience address that?
So with that being said, my official guess is Wandering Tattler(until information
to the contrary arises ; )
I'll leave the seemingly easy owl to the rest of you as I'm struggling for
some god awful reason with it. But Iwill throw out the *guess* of Long-eared
Owl_Asio otus_ based on the coloring and baring on the primaries, thedark
area at the inner of the facial disk,apparent lack of white chin, and slimness
of the *jizz*. I have problemswith the ear's(I've never seen a Long-eared
with its ears like that, except tucked in flight. Also, I usually seeLong-eared
in more riparian areas, never in a "pine" tree. But I guess they do.
Anyway, hope that was mildly interesting. Till next time...Good luck and
|_,-~**'===Shoreline (N. Seattle), WA
:_,-~**'=== "I went, I found, I ticked"
Shoreline(N. Seattle), WA USA - Friday, June 05, 1998 at 03:03:15 (EDT)
The Pacific shorebird looks like a tattler to me. Judging by the edgings
on the coverts but the plain-lookingback, I guess it is in first-basic plumage
(i.e., retained juv coverts) so the photo might be taken Oct-Dec, perhaps.
I don't know many ways to separate Wandering from Gray-tailed tattlers in
first-basic plumage, aside from call.One book I have says that in good views
the nasal groove might be of use. It says "that of Gray-tailed isshort, reaching
to the half-way point on the bill or less; that of Wandering is longer, reaching
beyond the mid-pointand often to two-thirds the bill length. Grooves of both
species become quite shallow at the distal end, thus theend is invisible
in the field, so that a tattler with a groove apparentely stopping at the
mid-point of the billin the field is usually a Wandering."
I enlarged the photo and can see the groove, but it is really hard to tell
where it ends. I think is goes to aboutthe half-way point and then becomes
invisible; according to the literature just quoted, this suggests
I have, however, looked at this in museum skins before and found it very
hard to use. Maybe live birds are easier;I don't know. So my tentative guess
is Wandering. Probably the better way to i.d. this tattler, though, is to
i.d.the mussels, but I admit ignorance on this topic.
Pacific Grove, CA USA - Thursday, June 04, 1998 at 01:36:15 (EDT)
On the premise that negative data has value I like to comment that I don't
feel the mystery warbler is an OCWA.I have held in hand at least 1000 OCWAs
in my hand in the last 7 years at our Sierra banding station. When
youngorange-crowns have wingbars as obvious as the ones in the mystery photo
they are definitely buffy not white asshown.
I feel quite sure this bird is not an OCWA. As to other comments, I don't
feel the foot color is too easily determinedfrom the photograph. It could
be just glare like the glare from the twig it is perched on. I believe I
see colorin the undertail coverts and not as much white as I would expect
in a blackpole. I am for the bird either beinga Bay-breasted or Pine Warbler
with a slight lean toward Pine Warbler.
San Francisco, CA USA - Saturday, May 16, 1998 at 17:25:39 (PDT)
Warbler: Look at that tail. Really long. Faint streaks on sides and flanks.
Bill blackish without a hint oflight color. On my monitor, what seems to
be orange feet is really a dried-up leaf. Only thing mitigating againstPine
is the light auriculars. But I'll still stick with Pine Warbler with abnormally
light auriculars just to addanother one to the mix. Young OCWA also possible
but this form of flank streaking seems wrong.
Gull: Too light gray and black for a 1st-winter SBGU which usually has some
shading of buff or brown in it. The2nd winter SBGU are much the same color
as this bird, but then the bill would be two-toned and the eye would bestarting
to turn pale. Besides the bill has way too much gonydeal angle. Must be a
Herring of some stripe. I'llleave it to the gull experts beyond that.
Prince George, BC Canada - Saturday, May 09, 1998 at 00:04:52 (PDT)
I suggest that the warbler is a Cape May. (1) This fits very well with
the overall color scheme as it comesthrough on my screen -- yellow on the
throat, face, and sub-auricular area, blending into soft gray on crown, nape,and
back, and blending into white on the underparts. None of this adds up to
Bay-breast for me. (2) I believe Isee faint gray streaking on the flanks.
The apparent lack of streaking on the breast could be the angle plus thepoor
resolution in the photo, or it could be a very worn individual (one year
old in June?). (3) Face pattern fits,with slight yellowish supercilium extending
only barely behind the eye, and only a slight indication of a darkeyeline.
(4) Wings are a non-contrasting grayish color, unlike the wings of a Bay-breast
(which are blackish vs.the green and buff of the rest of the bird). Secondaries
may (??) show fine greenish edgings. (5) Bill seems tome fine and sharp-pointed
enough for Cape May, although once again the resolution isn't good enough
to see it reallyclearly; bill color is also correct (gray). (6) Legs are
blackish, but soles appear yellowish judging from rightfoot; this is all
good for Cape May (according to Dunn and Garrett) but the soles are not good
for Bay-breast.All in all, this bird can be matched pretty closely by a
combination of illustrations from Dunn and Garrett: the"first-spring female"
for throat, face, and upperparts, and the "first-fall female (b)" forunderparts
with faint gray streaking. My remaining points of concern are (a) whether
the tail is short enough forCape May and (b) whether the wing-bars are (or
used to be) too bold.
Bill Rowe <email@example.com>
St. Louis, MO USA - Friday, May 08, 1998 at 08:38:23 (PDT)
Having scrutinized a very faded Cape May Warbler during a Xmas count recently,
I've come to appreciate what wornand faded feathers can do to a bird's
appearance. There is nothing that keeps me from calling this a (worn andfaded)
female Blackpoll, including the orange feet. Do any other Dendroicas have
McKinleyville, CA USA - Friday, May 08, 1998 at 07:58:30 (PDT)
I will discuss the warbler. I have learned so much about gulls that I
now know I know nothing at all. Nick showedus these slides at a recent meeting
and I really have my hands up in the air. As I mentioned on ID Frontiers
ayear ago, the young plumages of Asian gulls is a complete mess. I will send
a message to some HK guys and see ifthey will look at this picture. With
that said, I do not believe it is a Slaty-backed, but, I will leave it
The warbler: I see juvenile Orange-crowneds every year in the desert. Remarkably
(to me at least) I see my firstjuvs by the end of May, and once as early
as 10 may. These are lutescens and are green throughout (with some bellypaling)
and have very obvious buffy cinnamon wingbars. I have not to my knowledge
seen juv orestera but understandit to be paler. That would more fit the picture
but I would not expect the wingbars to be so white and of so uneventhickness.
I do not think this bird is an OCWA.
When I first looked at it I assumed it was a Bay-breast but it is weird enough
to cause some doubt. The ratherplain face, soft part coloration (and size
of the bill), slight color to the undertail coverts and upperpart colorationall
seem right. I was going through photos of mine the other day and found one
that that comes close, a femaleBBWA I photographed in July in Nova Scotia.
Pine should be eliminated by the undertail coverts in particular aswould
Blackpoll. As all have said perviously, ID'ing birds on a photo, especially
one that isn't fit for a cover,can be tough. I would guess it is a Bay-breast
but am open to finding out if otherwise. I would guess this birdis a year
old and thus at the dull extreme. Although the new warbler book (Dunn and
Garrett) has great picturesand a real good spring variant of a dull Blackpoll,
I have seen spring Bay-breasts much duller (and greener) thanthey have pictured.
Matt Heindel <mtheindel @
Irvine, Ca USA - Thursday, May 07, 1998 at 14:33:51 (PDT)
Spring warblers are way too complicated for me, so I think I'll stick
to the gull. I'm definitely not the bestperson to comment on East Asian gulls,
but there are a couple of things worth pointing out. First, although itis
always impossible to determine the limits of variation, I don't think this
is a Slaty-backed Gull. A coupleof things worth checking out for information
on first-year Slaty-backs are the "Large gulls of North America"video with
Jon Dunn and a short note by Peter Pyle in Birders Journal 6:251, as well
as photos in various otherreferences. I have not yet received my '94 Hong
Kong Bird Report (despite ordering it six months ago), so I don'tknow what
it may have to add. Anyway, it looks to me like Slaty-backed should still
have an all-black bill in latewinter (when this bird was apparently
photographed), while this bird shows a pinkish suffusion on the basal
two-thirds,typical of at least _smithsonianus_. The bill shape is also much
more Herring-like: it is pretty thin and has afairly noticeable gonydeal
angle. Slaty-backed should be much paler on the head and underparts by late
winter.Pyle notes that on at least moderately worn birds the breast often
has large smudges, which are very prominentin his photos of the Midway
Slaty-backed (I don't think this applies to the mystery bird, however). Finally,
Dunnpoints out that Slaty-backed's greater coverts average plainer than those
of smithsonianus. This is unquestionablyvariable in both forms, but this
bird's greater coverts are much paler and more mottled than I would expect
ona Slaty-backed. It's difficult to eliminate Slaty-backed conclusively without
a look at the wing pattern, but ifI saw this bird in North America, I would
have no problem with calling it a smithsonianus. (BTW, I'm assuming thebird
is largely into first-basic plumage, based on the scapulars, although the
resolution on my screen is not adequateto be sure.) One question is whether
or not _vegae_ can be definitely eliminated by the all-dark tail. I have
notseen any references in the literature to vegae with all-dark tails, but
there does seem to be some variation intail pattern. In Western Birds 29:64,
Howell and King mention a vegae collected in Japan with a tail pattern similarto
the paler extreme of smithsonianus (mostly dark with white mottling across
the bases of all the rectrices).Some variation in vegae tail pattern is also
apparent in the Large Gulls video, but all seem to show some whiteat the
base. I would expect vegae to be paler on at least the head and underparts
by late winter; are there anyother differences visible in this photo?
Pescadero, CA USA - Wednesday, May 06, 1998 at 22:57:24 (PDT)
I agree; the bird on the right is a gull. I'd say it's in first winter
plumage, with a still mostly dark billand little "adult gray" (I can't really
see any) on the back. Vega (at least a normal Vega) is ruledout by the reported
solid tail. Slaty-backed (at least in my limited view of what a first winter
S-B looks like)is ruled out by the blackish primaries (S-B is more like
Thayer's)and rather dark head-- S-B should be more white-headedby late Feb?
The bill seems very Herring-like. Certainly, the bird most closely resembles
smithsonanius Herring;sure, it appears a bit short-legged (an artifact of
the photo?), and doesn't have an more off-set paler head; andthe greater
covs are interesting, with lots of pale in them, but all within the variability
of smithsonianus. Thatsaid, the pot-bellied look, the greater covs, and the
dark smudge around the eye make me wonder if it's not a darkfirst winter
Slaty-backed... I just don't know the range of variability in that species;
this bird sure doesn'tlook like the first winter Slaty under "Japanese gulls"
at my Gull Photo Archive website. I think allother species are safely ruled
out. What did the under primaries look like?
Davis, CA USA - Wednesday, May 06, 1998 at 13:08:18 (PDT)
Some comments from a great plains warbler-deprived morlan web-site junky:
overall the warbler looks ruffledand it is hard to see streaking. It has
a small bill and wingbars. I think it is clearly in the Bay-breast/Blackpollpair.
I think Pine of this age is unlikely as undertails coverts appear yellow-olive
and overall the bird seemstoo bright. Although juv OCWA is intriguing, I
think it is mitigated against by the apparently yellowish ratherthan white
supra-ocular mark and what looks like to me a long primary extension (short
in OCWA). The apparent absenceor at least much reduced streaking anywhere
is suggestive of Bay-breasted, as is the apparent yellowish-olive lookof
the undertail coverts. What puzzles me is the greyish look to the crown and
nape, but I don't have any suggestionsrelated to this; the date however suggests
a newly-fledged bird hatched somewhere nearby. Hermit comes to mind,but unobvious
eyering, olive-yellow undertail coverts, and presence of darkish coloration
in loral area says no(plus I'm from Iowa!).
tabor, IA USA - Tuesday, May 05, 1998 at 19:00:59 (PDT)
Robb's comments, as always, are interesting. Some dispute might arise
out of difference in the quality of whateach person sees on their computer.
For the warbler, I do see white or whitish tips to the tertials. Also, thelores
seem awfully pale for an OCWA, though I can't say that I've looked critically
at a bunch of juv OC's. Usually,they are pretty obvious. Furthermore, any
hint of streaking that I can force myself to see is on the flanks, noton
the chest. This seems too far towards the rear of the bird for an OCWA. The
wingbars, though thinner than usualfor BBWA, do seem white to me. Are other
people seeing something different? Finally, in this photo anyway, thebelly
seems awfully bright white for an Orange-crown. The lack of visible streaking
on the back is worrisome though,and I certainly wouldn't bet a limb on this
bird's ID given this solitary blurry view. I still think it is a Bay-breast.But
then again, if the image was crisp, the discussion wouldn't be nearly so
tasty. Cheers. Steven Mlodinow.
everett, wa USA - Monday, May 04, 1998 at 19:55:55 (PDT)
The warbler is very interesting. It has a broken eyering without a strong
ocular mark, strong white wingbars,and at least on my monitor, blue-gray
between the wingbars. Except that I've never seen a blotchy
pale-belliedBlue-winged Warbler before, that's what it looks like. The gull
looks to be in second-winter, and compared to theSlaty-backed Gull on the
CBRC web site, has a shorter, thinner bill, and smaller frame. The eyes look
to be darkstill (Slaty-back seems to get pale eyes pretty early). The wing
coverts look more marbled than I would expecta smithsonianus Herring Gull
to be, almost like Thayer's Gull but darker. The white on the trailing edge
of thetertials looks wider than I usually see on smithsonianus Herring Gull.
I don't see anything that precludes vegaeHerring Gull, however, so if I had
to venture a guess, my less-than-authoritative answer is vegae Herring
Mountain View, CA USA - Monday, May 04, 1998 at 17:45:50 (PDT)
This warbler on Pt. Reyes in late June would certainly start me a-twitchin'
-- I'd give it a long look or two-- but given this fairly muddy view I'll
pass it off as a juvenile Orange-crowned. The faint, but well defined,streaking
on the sides works against Bay-breasted; I'd expect a trans-ocular streak
on Blackpoll; either of thesebirds should show back streaking, whitish tertial
edging, bolder wing-bars, and (I think) a shorter tail. The otherbird, clearly,
is a gull.
Trabuco Canyon, CA USA - Monday, May 04, 1998 at 17:14:22 (PDT)
Greetings! The warbler is an interesting bird that, unfortunately, appears
a bit distorted on my monitor. Forinstance, the cap and part of the back
appear gray. Nonetheless, I think I can see enough to ID it. But, if I saynote
the yellowish undertail coverts, and they are in reality some other color,
please forgive me. This bird isnot an Orange-crowned due to the two bright
white wingbars. Also, the belly is quite white for an OCWA and thethroat/chest
seem quite clear yellow. Viewing this bird on my monitor, my initial reaction
was "Tennessee"due to the clear yellow breast/throat contrasting with the
white belly plus the plain appearing back and the apparentgray on the crown
(which I now think is a distortion of my screen). The bold wingbars, however,
led me away fromTennessee as did the relatively dull face pattern (not much
of a dark eyeline or pale supercilium) and what appearsto be some yellowish
on the undertail coverts. I actually believe this bird is a Bay-breasted
Warbler. The wingbarsare good for this species. The pale cheek should eliminate
Pine Warbler. I would expect a Blackpoll to be dulleryellow on the chest
with some streaking on the chest (which this bird seems to lack). The yellowish
on the undertailcoverts would also be wrong for Blackpoll, but right for
a Baybreast. The relatively plain face would suggest Baybreastas well. I
am not sure I can really see the feet, but if I do, they appear black, which
would be consistent withBaybreast. I am somewhat disturbed by not being able
to see any streaking on the back but am blaming that on thelack of resolution
of my monitor. Finally, for details on this complex of warblers (assuming
that I am in the rightcomplex), see Julian Hough's fine article in Birding
vol 28, pp 284-291 (1996): Pine and "Baypoll" Warblers--plumagevariation
and identification problems. Cheers. Steven Mlodinow
everett, WA USA - Sunday, May 03, 1998 at 15:54:00 (PDT)
Why is the warbler (May bird, on left) not a juvenile Orange-crowned ?
USA - Saturday, May 02, 1998 at 17:45:49 (PDT)
Pyle: "Some birds with intermediate characters can be difficult to separate
from Brewer's Sparrow; theseare often pale, immature Clay-colored Sparrows."
Who am I to argue with the master? This plumage is not onewe see often in
our breeding CCSPs here in c. B.C. since the adults are usually in fine feather
when they arrivehere in May, and the young ones in mid summer are obviously
more juvie looking than the bird in the photo. Niceweb page. Keep it going!
Prince George, BC Canada - Sunday, April 26, 1998 at 23:54:55 (PDT)
I agree that the right hand photo is a Large-billed Savannah, and what
a treat to see such a great photo! Theleft hand bird I feel is a Brewer's
Sparrow, based on the eyering and lack of any buffiness on the
Grass Valley, CA USA - Tuesday, April 07, 1998 at 22:05:26 (EDT)
The Spizella appears to be somewhat atypical whether Clay-colored or Brewer's.
For Clay-colored Sparrow thegray collar doesn't seem to stand out quite as
much as I would like and the lack of streaking might be a productof the birds
somewhat scruffy a ppearance and not that it isn't there. For Brewer's Sparrow
the face seems tooboldly patterned and the central crown stripe appears to
be prominent (at least on my screen). This bird couldeasily fit into the
Spizella sp. category. The eyering however ap pears to be white and except
for what looks likeshading (on the top) it would be complete and prominent.
Because of this I lean towards Brewer's Sparrow.
Tempe, AZ USA - Friday, April 03, 1998 at 20:45:55 (EST)
The rostratus Savannah is a great picture indeed. And, even if it is 'easy',
I think it is very worthwhile asmost observers do not get to see this species,
much less get views like this. The Spizella....yikes. I think itis a Caly-colored
but am comfortable leaving it as a sp. based on the one picture. As Roberson
mentioned, we knowof no definite records for CA for Timberline, which of
course has no bearing on whether one could have been photographedhere. Most
of us know incredibly little about the plumage sequence of this race and
speculation will probably causemore problems than be helpful. I get to see
lots of Brewer's in May and this would knock my socks off if I sawit in the
dese rt. Remember that Clay-colored will not be the bright things we often
get in fall in CA. There seemsto be a central crown stripe (although perhaps
that is an artifact). In addition, others have made comments onthe boldness
of the facial features (auricu lars and malar). I am also impressed by an
apparent unstreaked nape.Given the spring timeframe, I would call it a CCSP.
But, I'd also like other views!
Matt Heindel <mtheindel @
Irvine, CA USA - Friday, April 03, 1998 at 17:36:11 (EST)
The easy bird first. The passerculus sparrow is a Large-billed Savannah.
One of my personal faves. The spizellais much more challenging. First of
all, all viewers of this fascinating bird should look at Pyle and Howell's
excellentarticle, Spizella Sp arrows: intraspecific variation and identification
in Birding, vol 28, p 374-387 (October1996). My first impression when looking
at the quiz bird was CC Sparrow, because I felt that the face pattern wasfairly
bold and it seems to have a white central crown stripe. Looking more closely,
though, the apparent bit ofcrown stripe could easily be a n illusion, especially
on a computer screen. This bird does also seem to be devoidof the warm coloration
usually seen on CC Sparrows. The eyering seems rather bold for a CC, yet
atypical for Brewer's,the eyering is clearly broken in front and behind.
Al so, at least on my screen, this bird seems somewhat schmutzyunderneath,
not clean like a alternate plumage bird usually appears. Could it still be
partly in basic plumage?Arguments for CC are that the collar really seems
unstreaked. Brewer's is usually streaked, and the two photosof Timberline
in Pyle and Howell have very streaked collars. Also, this bird's moustachial
stripe gets wider andbolder behind the level of the eye. This is a CC mark.
For Brewer's, we have the eyering. But it is atypical forBrewer's in that
it is broken and may possibly be within range of CC Sparrow for this mark.
Another, perhaps bettermark for Brewer's is that the submoustachial is brighter
than the superciliu m. The color is also more Brewer'slike, though I am not
confident that this is not in part an artifact of my screen or, for that
matter, the photoitself. So, I will actually take Fix's fix, and say I can't
say for sure from this one photo (I'd love to see thatcrown), but I lean
towards CC Sparrow. Cheers Steven Mlodinow Everett WA
Everett, WA USA - Thursday, April 02, 1998 at 22:53:17 (EST)
I'm sorry to a that these April shots did not seem as challenging as the
buning & hawk: the right hand birdlooks like "Large-billed" Savannah
Sparrow and the left like Clay-colored Sparrow. I see my friend MichaelPrice
suggesting "Timberline" Sparrow for the Spizella, which would be exceptional
for Calif. (no staterecord).. I reluctantly disagree after having seen the
literatureon this form (species?). The face pattern is toobold. pale lores
rule out Chipping, and to me the pink bill, gray nape, fa ce pattern, and
buffy breast all cryout "Clay-colored." But, of course I've been wrong before...
Pacific Grove, CA USA - Thursday, April 02, 1998 at 22:43:19 (EST)
The righthand sparrow is a Savannah Sparrow Passerculus sandwichensis,
and though personally unfamiliar withthe form, using Jim Rising and Dave
Beadle's terrific sparrows and finches book, I'd say that big whacker of
abill suggests it's a 'rostratus' Large-billed Savannah. The Spizella sparrow
looks like a dull, odd Clay-coloredSparrow S. pallida from the grey neck-collar
up. While the subdued face pattern is contrasting enough to eliminatenominate
Brewer's Sparrow S. breweri breweri, it within the range of a "Timberline'-type
Sparrow S. b. taverneri,the only other full-species possibility. The supercilium
on an Alternate Clay-colored should be a brighter whitethan the grey as shown;
in fact, the entire face pattern is not as brightly-contrasting as one would
expect onClay-colored at that time of year. Where is the bright buffy auricular
p atch, the buffy flank coloration? Whatthere is of the ear-patch color is
intermediate between Clay-colored and Brewer's--which puts it exactly into
therange of Timberline Sparrow. The lateral crown-striping is not organised
as distinctly as on typical Clay-colored,but more like Brewer' s, and the
crown seems to be lacking a median stripe, as Timberline: at that angle,
it shouldshow on the forecrown. The bird also seems to be a bit short on
the primary extension, more like Brewer's/Timberlineand less than Clay-colored.
As to eye-ring o r lack of it: the business above the eye doesn't look right
for aneye-crescent--too exaggerated--but more like either a growth or a
disarrangement. I looked at the photographs inthe Audubon Master Guide for
both Clay-colored and nominate 'breweri' Brewer's Sparrows, and saw that
one goodmark might be the bill: a Clay-colored Sparrow in Alternate plumage
should have yellowish-pink on both mandibleswith a blackish tip extending
a bit back onto the culmen, but on the Alternate-plumaged Brewer's, presumably
including'taverneri', the *entire* upper mandible is dark except for a small
area of yellowish along the tomus. The billof the mystery bird is m uch more
similar to Alternate Brewer's Sparrow than Clay-colored. A combined parentagealso
may account for a subdued facial contrast and Brewer's-like bill. But in
my opinion, the visible marks serveonly one species well, and that's Timberline
Sparrow in Alternate plumage. Clay-colored X Brewer's is a possibilitybut
a more distant one. A very aberrant--likely First-year--Clay-colored in a
retarded or arrest ed molt-stateis even more remote. Whatever it is, it is
not a definitive Clay-colored or nominate Brewer's.
Vancouver, BC Canada - Thursday, April 02, 1998 at 03:04:32 (EST)
My vote for the Spizella is an immature Clay-colored. The more distinct
and fairly notable white stripe belowthe malar adds to the general well marked
presentation given by Clay-coloreds verses Brewer's. Peterson's AdvancedBirding
Guide by Kenn Kau fman gives a great discussion here. The other sparrow looks
like a large billed sparrowto me too.
Redding, ca USA - Thursday, April 02, 1998 at 01:40:02 (EST)
I have some comments and questions about the Spizella based less on the
visual identification than by the locationand season. Recall that many parts
of the central and western United States were in a severe drought from late1995
until about August 1 996, certainly including the winter range(s) and parts
of the migration corridors ofClay-colored and Brewer's. Here in Austin, Texas,
we noted one curious phenomenon. Clay-colored Sparrows, whichare a regular
common migrant in rural areas, came throug h urban residential yards in
unprecedented numbers inthe Spring of 1996, probably because such areas provided
the only verdant spots on the landscape. The May 1996photo of the Spizella
in San Francisco coincides, roughly, with the migration of the Spiz ellas.
I don't know whatBrewer's were doing at the time or how they faired in that
particular migration that particular spring. Here'swhere I'll just pose some
leading questions: Was this photo taken in an urban area or city park? Are
Brewer's aspa rse migrant on the coastal slope of central California in any
normal season (I certainly assume that Clay-coloredare not)? Are not
Clay-colored's more prone to vagrancy on a continental scale? Based on this
vague analysis offactors that I know affected the Clay-colored that season,
and on the fact that I think the face pattern of thebird is far too bold
for a Brewer's and the gray tones are more suggestive of Clay-colored than
the "sandier" Brewer's I see in west Texas, I'll suggest that it was a vagrant
Clay-colored displaced by the drought...perhapsinto some green niche in urban
Austin, TX USA - Wednesday, April 01, 1998 at 22:35:49 (EST)
The right-hand bird is clearly a Large-billed Sparrow and merits no further
remarks. The left-hand bird puzzlesme and I cannot ID it. All U.S./Canadian
Spizella except Brewer's, Timberline, and Clay-colored are ruled out.Characters
suggesting Brew er's to me include somewhat apparent white eye-arcs, dingy
supercilium, and a strongBrewer's 'look'. Points suggesting Clay-colored
are a reasonably strong throat/malar/submustachial contrast, possiblenarrow
white median crown stripe (just discernable at the forecrown-- this view
is no more than ambiguous) andpossible lack of extensive nape streaking (tough
to judge). Given the date, the bird must have completed prealternatemolt,
and yet the breast might be unevenly colored-- mostly overcast grayish but
possibly with touches of warmth.Given just this one scanned image I think
I would not identify it. My acid test is that, were a great birder lookingover
my shoulder with me, would I commit to a readily defensible ID? In this case
I believe I'll dem ur. Can anyoneargue conclusively that this bird could
not be an F1 or backcross CCSP X BRSP? Can Timberline Sparrow be ruledout?
Can someone address this for the group? I have dealt with a CCSP X CHSP in
the past and although that certainlyis not w hat this is, I remain aware
of the proven potential for Spizellas to cross.
USA - Wednesday, April 01, 1998 at 19:15:10 (EST)
I vote for Brewer's and "rostratus" Passerculus sandwichensis.
Toronto, ON CANADA - Wednesday, April 01, 1998 at 16:09:16 (EST)
Perhaps showing my ignorance of sparrows and not having a field guide
available, I'd guess Brewer's Sparrowand "Large-billed" Savannah Sparrow.
Modesto, CA USA - Wednesday, April 01, 1998 at 16:01:56 (EST)
I vote for a juvenile light-morph Harlans, or an intergrade Harlans/Red-tail.
The wingtips fall somewhat shortof the tail tip and the upperwing coverts
show many white spots. It appears as if the upperparts colors are ratherblackish
brown. Pure we stern Red-tail juveniles have longer wings, with wingtips
reaching closer to the tail,and fewer or no white markings on the converts.
Although the tail is not clearly visible, it appears to have thejuvie Red-tail
or Harlans type dark banding; this, and the underparts pattern should eliminate
any other raptor.I would like to have a better look at the tail pattern,
underwings, and undertail coverts to be absolutely certain,but Harlans juvie
is my best guess.
Annandale,, VA USA - Sunday, March 22, 1998 at 09:41:40 (EST)
The hawk looks like a Merlin. Studying the picture you have and pictures
I have available I'd have to choosea Merlin.
Sugar Land, TX USA - Thursday, March 12, 1998 at 20:47:44 (EST)
The bunting has certainly spawned an interesting range of opinion -- nice
to know that I'll be in good companywith whatever name I affix. I've had
the benefit of inspecting this photograph on two different monitors,
plusdiscussion with several other birders, plus review of all the posts here
and on ID Frontiers. Importantly, theimage looks different depending on one's
monitor -- I saw bluish tones in the wing, plus fine, dark barring onthe
retrices, on Matt Heindel's monitor that aren't visible on my monitor. Photos
are useful in conjunction withdetailed descriptions, but photo interpretation
like this is just plain dangerous (though hard to resist), particularlywhen
you're not dealing with professional-quality images. The field identification
ma de by Paul and Shawneen carriesmore weight with me than what I see here.
That said, this view does not suggest a Lazuli Bunting to me - the wing,with
its single, brown/buff wingbar, looks quite off, and Lazuli normally shows
a rich, ochre/buff wash acro ssthe upper breast contrasting with a lighter
belly. The photo shows marks consistent with either Indigo or dickeyaeVaried
buntings -- the wings look fine for either species, and I'm told that either
could show this shade of bluein the tail. I'd expect the breast to be more
obviously streaked on an Indigo, but I don't have enough first-handexperience
with Indigos to know how critical that mark is. I think it's quite unlikely
that both Paul and Shawneenwould have misidentified this bird, and I would
b e interested in reading their views (which, for some reason,aren't loading
on ID Frontiers). Perhaps they can re-submit their comments...
Trabuco Canyon, CA USA - Sunday, March 08, 1998 at 18:08:34 (EST)
My vote is for Lazuli Bunting just on my instinct: the bird looks too
pale (not rich brown enough) and esp.too pale-bellied, for Indigo (I've seen
some interesting Indigos at Big Sur recently for comparison; they all werericher
in color). Also, to me the color of blue in the tail is too light blue (assuming
the photo shows color correctly).I am not bothered by the buffy wingbars
Pacific Grove, CA USA - Friday, March 06, 1998 at 20:08:04 (EST)
I'm going to have to have my monitor checked (or perhaps my eyes). My
screen doesn't show a brown bird at all.The upper parts seem to be olive
and the underparts relatively dull yellowish. The diffuse tips to the
greatercoverts and tertial edges l ikewise seem dull yellow. The pale blue
of the tail edges seems the only markings thatI'm seeing like everyone else.
If my monitor were correct, this bird would absolutely NOT be a
Lazuli/Indigo/Varied.By my (mis)perception of the color, I would have called
it an immature female Painted Bunting handily. It mustbe me, right?
Austin, TX USA - Tuesday, March 03, 1998 at 21:19:13 (EST)
Bird one looks like a female Indigo Bunting. Bird two looks like an immature
Minneapolis, MN USA - Tuesday, March 03, 1998 at 17:51:31 (EST)
I just had my eyes tested at 20/10, 20/15 so I must be out of my mind.
Where is the decurved- to 'sharply decurved'culmen you guys are speaking
of? I also seem to begin to perceive the suggestion of blurry breast streaks
in theoff-center-of-breast faint smudging. It seems that although the bunting
has broad edges in the greaters, that patternis mirrored in the folded
secondaries and I would not call the coverts pattern a wing-bar per se. Possibly
themedians are faintly bar-edged in deep buff. These points mentioned, I
find I would not hazard to ID this bird fromone scanned image. Do I win a
kewpie doll? A big cigar? Ten bucks? I am interested in the growing breadth
of opinion.The hawk has the underparts pattern of a w. Red-tail and also
the more noticeable checkering on the coverts. Despitethe pattern in the
side of the head I do not see a discrete strong malar. Why is thi s not a
Red-tail? Dissenters?I remain unaffiliated with high crimes and misdemeanors.
arcata, ca USA - Tuesday, March 03, 1998 at 16:33:31 (EST)
Based on my profound ignorance of buntings, this one looks like a Lazuli.
The brown edgings in the wing coverts,the pale blue color in the tail. It's
not as peachy as some Lazulis I've seen, but I don't see anything that screamsany
other species. Ind igo would not show the wingbar, Painted would look more
green, and Varied would have a darkertail. If it's an Orange-breasted, I
give up. The hawk has pale scapulars and a belly patch suspiciously like
aRed-tail, but size is hard to judge and I can't se e enough of the tail
pattern to see what kind of banding mightbe there (the legs seem too thick
for Broad-winged, though). If there weren't a semi in my rear-view mirror,
I'dat least slow down to the speed limit.
USA - Monday, March 02, 1998 at 22:49:34 (EST)
Concerning the bunting, I have little experience with female Indigos and
none with Varieds, so I am going topass commenting on this bird. I am just
as in the dark about it now as when I first saw the photo a couple weeksago.
As for the hawk, it lo oks your basic (not basic plumaged) imm. western
Red-tailed; heavy dark breast band,light eye, correct propotions,
Ventura, Ca. USA - Monday, March 02, 1998 at 19:34:18 (EST)
I cannot see anything in the single smallish image that makes me think
the hawk is anything other than an imm.Red-tailed. I'd sure like to see the
tail. . . . The bunting is more troublesome. Indeed, I am going to be braveand
vote for a species you've not suggested. The rich brown upperparts and breast
and, especially, the warm chestnut-brownwingbars are consistent with Indigo,
but the lack of any streaking on the underparts is troublesome. The colorof
the bird and of the wingbars seems entirely wrong for Lazuli. So what do
I see? Yes, it's a single image, andI'd love to see the originals at this
point, but the bird is (a) rich brown, (b) lacks breast streaking, (c) hasrich
wingbars that do n't contrast much with the wing, and (d) appears to have
a short bill with a gentle, evenlycurved culmen. In short, it looks a lot
like fresh-plumaged female Varied Buntings I've seen in Mexico in winter.Now,
my opinions here are based only on this si ngle computer image, so take them
with a grain of salt. Does Donhave a series of originals?
Riverside, CA USA - Monday, March 02, 1998 at 18:16:11 (EST)
Joe, I guess I better vote so I'm not guilty of visiting and running without
comment :). The bunting seems likea Lazuli to me. No streaks on the underparts
to suggest Indigo and the blue in the tail seems right for Lazulitoo. The
bird is not as orange-breasted and white-bellied as some adult female Lazuli,
but I have seen birds likethis that I had no problem calling Lazuli either.
Have I been oversimplifying things? I would drive by that immatureRed-tailed
Hawk at high speed. Did I miss a light phase Harlan's Hawk?? I have photos
from San Mateo of a truerunt Red-tailed Hawk with a tiny bill that looked
more like Broad-winged Hawk than this bird to me. In fact this bird seems
fairly typical in all respects to me - what am I missing?
Mtn View, CA USA - Monday, March 02, 1998 at 16:16:44 (EST)