March 2003 Mystery Bird

This was a difficult and somewhat misleading image. I suspect the bird may have been bathing which resulted in the effect of dark streaks on the sides and flanks. However, there is no vireo found in California, that has streaking on the underparts. The bill shape which is thicker at the base certainly suggests a small vireo. A Ruby-crowned Kinglet would have a bill which is more needle-like, hardly thicker at the base than at the tip. Also bill and foot color can be helpful in separating Hutton's Vireo from Ruby-crowned Kinglet. The kinglet has a black bill and pinkish toes, while the vireo has a grayish bill and bluish toes.

Among the similar vireos, I noticed that eyering shape seemed to be an excellent way of separating Hutton's from Gray and Bell's vireos. Hutton's is broken above and may be broken slightly below (like Ruby-crowned Kinglet). Bell's is complete above, but broken in front and in back and very narrow or absent below the eye. Gray has a more complete, but usually narrower eyering than either. Vireos of the "Solitary" complex (Blue-headed, Plumbeous, Cassin's) have more clearly defined spectacles, with a break in front of the eye and a strong supraloral stripe connecting to the unbroken eyering above, and wrapping around below until it stops at the lores.

This month's mystery bird was photographed 17 April 1988 in California. To view public comments or join the fray by adding your opinion, click here. Have fun!

Photo © 1988 Peter LaTourrette. All rights reserved.

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