October 2000 Mystery Birds

Again I'd like to extend my appreciation to those brave souls who risked posting their opinions in public. I know it's not easy for most of us, but I think all the comments contribute to our understanding. The intent of these mystery birds has always been to help everybody gain new insights. These are not "quizzes" to see who is right or wrong, but merely a touchstone for further dialogue.

The second bird is a MacGillivray's Warbler photographed at Abbott's Lagoon, Point Reyes on 24 August 1980. The purpose was to show that MacGillivray's Warblers, especially young females may show a tinge of creamy yellow on the chin and throat. This is a character usually associated with Mourning Warbler. The color of the supraloral area is also supposed to be helpful, yellowish on Mourning and whitish on MacGillivray's. Again I think that character may be misleading. The best character is the length and width of the eye-arcs. On most MacGillivray's, the eye arcs are broad and widely separated as seen here. On immature Mourning, the eye arcs are thinner and nearly connect behind the eye. In the hand it is possible to distinguish these species by counting the number of rows of white feathers. Four-five rows of white feathers on MacGillivray's and 2-3 rows on Mourning. I believe the apparent streaking on the sides and flanks is partly photographic effect. It is not evident on another photo of the same bird as seen from the side.

Note: On 20 October 2000 I updated this page stating: "The first bird has not yet been correctly identified. I agree with David Fix, that it may not be the most instructive mystery bird, but folks seem to be having fun with it. So I will leave it as a mystery until somebody posts the correct solution." The correct solution has since been posted. Phil Pickering wins the Kewpie doll for his analysis and correct solution. The bird is indeed a House Wren.

What do you think these birds are? Both were photographed in California in August. To view public comments or join the fray by adding your opinion, click here. Have fun!

Photos © Peter LaTourrette and Albert Ghiorso
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