April 2020 Photo Quiz

Tony Leukering
Fairborn, OH

I find that many birders don’t really learn most of the plumage features of really distinctive species, such as American Avocet, Belted Kingfisher, and Northern Cardinal. Each of these species has quite a few features that can enable identification other than the long, upturned scythe of a bill; the large, shaggy, blue head; or the plumage of nearly unrelieved red. Did you know that American Avocet has webbed feet? That outside of the range of Ringed Kingfisher, Belted’s tail pattern is distinctive? And do you know what the eye color of male Northern Cardinal’s is?

Exactly! The aforementioned features are not needed to ID those species because one will almost always see other things first that enable certain ID. Of course, as the highly skilled birders know, there are those occasional times when those other field marks can make or break the ID of a distant or poorly seen bird, or one in abnormal plumage (e.g., leucism; and that’s a soft ‘c’ in that word).

This quiz bird belongs to just such a species. Almost all typical views in which one sees the species allow for simple and easy identification, even for lightly experienced birders. One of those obscure field characters that most birders don’t know, or don’t realize that they know, is critical in identifying this beastie to species.

If we were to see the bird flap, many birders might immediately put a name to it, but we have just this static image with which to work.

What species is represented here?

Photos and answers are supplied by Tony Leukering, a field ornithologist based in southeast Colorado, with strong interests in bird migration, distribution, and identification. He has worked for five different bird observatories from coast to coast and considers himself particularly adept at taking quiz photos (that is, bad pictures!). Leukering is a member of the Colorado Bird Records Committee and had been a reviewer for eBird since its inception. He is also interested in most everything else that flies, particularly moths and odonates.