January 2022 Photo Quiz

Tony Leukering
Fairborn, OH

Happy New Year to all.

I thought I’d try out something different to ring in the new year. Yeah, the quiz photo is of a flying bird. Crazy, huh?

Okay, I like flying birds. So, sue me.

This bird is pretty nondescript. It’s brown with a bit of vague streaking below. The bill is thick-based and short and neither the wings nor tail are particularly noteworthy. Not too long, not too short. Not too wide, not too thin. Good, all-purpose wings and tail. Unremarkable.

With the eminently reasonable assumption that this month’s quiz bird is a passerine (order Passeriformes, aka songbirds, found in the back half of most field guides), we can rule out nearly all of the front half of the passerines (and the first 3/4s of the field guide), as those families host very few species that wear plumages this brown and this… well… dull. They particularly don’t have species with plumages this dull AND with short, thick-based bills. For seed-cracking bills like this, one needs to head to the back half (or so) of the passerines (the back quarter of the field guide).

Before I force you to make your guess as to the species, I’ll give you a strong clue. This plumage of this species may well cause the widest range of misidentifications of any ABA-Area bird species.

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.