June 2020 Photo Quiz

Tony Leukering
Fairborn, OH
[email protected]

A bird flying by… Better get the binocular on it before it’s out of sight!

The bird might immediately strike one as a passerine or, at least, not any of the non-passerines – you know, all those birds at the front half of the taxonomy/field guide, many of which are waterbirds of various sorts. That taxonomy currently has the separation between non-passerines and passerines in the ABA Area being between the parrots and Masked Tityra. If you ignore the tityra, for which there is a record from south Texas, the division is between parrots and flycatchers, and this is the separation point shown by the NEW Sibley guide (2014). Regardless of what your field guide shows as the last order of birds among the non-passerines, unless your guide is ancient, the flycatchers are the first family of the order Passeriformes, the passerines. Thus, if we’re sure that our quiz bird is a passerine, then it must belong in one of the passerine families, which extend from the flycatchers to the back of the book… or the back end of the taxonomy, currently Morelet’s Seedeater.

Hmmm. The bird seems to be taking its own sweet time getting across our field of view, giving us plenty of time to gather all the information about its appearance that we care to obtain. Perhaps-relevant features include:

The all-black bill that is not too long and not too short, somewhat thick-based, but not like a sparrow

Grayish head

Grayish-olive back

Black tail with a pale outer web to the outer rectrix

Obvious white fringes to the two inner tertials, a less-obvious fringe to the outermost tertial

Almost-unmarked brown wing feathers

Pale under-tail coverts

The lack of wing bars rules out a host of species, the lack of significant facial markings another large set, and the black tail with pale outer web to the outermost tail feather another.

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.