March 2024 Photo Quiz

Tony Leukering
Dodge City, KS


I know. Shorebirds. Ugh. Right?

Nah! Shorebirds are fun! They’re challenging. Did I say “fun?” Yup. Challenging is fun! Challenging can cause learning and…. Oh, you guessed that learning is fun? Bingo!

Spring is an easier time of year to deal with shorebirds because most shorebirds are in alternate plumage (aka breeding plumage) and are more distinctive then. Of course, many or most one-year-olds never quite get to high plumage, but these birds seem to be in fine fettle, what, with one sporting spanky new scapulars; it is May in the photo. With strong marking patterns both above and below and the thin, longish bill, we can rule out all of the plovers and all of the large, strongly patterned shorebirds (such as Black-necked Stilt and American Oystercatcher), leaving us with “only” sandpipers. Once there, we can eliminate the long-legged and -billed sandpipers (such as curlews, godwits, and dowitchers) on leg and/or bill lengths alone. Also falling through that sieve are the graceful… and perhaps not-so-graceful members of Tringa (Willet, yellowlegs, and Solitary Sandpiper and their Old World relatives also on the ABA-Area bird list, as our birds’ legs are just not long enough.

While our previous removals from a tentative solution set may not seem important, we have removed more than 50 species from consideration! The rest should be easy. Right?

But where do we go from here?

What species is represented here?

Photos and answers are supplied by Tony Leukering, a field ornithologist based in southeast Dodge City, KS, 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.