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.
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