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Hopefully, we all agree that this month’s quiz bird is a raptor; certainly, the strongly hooked beak provides a datum supporting that initial ID. Raptors cause birders all kinds of fits as far as identification, for a wide variety of reasons. Their relative rarity means that most birders see relatively few individuals of most species in any given year, stretching the learning curve out over time. Eagles, particularly the various sea eagles in the genus Haliaeetus, exhibit a plethora of age-related plumages and those dang polymorphic buteos don’t help in this regard, either. Not only do some buteo species have differing juvenile and adult plumages (often strikingly so), but many buteo species have multiple color morphs and some even have the adult plumages of males and females differing! Finally, most raptors are seen at distance, thus negating much (or all) of the usefulness of plumage features, which are not discernible or do not present the same appearance at distance as compared to up close.
[As a quick reminder, the quiz rules call for providing the ABA-accepted common or English name of the species, exactly as presented in the ABA checklist, so, yes, we’re talking capitalization, hyphenation, spacing. And, on a side note, remember that there is only one regularly occurring (ABA code 1 or 2) bird species with “Great” in the name in which there is a hyphen immediately following “Great,” and it’s neither an owl nor a flycatcher.]
Now we’re at the place where we try to winnow the quiz-solution options at least a bit, and the effort this time will be restricted to generalities. Eagles have very long wings. Eye color is often of great usefulness in ageing raptors, but also in ruling certain species in or out (as a hint, all falcons in the ABA Area have dark eyes at all ages). Many species in the genus Buteo exhibit pale wing panels (the shape of which varies a bit across species) in juvenile plumages.
Please submit the correct Common or English name exactly as it appears in the ABA Checklist.
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