While bird heads hold a frequently large suite of characters that can assist with the ID process – bill color and shape, eye color, crown color and pattern, supercilium, eyeline, loral area, malar area, throat color and pattern to mention most – these features are only rarely required for the ID process. As long-time players at the ABA online quiz (and the previous one that I ran for Colorado) know, a strong general theme runs through my quizzes – learn the common birds cold. By really knowing – in no particular order -- plumage variation (due to age, sex, wear, molt stage and timing, lighting, etc.), behaviors, flight style, habitat preferences (on both macro and micro scales), and vocalizations, an oddball species is more likely to be noticed and an oddball individual of a common species less likely to be identified as something rare. In my estimation, this February’s quiz bird is not at all an oddball individual, unless you consider missing a head to be odd. Whether you do or don’t, that missing head is not at all required for the bird’s ID.
The single most-obvious feature of our quiz bird – again, other than the missing head – is the distinct white wing patch. While many birders could quickly rattle off quite a few species that sport white wing patches, the feature is still found on only a minority of species, particularly one that is so white and so obvious. One of the most useful (and most confounding for some birders) factors of white wing patches is the placement of that patch, which feathers or sets of feathers that host it. It is not enough when describing a rarity to note that it had a white wing patch, one must describe where that patch is such that others reading or hearing your description can assess the information properly.
Please submit the correct Common or English name exactly as it appears in the ABA Checklist.
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