Oh, lovely. Part of a small shorebird. Many of us know that various features of the wing and tail can be quite useful in identifying shorebirds, particularly using the two together. That is, comparing where the wing tip falls in relation to the tail tip. As example, Spotted Sandpiper has a long tail and short wings, so in most individuals the wing tip falls short of the tail tip on the standing bird, often well short. Conversely, Baird’s and White-rumped Sandpipers have the wing tips extending beyond the tail tip, providing an excellent differentiating factor to rule out Semipalmated and Western (wing tip about equal to tail tip) and Least (wing tip short of tail tip) sandpipers.

Unfortunately, this month’s photo quiz bird seems to lack a tail and wing tips, so we’ll have to use other features to make the ID. Bill shape is another excellent cue in shorebird ID, as it is critical in how birds obtain their food. Our bird seems to have a fairly short, blunt, and somewhat thick bill. The shortness rules out all manner of shorebirds, leaving only a couple handfuls of possibilities. However, this bird sports a feature that would enable the birding cognoscenti to immediately recognize the species, even with nearly half the bird missing from the photo.


What species is this?

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.