September 2022 Photo Quiz

Tony Leukering
Dodge City, KS

The first response of some quiz-takers might well be, “What a horrible photo, particularly for a quiz photo!” Others, however, may well jump on the correct identification immediately. For those of us that are not accomplished at or comfortable with identification by shape, posture, and behavior, this could certainly provide for a difficult quiz. Those that had the second response posited above would have gotten the ID solely on shape and posture, perhaps aided by behavior.

The important take-home points for this quiz are the subject’s proportions of head to various other parts of the bird and the choice of lookout perch.

The muted coloration, particularly the olive-brown color of the upperparts and the relative lack of distinctive plumage features should get quiz-takers to that wonderful and oft-maligned family Tyrannidae, the New World flycatchers. Oh, I doubt that many have spoken ill of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers or Great Kiskadees, but most flycatchers that many ABA-Area birders encounter are of generally less-colorful appearance. Once one has determined that one is looking at a flycatcher, the first order of business is to place the bird in one of the large, more-homogeneous assemblages of species, such as Myiarchus (the “crested” flycatchers) or kingbirds. Here, the relevant grouping is something I like to call the small green flycatchers. Yes, some to many aren’t particularly green, but various members of Contopus and Empidonax are green, so live with it. And, yes, some of the largest “small green flycatchers” are not that small. Still, live with it.

Once among these SGFs, the first order of business is to determine to which of the two genera the bird is referable. I wrote an article on making just that distinction for the October 2021 issue of Birding, so if you have that cluttering some flat space in your abode, feel free to refresh your memory. If you have online access to the various issues of Birding, go check it out there.

Photos and answers are supplied by Tony Leukering, a field ornithologist based in 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.