Saturday, July 25, 2009

Photo Quiz Answered

This week's quiz photo (above) becomes a lot easier when it is uncropped so that the bird in question is seen with its male partner (below).

But how does one identify the female on its own?

I'll assume that one would know it is a songbird of some type. You have a bit of size reference with the hand in the photo to know that the bird pictured is a fairly big songbird. The bill on the bird is also very long. It may be difficult to tell since it is open mouthed, the bill is actually straight. It is also clearly pointed. This is very typical of the family Icteridae which includes the popular boldy marked black and orange/yellow/red Orioles.

Most of you got this far. From here you want to notice/think about a few things:

1. This bird is really contrasting, the color is sharp - not a drab bird
2. The wing bars are very distinct/well defined

The most "similar" options are drab female/young male Baltimore, female Hooded, and female Orchard Oriole.

In a drab female/young male Baltimore Oriole one would expect brownish sides to the neck and brownish scapulars. One would expect a young male to be more orange-ish, and a drab-female to be brightest on the breast where as this bird is bright overall.

A female Hooded Oriole is much closer to this bird; however, they also tend to be much drabber overall and with much less distinct wing bars.

A female Orchard Oriole on the other hand fits all characteristics: yellow bird (maybe a bit "greenish"/yellow-green) with well defined wing bars.

Female Orchard orioles are small and have a much shorter bill than a Hooded Oriole. This explains why there was some confusion and question as to whether the bird could have been a Warbler by some.

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