Click the picture for a larger view.
Answer by Tony Leukering and Joel Such
Joel Such provided a good answer to this quiz, so we'll start there:
"This week's quiz bird looks like a diving duck. I can eliminate eiders, Harlequin Duck, Long-tailed Duck, scoters (except for Black Scoter), and alcids, because the quiz bird's wings are closed while diving. The aforementioned duck species all dive with their wings out and alcids dive with their wings out and their feet sticking out of the water. All the Bucephala ducks and the mergansers dive with their wings closed. The quiz bird has red legs, a black back, gray sides, white scapulars, white belly, some white vertical spots on the side, and a hint of rufous color toward the head. Those field marks match those of Red-breasted Merganser."
Joel probably noted my brief discussion for one of the ABA quizzes on diving style (www.americanbirding.org/photoquiz/quizans66.html); I'm glad someone is reading my answers and using the information. Additionally, just to round things out: LEG COLOR! I've noted this facet in this venue any number of times, but I don't know that I'm making any impression and leg color was quite useful in this week's quiz. Both goldeneyes have orange legs, while White-winged Scoter and Horned Grebe both have blackish legs. Those guessing Bufflehead might be excused a bit, as pink can be fairly similar to red, but on my monitor, the bird's leg is decidedly red, not the bubble-gum pink of Bufflehead. Besides, our bird has too much white in the wing for female-plumaged Buffleheads.
I took this picture of an actively diving adult male Red-breasted Merganser on 8 February 2008 at the Cape May ferry terminal, Cape May Co., NJ. Note that I called it an "adult male." Like other merganser species, Red-breasted Merganser exhibits delayed plumage maturation -- that is, males wear a female-like plumage for much of their first year and, in February, would still look mostly or completely like a female in plumage. I have provided, below, the picture that I took immediately prior to the quiz photo that shows the bird in all its glory.
With two quizzes to go in the quarterly competition, two out-of-staters, Tyler Bell and Peter Wilkinson (both with 10 of 11 correct), share the lead. Two Coloradans, Nick Komar and Christian Nunes (each with 9 of 11 correct), are breathing over the leaders' shoulders.
Tallies of incorrect answers for quiz species:
Common Goldeneye - 1
Horned Grebe - 1
Barrow's Goldeneye - 2
White-winged Scoter - 1
Bufflehead - 4
The 15 of 24 respondents answering correctly:
Answer: Red-breasted Merganser