Sunday, November 23, 2008
Answer by Tony Leukering
Well, another interesting week, with an interesting array of answers provided. Particularly interesting was that a single feature, leg color, rules out most of the incorrect species guessed. Yes, many of us use leg color in identifying some birds, but I am continually amazed how often that facet is ignored in most other identifications of unknown birds.
The combination of pale legs, grayish-brown lower back, heavily-marked undertail coverts and flanks, white vent region, and strong tan fringes to the greater coverts and tertials really does not leave us all that many options. In fact, it leaves only one. And then, if we peer over the bird's right tertials, we can see the lowest bit of a tawny brace.
As soon as I saw this bird foraging on Pitch Pine cones (along with a number of flock mates), I knew that it would make a great photo quiz, as at least some would think that the cones were critical to the bird's ID, when, in fact, they were a red herring. Below, I have provided another picture of the bird showing more completely its distinctive back pattern.
I took these pictures of a female House Sparrow at the Avalon seawatch, Cape May Co., NJ, on 2 November 2008. So, that's now the fourth time that I have used the species in an online photo quiz. I do such because to identify unknown birds, its often quite helpful to really know the ID of common birds cold.
One respondent's answer was discarded, as it arrived on Tuesday, a day-and-a-half beyond the deadline.
Tallies of incorrect answers for quiz species:
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 1
Snow Bunting - 1
Pine Siskin - 2
White-throated Sparrow - 1
Clay-colored Sparrow - 2
Harris's Sparrow - 1
Sage Sparrow - 1
White-breasted Nuthatch - 1
American Goldfinch - 1
Red Crossbill - 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 1
Congratulations to the 13 of 26 respondents answering correctly:
Answer: House Sparrow