Monday, June 8, 2009

Quiz #303 (2009-2-11) Answer

Click the picture for a larger view.

None of the birds in the far background need be identified.

Answer by Tony Leukering

Ah, another hard one. I made it even harder by forgetting to post the intended caveat: "No ABA-area rarities present in picture." That would have made the middle bird a bit easier to ID, though I note that no one provided a guess of Little Egret.

I note that, with my allowance of unidentifiable as an acceptable answer for the middle bird (due to my forgetting the caveat), the entire Guarente clan (who all take the quiz independently) got the quiz right and that Andrea, a relative neophyte birder, is one of only three folks to get both of the last two quizzes correct! Congrats, Andrea! I also want to note that she justified her non-ID on the basis of my answer to the last quiz. Obviously, Bryan did a good job at selecting a spouse!

Let's start with the right bird, which in my opinion, provides the quickest ID (though many got this one wrong). It is obviously a dark heron, but it sports white flanks and pale legs. Though Great Blue Heron might have been the first consideration of many, that species has dark flanks and legs. Additionally, they don't have any purplish aspect on the wings. We cannot see the wing linings, which are distinctive for the species, but we have enough to know that this bird is a Tricolored Heron. Note that that species name lacks a hyphen (one respondent inserted one), but I am not at all sure why that is. However, it may have to do with nomenclature conventions that the A.O.U. uses.

The left bird is about the same size as the Tricolored Heron with a bi-colored bill (blue/black) and a head and neck a bit purpler than the rest of the bird. These features make a strong case for Little Blue Heron. Many respondents went for Reddish Egret on this bird and I'm sure that I know why: on some monitors (including one of the three on which I looked at it), the bird's bill base appears pink. However, Reddish Egret sports a more-contrasting orangish-red head-and-neck coloration and should be even larger, relative to the size of Tricolored Heron, than is Little Blue Heron.

The middle bird is a flying (to the left) white heron that is certainly no bigger than the front birds, with long legs trailing behind it that can be a mite difficult to pick out from the Spartina. However, multiple respondents did note that there is yellow evident on the legs, thus ruling out Cattle Egret. Additionally, one can see a fair suggestion of a black bill if one blows the picture up enough. Thus, we're left with Snowy Egret (considering the above caveat). While I would have liked all three birds to be closer, when I saw them flying, I immediately thought of this venue! I took the picture at Nummy Island, Cape May Co., NJ, in April 2008. I think.

Tallies of incorrect species provided in answers:
Reddish Egret - 12
Great Blue Heron - 3
Cattle Egret - 3
Mute Swan - 1

The 6 of 21 providing the correct answer:
Robert McNab
Al Guarente
Marcel Such
Bryan Guarente
Nick Komar
Andrea Smith-Guarente

Answer: Little Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron