Monday, February 16, 2009
Only one species of goose is present.
Click the picture for a larger view.
Answer by Tony Leukering
With the given caveat that only one species of goose is present in this week's quiz picture, we ought to believe that that species is one of the white-cheeked goose species, Canada or Cackling. The long bills and sloping foreheads of the geese on which we can see these features well should eliminate Cackling from consideration, so we'll start with Canada Goose being the goose species here. Most observers would also quickly note that there are ducks present and that this quiz was not as easy as simply deciding what the goose species was. Despite two responses providing both species of white-cheeked geese, there really are no Cackling Geese in the picture, but there are two subspecies of Canadas, with the most obvious smaller Canada being in the top left corner.
The three ducks in the foreground include one standing on the ice (preening) and two in the water just to screen right of the standing bird. The reddish chest, grayish-white underparts, black vent, white tail, and bright orange legs of the standing bird really leave only Mallard as an option, and that bird's obvious white-bordered blue speculum ices that ID.
The back bird of the two swimming birds has the same grayish-white underparts and, just detectable, black vent, as well as the gray tertials typical of male Mallards, so that's two of these beasts down. Now, it's likely that most observers would ID the obvious female dabbler (brown, with dark internal markings on body feathers) with the two male Mallards as a female Mallard, but we can be sure of that ID by the bird's size, extensive dark markings on all visible body plumage, and the strong suggestion of the typical Mallard speculum just visible on the bird's right wing. With the ID of the foreground ducks as Mallards, the large size of the geese corroborates our initial ID of them as Canadas.
So, moving to the bottom left corner of the picture there is one small duck tipping up and a blob that may or may not be another duck. The blob was identified as at least one species of duck, but I'm not sure that it's really identifiable and suspect that it's just a blob, though it might be a male Mallard. If so, of course, that doesn't change the species mix for our answer. The last definite bird to ID is the small tipping-up duck and the obvious yellow patch below the tail with the thin black border, the gray sides, and white belly all point to our bird as a male Green-winged Teal. This last bird was the one that I though would be the sticking point for many, as it's not very obvious, but most respondents had no problem with it; apparently I'm getting a reputation as tricky and folks are looking more carefully. Well, since that's the main reason that I do this quiz-- to get folks to look at birds more carefully, I can live with that.
I took this picture at Bunker Pond, Cape May Point S.P., Cape May Co., NJ, on 3 January 2009, a place where Cackling Goose is decidedly rare.
Four respondents provided answers with no incorrect species but without enough correct ones. Additionally, two such answers would have been precluded even if correct, as the species names were provided in the plural.
Tallies of incorrect species provided in answers:
Gadwall - 1
American Coot - 2
Cackling Goose - 2
The 21 of 30 providing the correct answer:
Answer: Canada Goose, Mallard, Green-winged Teal