Monday, May 11, 2009
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Answer by Tony Leukering
Most interesting. A plurality of respondents got this week's quiz correct, but the majority did not. We have a brown-backed bird with yellow remex fringing and a bright yellow vent area (not the rump, which is not visible in this picture). The yellow fringing to the secondaries and primaries (remiges), rules out three of the species incorrectly provided as answers. The brown back rules out one of the remaining two, and the lack of obvious dark streaking on the back, the complete lack of dark streaking in the vent region, and the very bright yellow of the vent rule out the last. Also, the bird's tail is out of focus, but extending toward us and a bit to the left. We can just see that the outer web of the right outermost rectrix has some white, a feature that rules out ALL of the incorrect species guessed, except for the wagtail.
Ah, but what is the thing?
From comparison to the vegetation, our bird is obviously quite small and there just aren't that many such species with our quiz bird's combo of characters. In fact, one respondent noted looking at every species in the field guide (that person did not say which guide(s)) and found only one that matched all of these characters: Palm Warbler. One respondent, a veteran of falls on Southeast Farallon Island, CA -- one of the premier Lower-48 migrant traps -- noted the presence of Farallonweed in the picture and, due to that species' endemic nature on the Farallones, correctly noted that the bird was photographed on Southeast Farallon Island. I did work with Mark the fall that I was out there (fall 2007), but he was not present at the time that this Palm Warbler was. Finally, some respondents went a bit further in ID, noting that the white area between the legs and the off-white ground color of the flanks suggested that our bird is refereable to the western race of Palm Warbler, rather than the Atlantic-Coast-hugging Yellow Palm Warbler.
One respondent's answer was precluded from being correct for the competition as it lacked a capitalized 'warbler.'
Tallies of incorrect species provided in answers:
Vermilion Flycatcher - 2
Pine Siskin - 7
Nashville Warbler - 2
Virginia's Warbler - 1
Eastern Yellow Wagtail - 2
The 12 of 26 providing the correct answer:
Answer: Palm Warbler