Monday, October 5, 2009
Click the picture for a larger view.
Answer by Tony Leukering
Before I continue the solution to the quiz, I'd like to paste in most of Kevin Kerr's response, as it so clearly elucidates most of the problems that this week's quiz caused:
"Step-by-step identification process:
1. Determined the query bird was a raptor based on thick yellow legs with long talons
2. Eliminated all North American raptors with a slaty blue-gray back and dark primaries
3. Consulted Guide to non-passerine birds of the Palearctic
4. Confirmed that Sooty Falcon is not on the ABA checklist
5. Consulted Guide to non-passerine birds of South America
6. Pulled out hair and squinted at the computer screen
7. Looked at the feet again and finally something clicked...
8. Laughed out loud"
Yes, this was a most interesting and confounding quiz. There were twice the number of incorrect species guessed as of correct responses. As I suspected when I was editing my many photos of this week's quiz bird, this was a real stumper. A few, though, either knew it right off or didn't let themselves get stuck in the wrong family shoving this square peg into a round hole. That latter was difficult enough, becaue there aren't all that many bird species with such bright yellow legs. As the bird was obviously not a shorebird, most of those going wrong found themselves among the raptors, a group with a lot of yellow-legged species. Sadly, no ABA-area raptor of the general color scheme of our quiz bird has such unmarked flight feathers -- both rectrices and remiges. Mississippi Kite may come closest, but the species sports a wide white trailing edge to the wing and with the wingtips extending beyond the tail, both features not part of our quiz bird. Snail Kite has a yellow-legged phase, but at that time they don't have smooth gray upperparts. That species' wingtips also extend beyong the tail tip.
A slight majority of those that managed to avoid the raptor trap (5 of 9) got the quiz correct. Unfortunately, the minority guessed a thrush sporting dark legs and two species of pigeon with fairly-typical-for-the-group pink legs.
I have noted this a number of times in this venue: many birders don't pay enough attention to leg color. Yes, they use it in shorebirds, but seem to ignore it with many/most other groups. As it is a very useful feature in a LOT OF SPECIES, I am harping on it, again.
A couple of respondents noted leafing through a field guide looking for species with plain upperparts and bright yellow legs. Anyone doing that carefully enough would come to the conclusion that there is only one species in that solution set: Band-tailed Pigeon. I photographed this amazingly cooperative individual in the "high country" of Santa Barabara County, CA, on 27 July 2009. I thank Peter Gaede for the opportunity to join him up there, if for no other reason than the chance to finally get reasonable pix of this species; another one of this individual is presented below.
Incorrect species provided as answers:
Snail Kite - 2
American Robin - 2
Merlin - 3
Rough-legged Hawk - 1
White-crowned Pigeon - 1
Mississippi Kite - 2
Rock Pigeon - 1
Red-tailed Hawk - 1
Peregrine Falcon - 1
Northern Goshawk - 1
The 5 of 20 providing the correct answer:
Answer: Band-tailed Pigeon