Monday, July 5, 2010

Quiz #356 (2010-3-01) Solution

Click on picture(s) for a larger view.

Answer by Tony Leukering

Well, after the first quiz of the third quarter, there are 24 tied for first place! Of course, with a bird with rufous upperparts (with black markings) and blue wings (with white markings), there really aren't a lot of options on the ol' ABA list. But, how would folks have done had I provided the quiz that I first thought to provide -- just the wing?

I went with this version for one main reason (other than the simple ease of not having to crop the picture, etc.): reinforcing one of the main themes behind my tenure as Mr. Bill. That theme is knowing the common birds cold. American Kestrel is, for most North American birders, a common, nearly-every-day species, the kind that we learn to recognize immediately and then pay little overt attention to -- at least as far as the details of plumage.

Yes, the seemingly ever-expanding availability of raptor-ID field guides treat this species quite well but, again, how many of us actually read the accounts of such common and widespread species? How many know that one can sex American Kestrels (from above and below) solely on the color of the subterminal spots on the remiges? How many know that ageing American Kestrels in the field is difficult (for males) to very difficult (for females)?

Males always have blue wings and always have a very wide black subterminal tail band, both characters differing from those of all females. But, had our quiz bird's left wing been just a shade more elevated, we might not have been able to determine the wing's color and our view of the tail is already nearly edge-on, making for some uncertainty in assessing its features. But, those whitish (blue-white to gray-white) subterminal spots on the primaries and secondaries would tell us that our quiz bird is a male, whether we can see the wing color or not, as females have buffy spots.

Immature male American Kestrels usually show more black markings on the back and more black spots on the chest and sides than do adults. However, these features are more-than-variable enough to preclude using them to age any given individual. Our bird's back is suggestive (at least, to me) of a younger bird, but....

I took this picture of a male American Kestrel in Conejos Co., CO, on 17 June 2010.

Incorrect species provided as answers:

Congratulations to the 24 of 24 getting the quiz correct:
Louie Toth
Al Guarente
Marcel Such
Robert McNab
Kevin Kerr
Tyler Bell
Chuck Carlson
Margie Joy
Claire Mix
William Velmala
Thomas Hall
Aaron Brees
George Cresswell
Su Snyder
Nick Komar
Gary Koehn
Richard Jeffers
Peter Wilkinson
Barbara Deneen
Brandon Percival
Bryan Guarente
Chris Warren
Joel Such
Joe Bens

Answer: American Kestrel