Monday, January 31, 2011
Click on picture(s) for a larger view.
Answer by Bryan Guarente and Tony Leukering
Brian Guarente provided a good response, so we'll start this week's solution with his words.
"Okay, you had me for a second.... I thought it was a Black Tern, but, thankfully, so much looked wrong on initial glance that I didn't submit right away. I needed to spend more time looking and it became obvious that this is not a tern at all. The feet are the best clue to make sure that this isn't a member of the Laridae: No webbing.
"So, where do we go with this? The feet look like that of a perching bird, not that of a wader or swimmer, so to the back half of the book we go. A mostly BLACK bird with a white underside gives us five options: Eastern Kingbird, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, Tree Swallow, and Dark-eyed (Slate-colored) Junco. Eastern Kingbird and Fork-tailed Flycatcher show white in the face, not just on the underside and underwings. Tree Swallow's tail is much shorter than this and the wings are more pointed. Slate-colored Junco is not this black and the bill is all pink, but the rest of the pattern matches very nicely, which I found an interesting similarity. This leaves only Black Phoebe."
Though some might be quite surprised by the two submissions of Brown Jay, one of the correct respondents noted that his first thought upon looking at the picture was Brown Jay. As one of the incorrect respondents noted, juvenile Brown Jays have yellow bills and their plumage pattern is fairly similar to that of our quiz bird. But, that same respondent noted, our bird's bill is actually yellow only on the inside; it is otherwise black. Eastern Phoebe can be ruled out by the darkness of the dark plumage and the extent of white on the outer web of the outermost rectrix (Black shows a nearly entire white outer web, while Eastern generally has only the basal half of that web white. Another consideration is Black x Eastern Phoebe hybrid, a combo that is turning up more and more with Black Phoebe's rapid range expansion in Colorado and New Mexico. Nathan Pieplow, Elaine Coley, and I published a paper in Western Birds on the first confirmed occurrence of this hybrid in Loveland, CO, a couple years back, and more instances have been found in both Colorado and New Mexico since. That combo can be ruled out by the same characters that eliminate Eastern Phoebe from consideration, though with more care being required. A picture of the Loveland bird can be found on my photo site.
Bill Maynard took this spectacular photo of a Black Phoebe along the Arkansas River in Pueblo, Pueblo Co., CO, on 7 January 2011.
Incorrect species provided as answers:
Brown Jay - 2
Eastern Phoebe - 1
Congratulations to the 26 of 29 getting the quiz correct:
Answer: Black Phoebe