Monday, May 9, 2011

Quiz #398 (2011-2-06) Solution

Click on picture(s) for a larger view.

Solution by Tony Leukering

This week's duck quiz -- and, yes, the color pattern rules out all non-ducks (that is, if we don't consider species that don't regularly swim), is facing straight away from us and some birders might have waited to ID the bird until it turned at least a bit. But, we don't need to wait. Besides, you could wait for quite some time, and the bird in the picture probably won't move. The only colors in the bird's plumage are black, gray, and white, and that rules out most duck options. Dabbling ducks are right out, so we're left with a few diving-duck options: Long-tailed Duck, Bufflehead, and Smew.

One of the reasons that I ran this quiz is that a lot of birders really don't pay attention to the parts of readily identified birds, but particularly in ducks. Adult males of all three species we're considering are immediately identifiable, so why worry about particular bits, because parts is parts. In this quiz, however, rump color actually comes into play, ruling in the correct species (black) and ruling the two incorrect species (both gray). Additionally, those fancy tertials do the same job as does the rump: present on the correct species, absent on the incorrect species. Bufflehead can also be ruled out by our bird's lack of black or dark on the back of the neck. Smew can also be ruled out by the black on the sides of our bird's neck. Finally, though we can only see the bare tip of the bird's long tail feathers against the white of the left flank, we can see most of the reflection of the tail in the water, as noted by a few respondents.

I took this picture of an adult male Long-tailed Duck at Avalon, Cape May Co., NJ, on 10 January 2011.

Incorrect species provided as answers:
Smew - 1

Congratulations to the 32 of 33 getting the quiz correct:
Su Snyder
Pam Myers
Tyler Bell
Jim Kopitzke
Robert McNab
Thomas Hall
Ira Sanders
Tammy Sanders
Diane Porter
Al Guarente
Brandon Percival
Ben Coulter
Margaret Smith
Tom Wilberding
Peter Wilkinson
Christian Nunes
Jim Nelson
Kirk Huffstater
Mary Driscoll
Devich Farbotnik
Barbara Deneen
Larry Griffin
Margie Joy
Christopher Hinkle
Bryan Guarente
Matt Bristol
Donna Nespoli
Marcel Such
Adrian Hinkle
Joel Such
Chishun Kwong

Answer: Long-tailed Duck