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The picture of our hiding quiz bird was partly intended as a quiz of nomenclature, in addition to the usual identification aspects. Those that submitted the correct species are probably now jumping up and down in celebration (well, they may be a bit less enthusiastic than that), because they may now know that they got the quiz right. Yes, our quiz species has seen an inordinate number of name changes in my 35 years of birding, most (if not all) due to considerations and reconsiderations as to its taxonomic status relative to, well, relatives in central Mexico.
Our quiz bird has one particularly striking feature and another that’s a bit different. The “bit-different” feature being the particular shade of brown of what we can see of the upperparts: a bit of the left wing and associated scapulars. Note on that wing, that the primaries have white barring on them, a feature typical of woodpeckers, but not of many other brown-backed bird species in the ABA Area. The “striking” feature is the brown spotting on the underparts that extends the length of those underparts. While there are ABA-Area species with streaking that extensive or, in the case of Dusky Thrush, chevrons that extensive, none sport spotting, particularly brown spotting, that extensive.
The quiz species has been known as Brown-backed Woodpecker and Strickland’s Woodpecker, as well as the current name of Arizona Woodpecker, with fairly quick changes from Arizona to Strickland’s and back to Arizona in the last decades of the previous millennium. Part of the history of inconsistency in nomenclature has been due to changing concepts of how closely related this form is to a central-Mexican form known as Strickland’s Woodpecker. When lumped, they are known as Strickland’s; when split, as Arizona.
Of course, I have something of a minor bone to pick with the current name. Though the species is found in the ABA Area just about only in Arizona (yes, there is a bit of spillover into southwestern-most New Mexico), the species is, in no way, endemic – or even near-endemic – to Arizona. Arizona can claim not even 200 miles of its roughly 1100 latitudinal miles of range. In the ABA Area, it is present in, barely, two states; in Mexico, it is a denizen of seven. Granted, that’s not nearly as egregious a difference as represented by other species, such as Louisiana Waterthrush and, particularly, Cape May Warbler (where the warbler in question is not at all common). Fortunately, despite the tendency to ethnocentricity of the British and their various progeny scattered around the globe (to which I certainly claim membership!), American Bittern was not named for the locality at which it was first discovered. Can you imagine calling Botaurus lentiginosus the Piddletown Bittern, after the location in Dorset, England? (As a corollary, what is the only widespread, breeding Old World species to have been named to science from discovery in the New World?)
I took this picture of an Arizona Woodpecker in Madera Canyon, AZ, in August 2006. Another picture of the same bird was provided as the quiz subject in the partly concurrent photo quiz on the Colorado Field Ornithologists’ website (www.cfobirds.org).
The following people (listed by submission date beginning with the earliest) submitted correct answers for the March Bird Photo Quiz—Arizona Woodpecker:
The following list shows the number of submissions for each species guessed.
The photo and answer for this quiz were supplied by Tony Leukering.