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We’ve got a primarily white bird with black wingtips over what must be the ocean or another very large body of water, to have such rough seas. With such birds, we may be tempted to start the ID process with gulls, the regular, everyday white bird with black wingtips; at least for most birders in the ABA area. However, closer scrutiny of either wingtip should point out that only the two outermost primaries are significantly black, and that, apparently, only on the outer webs. The various white-winged gulls, if they were to show such dark coloration on the outer primaries, should show such on more primaries. We can also see a black diagonal bar on the inner wing, and if our quiz bird is a gull, that character will seriously reduce the possibilities. In fact, there are no gull species that show the combo of restricted black in the outer primaries and a diagonal black bar on the upper wing, so we will have to look further afield for a solution. Terns don’t work for this month’s quiz solution, not with that black bar on the upper wing. What other group of white waterbirds are even remotely similar. Well, there is one, the tropicbirds.
Once we get to tropicbirds, that diagonal black bar that has been causing us so many problems with gulls and terns, works to our advantage, as there is only one ABA-area species sporting that character.
I took this picture of an adult White-tailed Tropicbird at Sunset Beach, Cape May Point, Cape May Co., NJ, on 28 August 2011 after the passage of Hurricane Irene and represents only one of the THREE seen that day from shore! After the recent passage of Tropical Storm Sandy, the same vantage point produced an unprecedented-for-New Jersey flight of Pomarine Jaegers, with some 148 counted! Other various vantages along the Delaware (both as bay and as river) produced other astounding beasts. However, we feel for those still suffering from the impacts of Sandy, particularly in Hoboken, NJ, and parts of New York City that may well see weeks or months pass before a complete return to normality.
The following people (listed by submission date beginning with the earliest) submitted correct answers for the October Bird Photo Quiz—White-tailed Tropicbird:
The following list shows the number of submissions for each species guessed.
The photo and answer for this quiz were supplied by Tony Leukering.