ABA Photo Quiz

ABA Online Bird Photo Quiz 121


A drab bird flies overhead. Quick! What are the key characters to identify it?

We can see that the bird’s bill is fairly wide for its short length and that the beast has long and obvious rictal bristles, two features typical of fly-catching birds. We might consider both Old World and New World flycatchers, as the drab underparts – with bits of gray and hints of yellow – would work for one or more species from both groups. However, none of those possibilities have a plumage sporting a yellow base to a doubly rounded tail. We will have to look elsewhere.

Those long rictal bristles, however, severely limit the possibilities. Additionally, all those early, post-Tyrannidae passerine groups (shrikes, vireos, corvids, chickadees, nuthatches) have no members with a tail like that of our quiz bird. In fact, the passerine families, in general, all half or so of the ABA-area list, exhibit a near-lack of yellow-based tails. However, there is one species that does sport yellow bases to the outer rectrices, but with that yellow typically being more extensive: American Redstart. Hmm. Here is where knowledge of ageing and sexing criteria can assist us in making an ID. Adult male American Redstarts, obviously, do not sport yellow bases to any tail feathers, instead, having orange there, and quite a lot of it. But, notice the term, “adult,” there. Male American Redstarts in their first plumage cycle (roughly a bit more than their first twelve months of life) exhibit female-like tails with yellow bases to the outer rectrices, and with those yellow patches being of roughly similar size to those of adult females. Immature females, as in most ABA-area bird species with strong sexual plumage dimorphism, are the drabbest of the lot, with their yellow tail patches barely extending beyond the undertail coverts.

American Redstart is one of my favorite birds in flight, because they are so distinctive in so very many ways. See an obvious yellow or orange wingstripe on a warbler-sized bird? Bingo. See a long warbler-sized bird with a long head, deep chest, slim belly, and long, seemingly-spatulate tail? More than enough for the ID. Note a ‘V’-shaped bit of yellow or orange at the base of the underside of the tail? Yup, American Redstart.

I took this picture of an immature female American Redstart at Higbees Beach SWA, Cape May Co., NJ, on 29 August 2012. Check out the great numbers from the Morning Flight Count that morning!


The following people (listed by submission date beginning with the earliest) submitted correct answers for the April Bird Photo Quiz—American Redstart:

  1. Ian Davies - Manomet, MA
  2. Andrew Aldrich - Aurora, IL
  3. Jeffrey Buecking - Fenton, MI
  4. Michael Lester - Tucson, AZ
  5. Justyn Stahl - San Clemente Island, CA
  6. Ryan O'Donnell - Logan, Utah
  7. Mayn Hipp - Boston, MA
  8. Jacob Hall - Washington, DC
  9. Chris Blazo - Chambersburg,PA
  10. Brooke Keeney - Somerville, MA
  11. Dominic Cormier - Halifax, Nova Scotia
  12. Marcelo Brongo - Sant Cugat del Valles, Spain
  13. Lewis Barnett - Richmond, VA
  14. Alex Wiebe - Takoma Park, MD
  15. Claude Auchu - La Pocatiere, Quebec
  16. Liesa Mendell - Warren, Michigan
  17. Cal Walters - Piedmont, Ca
  18. William Rockey - Esparto, CA
  19. Josh Parks - Fairbanks, Ak
  20. Nicolas Bernier - Sainte-Geneviève
  21. Traci Van Tine - Otter Lake, MI
  22. Colton Prins - Redcliff, AB
  23. Sean Williams - East Lansing, MI
  24. Aiden Moser - Henniker, NH
  25. Andrew Miller - Partridge
  26. Brad Hammond - West Palm Beach, Florida
  27. James Warren - Philadelphia, PA
  28. Ari Rice - Appleton, WI
  29. Jon Atwood - Keene, NH
  30. Chris Warren - Makawao, HI
  31. David Hollie - Ringgold, GA
  32. Nathan Webb - Elba, AL
  33. Mike Wasilco - Caledonia, NY
  34. Jared Parks - Church Hill, MD
  35. Joseph Miller - Nickerson, Kansas
  36. Nikki Belmonte - Roswell, GA
  37. Tom Smith - Roswell, GA
  38. Joseph Mosley - willard, MO
  39. Samuel Ewing - Newberry, FL
  40. Ann Gibson - Winfield, BC
  41. Michael S. Levy - Centereach, N.Y.
  42. Pam Myers - Santa Cruz, CA
  43. Pete McLean - Amherst MA
  44. Brian Bielfelt - Santa Clarita, CA
  45. Darrel Wilder - Johnson City, TN
  46. Marcel Such - Lyons, CO
  47. Dan Altif - Swiftwater, PA
  48. David Rankin - Arundel
  49. Greg Schrott - Avon Park, FL
  50. Benjamin Shamgochian - East Providence, RI
  51. Jonathan Frodge - Cincinnati, OH
  52. Kim Dohms - Shirley, BC
  53. Terri Everett - Big Rapids, MI
  54. Cal Walters - Piedmont, Ca
  55. Jason McGuire - London, ON
  56. Dean Nicholson - Cranbrook, B.C.
  57. Peter Lane - Québec, Canada
  58. Diane Garlick- Augusta, MI
  59. John Brett - Toronto, ON
  60. Barb Robertson - Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  61. Robert McNab - Laguna Niguel, California
  62. Stephen Joly - Kamloops,BC
  63. Graham Etherington - Norwich, UK
  64. James McKay - Mesa, AZ
  65. Alexandre Anctil - Rimouski, Qc
  66. Emma Dickinson - Decatur, GA
  67. Samantha - S OH
  68. Robert Packard - Riverside, CA
  69. Ed Harper - CA
  70. Steven Bouyack - Columbus, Ohio
  71. George F. Cresswell - Colorado Springs, CO
  72. Celestyn Brozek - Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
  73. Bobby Walsh - Davis, CA
  74. Mary Walsh - Valencia, CA
  75. Jim Mountjoy - Galesburg, IL
  76. logan kahle - San Francisco, CA
  77. Blake Mathys - West Mansfield, OH
  78. Briana C. - Makanda, IL
  79. Liam Waters - Sharon Massachusetts
  80. Jeffrey Kyron - Hanson Pittsfield, MA
  81. Daroczi J. Szilard - Tg.-Mures, Romania

How Did You Compare?

As stated in the quiz rules, answers must consist simply of the Common or English name exactly as it appears in the ABA Checklist.

The following list shows the number of submissions for each species guessed.

Cedar Waxwing
Western Tanager
Acadian Tanager
Buff-breasted Flycatcher
Western Wood Peewee
Scarlet Tanager
Bullock's Oriole
Brown-headed Cowbird
Blue Grosbeak
Dusky Flycatcher
Great-crested Flycatcher
House Sparrow
House Wren
Indigo Bunting
Least Flycatcher
Orchard Oriole
Pine Siskin
Pine Warbler
Say's Phoebe
White-crested Elaenia
Willow Flycatcher
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
Dusky Flycatcher
Wild Turkey


The photo and answer for this quiz were supplied by Tony Leukering.