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From the juxtaposition of quiz bird and foliage parts, we can discern that our subject is a fairly wee thing. The colorful flight-feather fringes on both wings and tail and the two wing bars help to rule out all of the non-passerines and an awful lot of the passerines. There also seems to be the suggestion of an eye ring and the legs are blackish.
Those wing bars and the tail pattern might lead us to the Parulidae, but the bird’s overall coloration appears fairly drab and most wing-barred New World warblers, even the drabbest of females, usually sport more color and/or pattern than does this bird. Notable exceptions include Pine Warbler and, well, Pine Warbler. Did I mention Pine Warbler? That species also sports an eye ring of sorts, so it would make a reasonable ID contender for our quiz bird. Unfortunately for an ID of Pine Warbler, our bird’s lower wing bar is at least as bright white as the upper one (which only peeks out from under other coverts) and the flight-feather fringes on the quiz bird are obviously yellow-green, a feature at odds with the gray fringes of Pine Warbler.
Eye rings may cause us to think of vireos, and eye-ringed vireos are also wing-barred, so that works. However, those blackish legs are a deal-breaker for the bluish-gray-legged vireos (to say little of those bright yellow-green rectrix fringes). Those long legs – and those obvious yellow-green rectrix fringes – go a long way to ruling out those purveyors of panic, the Empidonax flycatchers. Once safely away from that section of the field guide, we might find ourselves with few viable options. Any sparrows with wing bars should show some sort of back-streaking and, once again, should not show such bright yellow-green tail-feather fringes. Orioles are out (back streaking, color, and/or, tail pattern), as are wagtails and pipits (uh, just no). As some Brit friends of mine would say, “$*^%@#$^#$$%!”
However, we might backtrack to vireos, not because the picture misrepresents our quiz bird’s leg color, but because, this wee beastie is often confused with one or two species of vireo, particularly Hutton’s. But, there’s a great field character emphasized by the angle of this picture: the black bar below the lower white wing bar. The edges of the primaries and secondaries on this species end abruptly before reaching the greater coverts and their white tips that form the lower wing bar, which is quite different from most other ABA-area wing-barred passerine species. And, since the bird does not have a complex crown pattern….
I took this picture of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet on 19 October 2004 in northern Baja California, Mexico.
The following people (listed by submission date beginning with the earliest) submitted correct answers for the April Bird Photo Quiz—Ruby-crowned Kinglet:
The following list shows the number of submissions for each species guessed.
The photo and answer for this quiz were supplied by Tony Leukering.