ABA Photo Quiz

ABA Online Bird Photo Quiz 125


This (American) football-shaped bird with narrow wings and almost no tail that is flying over water can really be nothing other than an alcid (family Alcidae). With its seemingly entirely dark upperparts, the extensive white underparts that includes, at least, nearly all of the throat, is a useful options-reduction feature. The two ABA-area guillemot species can be eliminated by the head pattern (Pigeon Guillemot by the underwing color, too), as, even in transition between plumages, they never show such a strongly-contrasting black-and-white pattern. Other than Least and Parakeet, the auklets are ruled out due to the presence of darker coloration on the underparts during all parts of the year. Ancient Murrelet would show at least a bit of blackish on the chin and throat, even in basic plumage. Tufted Puffin is right out and the other two puffin species sport black collars (and bigger bills).

Of the 12 remaining species, our bird’s black-and-white pattern rules out alternate-plumaged individuals of the two murre species; Razorbill; Dovekie; the two remaining auklets; and Long-billed, Marbled, and Kittlitz’s murrelets. Dovekie and the three large alcids among the remaining options (basic-plumaged individuals of the two murre species, Razorbill) are ruled out on multiple features, but particularly on bill size: Too big for Dovekie, too small for the others. Underwing color and pattern are also quite helpful in this solution-set reduction effort, helping to eliminate some of the above species, particularly Dovekie, and also Least and Parakeet auklets, and Craveri’s Murrelet. That leaves us with just Xantus’s Murrelet remaining in our solution set. Next..

Wait just a cotton-picking minute! You might recall that last summer, the American Ornithologists’ Union split Xantus’s Murrelet into two species, eliminating that the only regularly occurring ABA-area ‘X’ bird. Because both of the resultant species, the northern Scripps’s Murrelet and the southern Guadelupe Murrelet, have white wing linings, we have to go back to the guides. Those guides suggest that the face is where we need to look. Our quiz bird’s slight indentation of white in front of the eye is good for Scripps’s and nowhere-near-extensive enough for Guadalupe.

I took this picture of an adult Scripps’s Murrelet off San Diego, San Diego Co., CA, on 12 May 2013.


The following people (listed by submission date beginning with the earliest) submitted correct answers for the April Bird Photo Quiz—Scripps’s Murrelet:

  1. Clifford Hawley - Sacramento, CA
  2. Cédric Duhalde - Pacifica, California
  3. Mary Birdsong - Erie, PA
  4. Christopher Eliot -Brooklyn, NY
  5. Aidan Bodeo-Lomicky -Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
  6. Claude Auchu - La Pocatiere, Quebec
  7. Robert Lockett -Portland, OR
  8. Jeanne Tinsman -Las Vegas, NV
  9. Rob Fowler -McKinleyville, CA
  10. Andrew M -Plainview, NY
  11. Martin Sharp -Edmonton, Alberta
  12. Brad Hammond -West Palm Beach, Fl
  13. Andrew Aldrich -Downers Grove, IL
  14. Joseph Mosley -Willard, MO
  15. Casey Ryan -Arcata, CA
  16. James Neves - Athens, GA
  17. Adrian Hinkle -Portland, OR
  18. Jim Mountjoy - Galesburg, IL
  19. John Brett - Toronto, ON
  20. Steve Hampton -Davis, CA
  21. David Bell -Sault Ste. Marie, ON
  22. Laure Neish -Penticton, BC Canada
  23. Bruce LaBar - Tacoma, WA
  24. Robert A. Young -Alexandria,va
  25. Karl Erich Mayer -Tawas City, Michigan
  26. Samuel Ewing -Gainesville, FL
  27. Luke Hollander -Minneapolis, MN
  28. Mike Freund -Seattle, WA
  29. Robert Packard -Riverside, CA
  30. Wayne Meyer -Denison, TX
  31. jim bates - Oklahoma City OK
  32. Pam Myers -Santa Cruz, CA
  33. logan kahle -San Francisco, CA
  34. Brian E. Small -Los Angeles, CA
  35. Frank Mantlik -Stratford, CT
  36. Claire Miller -Fair Oaks, CA
  37. Erica Rutherford -Oakland, CA
  38. Eric Heisey -Granger, Washington
  39. Gerry Hawkins -Arlington, VA
  40. Kelly Jackson -Keyport, NJ
  41. Patty McKelvey -Sheffield Village, Ohio; USA
  42. Greg Schrott -Avon Park, FL
  43. Evan Janson -Dallas, TX
  44. Isaac Sanchez -Austin, TX
  45. Alex Rinkert -Ben Lomond, California
  46. Celestyn Brozek -Albuquerque, NM
  47. John Branchflower - Portland, OR
  48. Ann Gibson -Winfield, BC
  49. Joseph Miller - Nickerson, Kansas
  50. Barb Robertson -Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  51. Brennan Obermayer - Barrie, ON
  52. Don Pendleton - East Palo Alto, CA
  53. Terri Everett -Big Rapids
  54. Jerry Jacka -Boerne, TX
  55. Robert McNab -Laguna Niguel, California
  56. John Kendall -Valparaiso, In
  57. John Votta -Brick, NJ
  58. Ed Harper - Carmichael, CA
  59. Greg Zupansic -Eugene, Oregon
  60. William Rockey -Esparto, CA
  61. Kai Shaikh -Pittsburgh, PA
  62. Blake Mathys -West Mansfield, OH
  63. James McKay -Mesa, AZ
  64. David Hollie - Ringgold, GA
  65. Tom Ford-Hutchinson -Irvine, CA

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.

Xantus's Murrelet
Guadalupe Murrelet
Long-billed Murrelet
Craveri's Murrelet
Thick-billed Murre
Common Murre
Cassin's Auklet
Marbled Murrelet
Manx Shearwater
Black Guillemot
Audubon's Shearwater
Ancient Murrelet
Wilson's Storm Petrel


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