ABA Photo Quiz

ABA Online Bird Photo Quiz 14


Bird Photo

As we have seen with other quizzes dealing with shorebirds, the first step is to place a bird into the correct "group" of shorebirds, which we do largely by focusing on structure. In this case, the relatively long legs and medium-length bill should call to mind the Tringa shorebirds—Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper and a host of Asian rarities. Either Wandering or Gray-tailed Tattler could be considered initially, but our bird is simply too patterned, unlike either tattler which would show more uniformly colored upperparts. Breeding plumaged birds would be heavily barred on the underparts, while other plumages are more uniformly gray below.

Neither yellowlegs fits well either. The contrasting paler grayish base to the bill is more expected on a Greater Yellowlegs, but the bill seems much too short for that species. Furthermore, neither yellowlegs would show as conspicuous of an eyering. The tail pattern is also wrong for either yellowlegs.

Solitary Sandpiper fits much better, with the small spots on the upperparts, bold white eyering, and greenish legs. Still, there are a few strays that we should probably consider—just in case. Wood Sandpiper is rather similar structurally, but that species shows more markings on the upperparts and a prominent pale supercilium. Green Sandpiper, on the other hand, is very similar to our bird. Both have prominent white eyerings and the general coloration of the upperparts is very similar. But let's take a closer look at the tail. We can see that at least one of the tail feathers is all dark (the one on top, or innermost) and contrasts markedly with those below it that have heavy broad blackish barring. This contrast between dark uniformly-colored inner retrices and heavily barred outer retrices is one of the easiest ways to distinguish this Solitary Sandpiper from a Green Sandpiper, which would have a white rump, uppertail coverts and finely barred retrices.

This Solitary Sandpiper was photographed in Uvalde County, Texas in April of 2002.


The following people (listed by submission date beginning with the earliest) submitted correct answers for the May Bird Photo Quiz—Solitary Sandpiper:

  1. Adam Nisbett, St. James, MO
  2. Mike Ramsden, Beloit, WI
  3. Will Richardson, Truckee, CA
  4. Tom Smith, Waltham, MA
  5. Ben Young, Salem, OR
  6. Cynthia Taylor, Tucson, AZ
  7. Melissa Hein, North Branch, MN
  8. Mr B.E.B.Bree, Jersey Island, (near) France
  9. Mr B.O.BREE, Jersey Island, (near) France
  10. Brian E. Small, Los Angeles, CA
  11. Jason Giovannone, Columbia, SC
  12. James P. Smith, Keene, NH
  13. Neil Gilbert, Beverly Hills, MI
  14. Nikki Belmonte, Waltham, MA
  15. Luke Seitz, Falmouth, ME
  16. Travis A. Mahan, Decatur, IL
  17. Mark Stevenson, Tucson, AZ
  18. Matt Pike, Lacey, WA
  19. James Heath Hartsfield, Cairo, GA
  20. Susannah B. Lerman, Keene, NH
  21. Marcelo Brongo, Barcelona, Spain
  22. Manuel Mondejar, Taos, NM
  23. Larry Semo, Westminster, CO
  24. Blake Mathys, Everglades NP, FL
  25. Charles Swift, Moscow, ID
  26. Jason Sailing, Madison, WI
  27. Oliver Komar, San Salvador, El Salvador
  28. Matthew Kenne, Algona, IA
  29. Chaiyan Kasorndorkbua, Ames, IA
  30. Kent Nickell, Waterloo, IA
  31. Kent Fothergill, Buhl, ID
  32. Bruce deGraaf, Shrewsbury, MA
  33. Mike Burchett, Churchville, MD
  34. Alison Village, Berrien Springs, MI
  35. Colin Fenn, London, England
  36. Nick Anich, Ashland, WI
  37. Tom Johnson, Hummelstown, PA
  38. Ryan Dudragne, Swift Current, SK
  39. Bob Bonestroo, Colorado Springs, CO
  40. Thomas Archdeacon, Groveport, OH
  41. Laurent Dudragne, Swift Current, SK
  42. Delores Jenisch, Fullerton, CA
  43. Claire Curry, Greenwood, TX
  44. Aaron Brees, Corydon, IA
  45. Diane Powell, Kathleen, GA
  46. Dave Magpiong, Bellmawr, NJ
  47. Michael S. Levy, Centereach, NY
  48. Raymond VanBuskirk, Albuquerque, NM
  49. George E. Wallace, Warrenton, VA
  50. Tim Avery, Salt Lake City, UT
  51. William Velmala, Oulu, Finland
  52. Petro Pynnönen, Helsinki, Finland
  53. Michael Mammoser, San Jose, CA
  54. Sean Prockter, South Salem, NY
  55. Liis Veelma, Winnipeg, MB
  56. Howard Troughton, Brighton, MA
  57. Thomas Schultz, Green Lake, WI
  58. Nicholas Pederson, Albuquerque, NM
  59. Blue Rubinstein, New York, NY
  60. Tim White, Hilton Head, SC
  61. Karen Rubinstein, New York, NY
  62. Chris Jacobs, Dillsburg, PA
  63. Kyle Carlsen, Vincent, OH
  64. Steven Gedeon, Oradell, NJ
  65. Eric Secker, Wheaton, IL
  66. Kevin Kincaid, Indianapolis, IN
  67. Kreg Ellzey, Hornbeck, LA
  68. Ann King, Chehalis, WA
  69. Tom Benson, San Bernardino, CA
  70. Valerie LaPolla, Santa Fe, NM
  71. Lars Skalnes, Eugene, OR
  72. Robert Doster, Albuquerque, NM
  73. Michael Woodruff, Spokane, WA

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.

Solitary Sandpiper
Lesser Yellowlegs
Green Sandpiper
Marsh Sandpiper
Spotted Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper


The photo and answer for this quiz were supplied by Chris Wood.