ABA Photo Quiz

ABA Online Bird Photo Quiz 144


The one of these things that’s not like the other is pale below and exhibits long, narrow wings; a longish, banded tail; a contrastingly dark head; and distinct black wing tips. Interestingly, the central rectrices seem to protrude just a bit beyond the rest of the tail feathers. Though the apparently longer central rectrices might make us want to start with jaegers, the wing pattern is just flat out wrong for that genus. The things that ARE like each other are entirely black, pointing to the genus Corvus, and relatively short- and round-winged, which points to one of the northern “species” of crow, as both Fish and Tamaulipas Crows have more-pointed wing tips, while ravens have longer wings and more-pointed wing tips. The shape of the wing tip is partly created by the number of fingers, and Fish Crow sports five, while American Crow exhibits six [Greg - please make the highlighted text a hot link for http://aba.org/photoquiz/quizans75.html and delete the highlighting]. Since these crows seem to be mobbing the quiz bird, it might be a safe assumption that the quiz bird is some sort of raptor.

The banded tail and pale underparts might suggest starting in that difficult genus, Accipiter, but, as for jaegers, the wing-tip pattern is wrong for anything in that genus; the wing-tip shape – showing just three “fingers” -- is also wrong. However, just three fingers is wrong for nearly all ABA-area raptor species. In fact, the three narrow-winged kite species are the only raptors in the ABA area that sport fewer than four fingers, with White-tailed and Mississippi boasting three and Swallow-tailed only two. Considering that the underparts coloration and pattern of our quiz bird are wrong for all three kite species, something must be hinky. Indeed, there is, and ogling the quiz bird’s secondaries should let us know what. The quiz bird has obvious missing secondaries in the same two places on both wings, thus this bird is almost certainly in the process of replacing its flight feathers in the annual complete (that is, all feathers are replaced) prebasic molt of the species. So, we might safely assume that this bird might also still be in the process of replacing its outermost primaries, thus altering its normal wing-tip appearance (and this is a safe assumption, as it is typical of birds to still be working hard on replacing secondaries when the replacement of primaries is nearly complete). That means that we can go back into the ABA-area raptors looking for our bird’s ID. Once ensconced firmly in the raptor chunk of the field guide, the combination of dark hood; white underparts; banded tail; and well-demarcated black wing tip isolated from the black-tipped secondaries on long, narrow wings leaves us with just the “Great Fooler” as a possibility. And one of the main reasons that Dunne et al. (2012) called the species such is because most birders are not used to looking straight up at it, though hawk-counters across the continent certainly are.

I took this picture of an adult male Northern Harrier (with American Crows) in Tuscola Co., MI, on 26 September 2014.

Literature Cited
Dunne, P., D. Sibley, and C. Sutton. 2012. Hawks in Flight, 2nd ed. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York.


The following people (listed by submission date beginning with the earliest) submitted correct answers for the December Bird Photo Quiz—Northern Harrier:

  1. Tom Lally - Chicago, IL
  2. Michael Lester - Salt Lake City, UT
  3. Nate Martineau - Lansing, Michigan
  4. Rob Fowler - Mckinleyville, CA
  5. Evan Lipton - Milton, MA
  6. Andrew Barndt - Hudson, MA
  7. Nathan Dubrow - Ipswich, Massachusetts
  8. Andy Eckerson - Dighton, Massachusetts
  9. Greg Prelich - Manchester, NJ
  10. Chris Hill - Conway, SC
  11. Joshua Christian - Hanover, MN
  12. Isaac - Kamloops, BC
  13. Tomas Freeman - Oakford, PA
  14. Liam Waters - Sharon, MA
  15. Alec Hopping - Littleton
  16. Chris Blazo - Chambersburg, PA
  17. Chris Warren - Makawao, HI
  18. Noelle Wagner - Des Moines, IA
  19. Martina Nordstrand - Indian Trail, NC
  20. Sam Ewing - Gainesville, Florida
  21. Fyn Kynd - Searsmont, Maine
  22. Jack Rogers - Mt Pleasant
  23. Pam Myers - Marysville, WA
  24. Bridget - Vancouver BC
  25. Peter Lane - Quebec city, Canada
  26. Kai Shaikh - Pittsburgh, PA
  27. Jack Holloway - Mesa, AZ
  28. Jonathan Frodge - Cincinnati, Ohio
  29. John Shamgochian - East Providence, RI
  30. Kevin Ebert - Chevy Chase
  31. Don Jones - Middlebury, VT
  32. Kyle Lima - Ellsworth, Maine
  33. Pete Fenner - East Peoria, IL
  34. Greg Zupansic - Eugene, Oregon
  35. Amy Darling - Denver, CO
  36. Robert Packard - Riverside, CA
  37. Sean M Williams - East Lansing, MI
  38. Colton Prins - Redcliff, AB
  39. Isabel Apkarian - Toronto, Ontario
  40. Chloe Walker - Murfreesboro, TN
  41. Austin Young - Filer, ID
  42. James Warren - Philadelphia, PA
  43. Andrew Miller - Partridge ks
  44. Nick Newberry - Oakton, Va
  45. Blake Mathys - West Mansfield, OH
  46. Joseph Miller - Nickerson, Kansas
  47. Barb Robertson - Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  48. Wes Serafin - Orland Pk, Il
  49. George Cresswell - Colorado Springs, CO
  50. Todd Alfes - Grand Forks, ND
  51. "Daroczi J. Szilard " - Tg.-Mures, Romania
  52. Gyekeny Gertrud - Arad, Romania
  53. Kristen Martyn - Richmond Hill, ON
  54. Max Kirsch - Granger, IN
  55. David Hollie - Ringgold, GA
  56. Mark Miller - Waterloo, NY

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.

Broad-winged Hawk
Short-tailed Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Swainson Hawk
Roadside Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Bald Eagle
Gray Hawk
American Crow
Common Raven


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