ABA Photo Quiz

ABA Online Bird Photo Quiz 147


Was this quiz pic a surprise?  Which bird did you consider the quiz, or did you consider both to constitute the quiz?
The right bird seems fairly straightforward.  The large, orange gular patch with a vertical back edge; sizable bill; and with pale chest and foreneck plumage being replaced by darker feathers all point to an immature Double-crested Cormorant.

However, the wee cormorant is the one that might cause you to pause, as it did me.  Actually, it caused a heart flutter for me, as my first – and very distant view of it – suggested that I might be looking at the first Pinellas Co., FL, record of Neotropic Cormorant (William E. Dunn Water Reclamation Facility on 3 April 2015).  That species has recently colonized Florida as a breeding/resident species.  Annoyingly, it has also been inter-breeding with Double-cresteds in a colony in southern Florida (hopefully, a paper on that will be published sometime in the near future).  I write “annoyingly” because there are a lot of East Coast states that are looking hard for this range-expanding species and hybrids will further confuse an already confusing situation there.  I write “confusing” because most birders seem unaware of the great size variation inherent in Double-crested Cormorant, thinking that any obviously smaller cormorant among DCs is a Neotrop.  Unfortunately, that is just not the case.

In fact, identifying a Neotropic Cormorant out of range requires the same exacting concentration as does identifying any potential rarity, and size is just a single useful – but in no way definitive – clue.  Scapular shape, relative tail length, shape of gular patch, bill size and shape, and head shape need also be assessed.  And, as with the pictured birds, cormorants can often be quite distant, making such assessment difficult, even on adults such as this bird. For an adult or near-adult cormorant, this bird shows a surprisingly minimal supraloral line (the orange above the lores), which could readily be shown by Neotropic.  Though the tail length is not all that different from that of the larger bird, it is, perhaps, a bit longer relative to overall size.  However, we can see the gular patch well enough to assess the shape of it, and the back edge does not sport the acute angle that is typical of Neotropic.  That is, the rear edge is nearly vertical, not angling forward at about 45°.  Since distance and lighting precludes our definitive determination of the bird’s age (a subadult Double-crested might well show such an insignificant supraloral line), we are left with a bit of a quandary as to the bird’s ID.  However, we can be certain that it is NOT a pure Neotropic Cormorant.  The quandary is whether ‘tis a Double-crested Cormorant on the small end of the size variation of that species or a Neotropic x Double-crested Cormorant hybrid.  With that, the only acceptable solution for this ABA photo quiz – hybrids are not an option for the quiz; read the rules – is Double-crested Cormorant.


The following people (listed by submission date beginning with the earliest) submitted correct answers for the June 2015 Bird Photo Quiz — Double-crested Cormorant:

  1. Angus Pritchard - Decatur, GA
  2. Joel Nugent - Bellingham, Wa
  3. Kristofer Komenda - Valparaiso, IN
  4. Daniel Carrier - Purcellville, VA
  5. Jerald Reb - Felton, DE
  6. Claude Auchu - La Pocatiere
  7. Amy Darling - Denver, CO
  8. Caroline Martin - Calgary, AB
  9. Nathan Webb - Elba, AL
  10. Chris Blazo - Chambersburg, PA
  11. Mike Wasilco - Caledonia, NY
  12. Karl Erich Mayer - Tawas City, Michigan
  13. Mireille Barry - Québec, QC
  14. Ashton Kenwick - Verona, Pa
  15. Wes Serafin - orland pk, il 60462
  16. Bob Proctor - Elgin, Scotland
  17. Kolby Olson - Rancho Cucamonga, California
  18. Wayne Meyer - Denison, TX
  19. Georgia Conti - Patzcuaro, Michoacan, Mexico
  20. Matthew Press - Sarasota, FL
  21. Martin Sharp - Edmonton, Alberta
  22. Scott Miller - Leslie, MO
  23. Danny Tipton - Albuquerque, New Mexico
  24. Madeline Alfieri - Hammondsport, NY
  25. Evan Lipton - Milton, MA
  26. Jonathan Eckerson - Dighton, MA
  27. Andy Eckerson - Dighton, Massachusetts
  28. Tracy Mullen - Seattle, WA
  29. Chris Warren - Makawao, HI
  30. Terri Everett - Big Rapids, MI
  31. Anton Mach - Yardley, PA
  32. John Branchflower - Portland, OR
  33. Todd Alfes - Grand Forks, ND
  34. Kristen Martyn - Richmond Hill, ON
  35. David Hollie - Ringgold, GA
  36. George Cresswell - Colorado Springs, CO
  37. Crystal Samuel - Ft. Pierce, FL
  38. Josh Southern - Raleigh, NC
  39. Pam Myers - Marysville, WA
  40. Greg Zupansic - Eugene, Oregon
  41. "Daroczi J. Szilard" - Tg.-Mures, Romania
  42. Blake Mathys - West Mansfield, OH
  43. Michael Parker - Louisville, Kentucky

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.

Neotropic Cormorant
Great Cormorant
Brandt's Cormorant
Neotropic Cormorant and Double-crested Cormorant
Neotropic Cormorant and Great Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant and Double Crested Cormorant


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