ABA Photo Quiz

ABA Online Bird Photo Quiz 151


Given this bird’s shape and, particularly, wing pattern, I think that it’s safe to start our quiz-bird-identifying trek among the ducks.  And, once among those ducks, our bird can be quickly determined to be a dabbling duck by that same wing pattern, thanks to the iridescent speculum.  That is because only Steller’s Eider among ABA-area diving ducks could be considered to sport a speculum, and that species’ blue speculum is bordered fore and aft by wide white bars (a la Mallard).

So, ones tack to ID might use the color of the bird’s speculum to sort through the blue-speculumed dabbling ducks:  Wood Duck, Mallard, Mottled Duck, and American Black Duck. Our bird’s longer, shallower bill rules out Wood Duck, the lack of bold white bars bordering the speculum eliminates Mallard, and the white belly rules out both of the other options.

Iridescent colors in birds are created not with pigments but by the micro-structure of the feathers, themselves.  This micro-structure bounces light around in such a fashion as to present differing colors depending upon the precise angle of viewing, sometimes blue, sometimes green, sometimes bronze, etc.  This is the reason that using the apparent color of iridescent parts of a bird’s plumage as an ID cue, such as in head color of scaup, goldeneyes, even Mallard, is so fraught with, well, not peril, but certainly mis-identification risk.  We will want to use the pattern of the speculum and nearby bits, as well as head and bill shapes and the coloration of non-iridescent plumage to arrive at the correct identification.

One of the more-useful speculum-neighboring bits visible on the quiz bird is the coppery bar created by the tips of the greater coverts, with that bar appearing to be wider toward the wingtip and narrowing proximally.  This coppery wing bar is a feature of just three ABA-area ducks:  Northern Pintail and Baikal and Green-winged teals.  A number of features of our quiz bird rule out that first option, including the overall squat appearance, the gray head with vague dark eye line, and the relatively short neck, wings, and tail, while the middle option is eliminated on the strength of our bird’s almost non-existent white trailing border to the speculum.

I took this picture of a Green-winged Teal at Hay Lake, Glacier Co., MT on 19 August 2015.


The following people (listed by submission date beginning with the earliest) submitted correct answers for the October 2015 Bird Photo Quiz —Green-winged Teal:

  1. Clifford Hawley - Sacramento, CA
  2. Andrew Theus - Berrien Springs, MI
  3. Anton Mach - Yardley
  4. Martina Nordstrand Indian Trail, NC
  5. Graham Etherington - Norwich, UK
  6. Blake Mathys - West Mansfield, OH
  7. Angus Pritchard - Decatur, GA
  8. Isaiah Nugent - Bellingham, Wa
  9. Claude Auchu - La Pocatiere, Quebec
  10. Terri Everett - Big Rapids, MI
  11. Martin Sharp - Edmonton, Alberta
  12. Chris Blazo - Chambersburg, PA
  13. Kyle Lima - Ellsworth, Maine
  14. Celestyn Brozek - Albuquerque, NM
  15. Nick Barber - Sycamore, IL
  16. Nick Newberry - Williamsburg, VA
  17. Sean Williams - Boston, MA
  18. Megan Massa - Williamsburg, VA
  19. Steve Juhasz - Mission, BC
  20. Mike Wasilco - Caledonia, NY
  21. Cathy Sheeter - Oradell, NJ
  22. Scott Meyer - Richfield, MN
  23. Karl Erich Mayer - Tawas City, Michigan
  24. Don Lima - Ellsworth, ME
  25. Peter Lane - Québec (Canada)
  26. Michael David - Pittsburgh, PA
  27. Jerald Reb - Dover, DE
  28. William Rockey - Esparto, CA
  29. Isaac - Kamloops, BC
  30. Bob Proctor - Elgin, Scotland
  31. Steven Joyner - East Jordan, MI
  32. Josh Southern - Holly Springs, NC
  33. Frank Mantlik - Stratford, CT
  34. Melissa Sovay - Wakefield, MA
  35. Jeremy Collison - Albany
  36. Urs Geiser - Woodridge, IL
  37. Greg Zupansic - Eugene, Oregon
  38. Daroczi J. Szilard - Tg.-Mures, Romania
  39. Timothy Swain - Concord, Massachusetts
  40. Anya Auerbach - New York, NY
  41. Wes Hatch - Chagrin Falls, OH
  42. Alison Sheehey - Kernville
  43. Danny Tipton - Albuquerque, New Mexico
  44. Gerry Hawkins - Arlington, VA
  45. Todd Alfes - Kalamazoo, MI
  46. Nancy Hetrick - Albuquerque, NM
  47. Pam Myers - Marysville, WA
  48. Alan Bowman - Madisonville, LA
  49. John Tramontano - Warwick, Pa.
  50. Darrel Wilder - Sun Lakes, AZ
  51. Bridget - Vancouver, BC
  52. Austin Young - Filer, ID
  53. Tom Lally - Chicago, IL
  54. Caroline Martin - Calgary, AB
  55. Stephen Joly - Kamloops, BC
  56. George Cresswell - Colorado Springs, CO
  57. Mark Burns - St. Petersburg, FL
  58. Logan Kahle - San Francisco, CA
  59. David Goodyear - Bracebridge, Ontario
  60. David Hollie - Ringgold, GA
  61. Regan Goodyear - Bracebridge, Ontario
  62. Pete Fenner - East Peoria, IL
  63. Erik - New Orleans, LA
  64. Kristen - Martyn Richmond Hill,ON
  65. Kurt Schwarz - Elliott City, MD
  66. Lawrence B. McQueen- Eugene
  67. Ed Harper - Carmichael, CA
  68. Wayne Meyer - Denison, TX
  69. Adrian Burke - New York
  70. Jonathan Frodge - Cincinnati, Ohio
  71. Andre Moncrieff - Berrien Springs, MI
  72. Barb Robertson - Ottawa, On., Canada

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.

Blue-winged Teal
American Black Duck
Northern Pintail
Cinnamon Teal
Mottled Duck
American Wigeon
Common Pochard
Gadwall x Northern Pintail Hybrid


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