ABA Photo Quiz

ABA Online Bird Photo Quiz 163


Ducks. The males in their colorful plumages are nearly always straightforward to identify; other plumages, not so much. Thus, we have to rely on other cues, cues that many of us find hard to use. Size is one of those cues, despite that some seem to think of ducks as duck-sized. As example, female Redheads and Lesser Scaup can appear quite similar, Redheads are considerably larger than are Lesser Scaup. While the range of size in ducks, on a proportional basis, is much smaller than the range of size of other bird groups, such as shorebirds, there is more than enough variation in size across species that it is a very useful ID feature, particularly when they can be compared to known species of other ducks or other types of birds. Of course, this month’s photo quiz subject is in the frame all by itself, so we have to look to other cues, and that might be even scarier.

Looking to our quiz bird’s shape, we see an overall slender bird, with thin neck, narrow wings, and relatively svelte belly. The bill is fairly unremarkable, being not long, not short, not particularly wide. The head is quite rounded and not all that large, but made to look a bit big, due to the slender neck. The wings are long for their narrowness. Behind the wings, the body is relatively long, with a long-for-a-duck tail. Experienced duck-watchers might well immediately recognize the species at even much greater distance on this bird’s gross shape features alone.

While the backlit photo does not permit feather-by-feather assessment, there are still ID clues to be garnered from the bird’s plumage. Of these, perhaps the most important in greatly whittling the solution set is one that seems to have escaped not only general understanding by birders, but also widespread illumination in our identification literature. Our quiz bird’s side feathers are pale with dark internal markings, providing a mottled appearance. There is a deep divide in feather appearance between dabbling ducks and diving ducks in female-type plumage. Dabblers have feathers with distinct internal markings (such as on our quiz bird) in such plumages, while diving ducks – with the exception of eiders (and our bird is far too gracile to be an eider) – do not.

Once we know that we’re looking at a female-plumaged dabbler, the identification is downright easy, because all we need do is refocus a bit above the sides. Dabbling ducks in the ABA area, nearly to a duck, exhibit clean, white axillars. The only contrary examples are the gray axillars of Eurasian Wigeon and the barred axillars of female-plumaged Northern Pintail.

I took this picture of a female Northern Pintail near Sunburst, Toole Co., MT, on 15 June 2016.


The following people (listed by submission date beginning with the earliest) submitted correct answers for the October 2016 Bird Photo Quiz —Northern Pintail:

  1. Jeanne Tinsman - Las Vegas, NV
  2. Walker Catlett - Charlottesville, Virginia
  3. Andrew Beamer - San Diego, California
  4. David Tonnessen - Colorado Springs, CO
  5. Wes Serafin - Orland Park, Illinois
  6. Eric Heisey - Bellingham, WA
  7. Claude Auchu - La Pocatiere, Quebec
  8. Elliot Schunke - Tallahassee, FL
  9. Cole G. - Vancouver, BC
  10. Chloe Walker - Murfreesboro, TN
  11. Beko Binder - Madison, WI
  12. Keith Bailey - Davis, Ca
  13. Jim Hully - Grayslake, IL
  14. Jerald Reb - Dover, DE
  15. Laura Hulbert - Tahlequah, Oklahoma
  16. Rusty Robison - Tahlequah, Oklahoma
  17. Allen Brooks - Corvallis, OR
  18. Amy Courtney - Juneau, AK
  19. Tonya Holland - Tucson, Arizona
  20. Hiram Herrera - Chula Vista, CA
  21. Nathan Webb - Elba, AL
  22. Terri Everett - Big Rapids, MI
  23. Scott Meyer - Richfield, MN
  24. Tim Swain - Concord, Massachusetts
  25. Matthew Press - Sarasota, FL
  26. Karl Erich Mayer - Tawas City, Michigan
  27. Darrel Wilder - Sun Lakes, AZ
  28. Ryan Zucker - New York, NY
  29. Nick Mrvelj - Portland, OR
  30. William Rockey - Esparto, CA
  31. Caleb Scholtens - Hamilton, Ontario
  32. Patrick Tilley - Encinitas, CA
  33. Peter Lane - Quebec City, Canada
  34. Nolan Walker - Murfreesboro, TN
  35. Caleb Strand - Buckeye, AZ
  36. Isaiah Nugent - Bellingham, WA
  37. Isaac - Kamloops, BC
  38. Kevin Ebert - Chevy Chase
  39. Andrea Mott - Vacaville, CA
  40. Joshua Glant - Seattle, WA
  41. pierre geoffray - Powell River BC Canada
  42. Michael Woodruff - Loma Linda, CA
  43. Sam Zhang - Andover, MA
  44. Steve Juhasz - Mission, BC
  45. eddie western - springs il
  46. Anya Auerbach - Chicago, IL
  47. David Hollie - Ringgold, GA
  48. Aaron Boone - Beloit, WI
  49. August - Brooklyn, NY
  50. Martina Nordstrand - Indian Trail, NC
  51. keith wimbush - Crewe UK
  52. Jon Atwood - Keene, NH
  53. Pam Myers - Marysville, WA
  54. Mike Wasilco - Caledonia, NY
  55. Aiden Moser - Henniker, NH
  56. Ed Harper - Carmichael CA
  57. Andrew Barndt - Hudson, MA
  58. Peter Keyel - Lubbock, TX
  59. Chris Blazo - Chambersburg, Pa
  60. Tim Pirk North - Vancouver, BC
  61. Baxter Beamer - Virginia, United States
  62. Robert Packard - Riverside, CA
  63. Brad Hammond - Wilder, Idaho
  64. Cathy Sheeter - Oradell, NJ
  65. Bob Proctor - Elgin, Scotland
  66. Rosemarie - Widmer Allendale NJ
  67. Andrew Theus - Berrien Springs, MI
  68. Jason Vassallo - Seattle, WA
  69. Max Wilson - Potomac, MD
  70. Kai Shaikh - Pittsburgh, PA
  71. Stephen Kloiber Pen - Argyl, PA
  72. Jon - Roseville, MN
  73. Brian Menker - Dayton, OH
  74. Jeremy Collison - Ithaca, NY
  75. Bridget Spencer - Vancouver, BC
  76. Brennan Obermayer - Fredericton, NB
  77. Blake Mathys - West Mansfield, OH
  78. Tom Lally - Chicago, IL
  79. Kyle Lima - Ellsworth, ME
  80. John Tramontano - Warwick, Pa.
  81. Glenn Werner - Beaufort
  82. Szilard Daroczi - Targu Mures

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
Black-bellied Whistling Duck
Fulvous Whistling-Duck
Trumpeter Swan






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