ABA Photo Quiz

ABA Online Bird Photo Quiz 169


With the great comparison with what appear to be fall leaves, we can make a reasonable guess that this month’s quiz bird is quite small.  Also adding to that impression of smallness is the thin, short, all-dark bill.  The bird’s olive back and highlights to most of the wing feathers along with the grayish head permit a great reduction in the number of ID possibilities.  One might think of small flycatchers, vireos, kinglets, and warblers – nothing else really fits this beastie.

While we might want to concentrate on aspects of coloration and pattern to further our progress toward a species ID, I used this photo to highlight a structural cue that many birders seem to ignore.  This is a feature that can help us make the right call when looking at an open-country bird that one cannot decide between lark and pipit.  It is a feature that can greatly assist in identifying many perched raptors – or, at least, getting them into the right genus.  It is a feature that is de rigeur in the ID of peeps.  It is a feature that really ought to be in the ID arsenal of every birder, as it is a feature that is not subject to the vagaries of lighting or interpretation of color.  It is, except in the very rare cases of very worn or broken outer primaries or the less-rare instances of those outer primaries being in molt, a rock-solid character.  As many will have guessed/known, I discuss primary projection, which is the distance that the wingtip extends beyond the tip of the longest tertial (an incredibly useful set of 3-4 feathers per wing that is also ignored by many birders).

In the above rotated, cropped, and marked-up version of the quiz photo there are four lines, two letters, and an arrow.  If we would insist on using color patterns, that arrow is pointing to a useful character, but I will come back to that later.  The letter ‘A’ is indicating the distance between the left two lines, which is the length visible beyond the scapulars of the shortest tertial.  The next line to the right is at the tip of the longest tertial (or as close as I can get it considering the difficulties involved with the angle of the photo).  Thus, the letter ‘B’ is indicating the length of the wingtip that extends beyond that longest tertial, the primary projection.

Many small birds that inhabit shrubby habitats have little or no primary projection.  That is because if their primaries protruded beyond the tertials for any significant distance, they would be quickly abraded by extensive contact with twigs, branches, leaves, etc.  So, rather than have artificially shortened outer primaries that might also get frayed by that abrasion, they have short outer primaries.  Migration length also plays a critical part in wing length, with, generally, the longer the distance, the longer the wing.  Of course, in some species, those two forces act in opposition, with the resultant compromise being different in different species.

To get back to our quiz, the bird’s long primary projection rules out most of the Empidonax options, as only the longest-winged species have such long primary projection – Acadian and, perhaps, Alder and Willow -- and those have larger bills than our quiz bird.  Migratory vireos have fairly short to medium-length primary projection, though a few species sport projection nearly that long.  However, most of those are not in the wing-barred group and the one that is – Black-capped – has plumage features that our quiz bird lacks.  Remember that arrow?  That arrow points to another feature that rules out vireos:  the black bar below the lower wing bar that results from the olive fringes of the secondaries not extending all the way to the greater coverts (the tips of which create that wing bar).

Various and sundry plumage features – unstreaked flanks, plain back, lack of yellow plumage, long primary projection, tiny bill, short tail – rule out most or all of the Parulidae, but even those warblers that match most of these features lack that black wing bar pointed out by the arrow.  The head pattern – or lack thereof – rules out Golden-crowned Kinglet.

I took this picture of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet in Cut Bank, Glacier County, Montana, on 28 September 2015.


The following people (listed by submission date beginning with the earliest) submitted correct answers for the May 2017 Bird Photo Quiz —Ruby-crowned Kinglet:

  1. Brooke McDonald - Redding
  2. Tom Lally - Chicago, IL
  3. Greg Swick - Ozark, MO
  4. Lisa Mease - Glen Allen, VA
  5. John Heneghan - Big Rock, IL
  6. Jeffrey Kyron Hanson - PITTSFIELD
  7. Nancy Lynch-Conroy - South Boston
  8. Callie Gesmundo - MI
  9. Elliot Schunke - Tallahassee, FL
  10. Matthew Igleski - Chicago, IL
  11. Zachary Millen - Akron, PA
  12. Kiki Hummel - Houston
  13. Michael Crouse - Knoxville, Tennessee
  14. Andrew Theus - Savannah
  15. tom graham - seabrook nh
  16. Cole Gaerber - Vancouver, BC
  17. Aaron Bourque - Central Village, Connecticut
  18. Jeff Graham - Okinawa, Japan
  19. Adriana L. - Delaware, Ohio
  20. Chris Hill - Conway, SC
  21. Patrick Dechon - Grahamsville, NY
  22. Carl Bendorf - Longmont, CO
  23. Oliver Burrus - Carpentersville, IL
  24. Sacha Barbato - Norwich - Norfolk UK
  25. Malcolm Gold - Overland Park, KS
  26. Josh Fecteau - Kennebunkport, ME
  27. Kristen Johnson - Haverford, PA
  28. Aaron Maizlish - San Francisco CA
  29. Cullen Clark - Richmond, Utah
  30. Justin Hiltner - Nashville, TN
  31. Norwood Frederick - Ralston, PA
  32. Jeff Bailey - Chuckey, Tn, 37641
  34. Michael David - Monroeville, PA
  35. Soham Mehta - Palo Alto, CA
  36. Anya Auerbach - New York, NY
  37. Chad Buckley - Normal, IL
  38. Karl Erich Mayer - Tawas City, Michigan
  39. Claire Miller - Fair Oaks, CA
  40. Max Rabinowitz - Anchorage, Alaska
  41. Isabel Apkarian - Toronto, Ontario
  42. Kelsey Tatton - Columbus, OH
  43. Allen Brooks - Corvallis
  44. Sally Michaud - Chattanooga, TN
  45. Ashwin S. - Beaverton, OR
  46. Andy Eckerson - Dighton, MA
  47. Jim Hully - Grayslake, IL
  48. Patrick Tanner - Saranac Lake, New York
  49. Dylan Hopkins - Logan, UT
  50. Laura Steadman - Boulder, CO
  51. Steve Juhasz - Mission, BC
  52. Cynthia Hudson - Alberton, MT
  53. Lance Runion - Little Rock, AR
  54. Gene Gandy - Tallahassee, Fl
  55. Gordon Karre - Mesa, AZ
  56. Nathan Martineau - Lansing, MI
  57. Kellen Apuna - Pearl City, HI
  58. Timothy White - Brownsville, TX
  59. Bob Proctor - Elgin, Scotland
  60. Patricia Tiller - West Palm Beach Florida
  61. Darrel Wilder - Sun Lakes, AZ
  62. Kyle Lima - Ellsworth, ME
  63. Eli Hershberger - Sugarcreek Ohio
  64. William Rockey - Esparto, CA
  65. Matthew Press - Sarasota, FL
  66. Andrew Dunn - Smyrna, DE
  67. Wes Hatch - Marietta, GA
  68. Aiden Dartley - Ridgewood
  69. Claude Auchu - La Pocatiere, Quebec
  70. Aiden Moser - Henniker, NH
  71. Stephen Joly - Kamloops, BC
  72. Ryan Zucker - New York, NY
  73. Cathy Sheeter - Oradell, NJ
  74. Elizabeth Axley - Rockville, MD
  75. Patrick Maurice - Atlanta, GA
  76. Sam Zhang - Andover, MA
  77. Isaac - Kamloops, BC
  78. David and Jill Kaminski - Bonita Springs, FL
  79. Hiram Herrera - Chula Vista, CA
  80. Wayne Meyer - Denison, TX
  81. Jon Moore - Trevose, PA
  82. kris tyner - clearlake oaks, california
  83. Beko Binder - Pleasant Hill, CA
  84. Josh Southern - Holly Springs, NC
  85. Nicholas Ranta - Clackamas
  86. Gavin Aquila - Stewartsville, NJ
  87. Nick Mrvelj - Portland, OR
  88. Michael Scott Levy - Centereach, New York
  89. SHARON FARRIS - Newport, DE
  90. David Elwonger - Woodland Park, CO
  91. Amy Courtney - Hoonah, AK
  92. Brendan Lanpher - Rochester, MN
  93. Chloe Walker - Murfreesboro, TN
  94. Erica Rutherford - Oakland, CA
  95. David Hollie - Ringgold, GA
  96. Nathan Webb - Enterprise, AL
  97. Mike Wasilco - Caledonia, NY
  98. Ed Harper - Carmichael, CA
  99. Harsi Parker - Vashon, WA
  100. Robert Lockett - Portland, Oregon
  101. Robert McCarthy - Satellite Beach FL
  102. Terri Everett - Big Rapids, MI
  103. Jackie Allison - Nipomo, California
  104. David Buckley - Albuquerque, NM
  105. Madeline Alfieri - Bath, NY
  106. Alexander Lin-Moore - New Haven, CT
  107. Ian Ruppenthal - Davidson, NC
  108. Isaiah Nugent - Bellingham, WA
  109. Peter Lane - Québec City, Canada
  110. Caroline Martin - Edmonton, AB
  111. Brian Menker - Dayton, OH
  112. Pam Myers - Marysville, WA
  113. Cara Snell - Kamloops, British Columbia
  114. Elliot Johnston - Buffalo, NY
  115. William DaPore - Eagle River, AK
  116. Frederick Ruckersfeldt - Iowa City, IA
  117. Hallie Mason - New Philadelphia
  118. Tim Swain - Concord, Massachusetts
  119. Mike Fialkovich - Pittsburgh, PA
  120. Joshua Glant - Seattle, WA
  121. Katarina Akhmetova - Birmingham, AL
  122. Drew Beamer - San Diego, CA
  123. Adonis Belize - Bowie, MD
  124. Kim - Silver Spring, MD
  125. Julie Desmeules - Quebec City, QC
  126. Matt Mogle - Lawrence, KS
  127. Chuck Carlson - Ft. Peck, MT
  128. Matthew WIlliams - Highland, Maryland
  129. Glenn Werner - Beaufort
  130. Brian Simmons - Portland, Oregon
  131. Richard Cissel - Carney, MD
  132. Danny Tipton - Albuqueruqe, NM
  133. John Branchflower - Portland, OR
  134. Jon Atwood - Keene, NH
  135. Jerald Reb - Frederica, DE
  136. Austin young - Twin Falls, ID
  137. Nick Dorian - Medford, MA
  138. Linda Pittman - Wilton, CA
  139. Celestyn Brozek - Albuquerque, NM
  140. Nina Sitra - Sugar Land, TX
  141. Shane Brown - Granville, OH
  142. Bridget Spencer - Vancouver, BC
  143. David Lugo - Jonesborough, Tennnessee
  144. Nick Varvel - Hays, KS
  145. Anne Mytych - Rockville, MD 20851
  146. Eric Kubilus - Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
  147. Jared Parks - Church Hill
  148. Greg Zupansic - Eugene, Oregon
  149. Dennis Troyer - Dundee, OH
  150. Jon Evans - Norridge, il
  151. Kaylin ingalls - Kirkland, WA
  152. George Cresswell - Colorado Springs, CO
  153. Dave Furseth - Murrieta, CA
  154. Chris Swarth - Mariposa, California
  155. Gary Koehn - Colorado Springs, Colorado
  156. Blake Mathys - West Mansfield, OH
  157. Adam Betuel - Atlanta, GA
  158. Georgia Conti - Patzcuaro, Michoacan, Mexico
  159. David Clark - Norfolk, VA
  160. Benjamin Ewing - Gainesville, FL
  161. Suann Hosie - West Vancouver, BC
  162. Philip Kline - Portland, OR
  163. Karen Carbiener - Dallas, TX
  164. David Rankin - Moreno Valley
  165. Pam Campbell - Menomonie, WI
  166. Avery Chan - Oviedo, Florida
  167. Patty McKelvey - Sheffield Village, Ohio
  168. Traci Van Tine - North Branch, MI

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.

Hutton's Vireo
Cerulean Warbler
Pine Warbler
Pine Siskin
Golden-crowned Kinglet









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