ABA Photo Quiz

ABA Online Bird Photo Quiz 20


Bird Photo

Usually, shape is a great help in identifying birds. Even here, when the bird is facing away, we can still tell that this is some kind of passerine. In this case, it's a rather chunky one with a fairly short tail but long wings. Yet, sometimes there are other clues that are so distinctive that we simply have to use them, such as the broad white patches in the wings. From what we can see, the bird has white on the flanks and a black and white tail (with buff uppertail coverts). This all contrasts with the generally grayish-brown upperparts, with buff-rust highlights to the crown, auriculars and tertials.

This combination simply doesn't leave us with a lot of options. The pattern of the mantle may suggest something like a Brewer's Sparrow, but the white wing patches don't fit that species or any sparrow. The same is true for Horned Lark, any pipit, longspur or finch. Lark Bunting has white wing patches, but these patches are mostly confined to the greater wing coverts. Further, Lark Bunting would have a longer and darker tail, with black or brown sides to the tail. In fact, only two species regularly show white wing patches that extend from the secondaries, which are just visible below the tertials, all the way up to the top of the wing: Snow Bunting and McKay's Bunting.

The head, mantle and rump are too heavily marked for even a young female McKay's Bunting (first-year female McKay's Buntings are the most heavily marked). One should always be cautious of birds with white and/or pale plumage, as in many instances these white or pale feathers may be albino or leucistic. In this case, everything else is perfect for Snow Bunting, so we don't need to worry.

I photographed this Snow Bunting in late October 2004 at Grand Marais, Cook County, Minnesota—arguably the state's finest vagrant trap with records of seemingly everything from Fieldfare to Rock Ptarmigan!


The following people (listed by submission date beginning with the earliest) submitted correct answers for the November Bird Photo Quiz—Snow Bunting:

  1. Mark Stevenson, Tucson, AZ
  2. Petro Pynnönen, Helsinki, Finland
  3. Bill Maynard, Monument, Colorado
  4. Marcelo Brongo, Barcelona, Spain
  5. Brandon Percival, Pueblo West, CO
  6. Tom Benson, San Bernardino, CA
  7. Jason Sailing, Madison, WI
  8. Ed Harper, Sacramento, California
  9. Neil Gilbert, Beverly Hills, MI
  10. Matthew Weiss, New York, NY
  11. Bill Etter, Perkasie, PA
  12. Larry Kline, Woodbridge, VA
  13. Erik Mundall, Connell, WA
  14. Bryan Patrick, Woodland Park, CO
  15. James McKay, Mesa, AZ
  16. Michael Woodruff, Spokane, WA
  17. Roger D. Woodruff, Spokane, WA
  18. Patrick Dechon, Ellenville, NY
  19. Aaron Boone, Columbus, Ohio
  20. Bertram.E.B.Bree, Jersey island near Normandy,France,Europe
  21. Curtis Hoagland, Beaumont, TX
  22. Will Richardson, Truckee, CA
  23. Eric Secker, Wheaton, Illinois
  24. Bill Schmoker, Longmont, Colorado
  25. Tyler Bell, California, maryland
  26. Vicki Sandage, Ashland, KY
  27. Jason Giovannone, Columbia, SC
  28. Ronald Payne, Middlebury, Vermont
  29. Tim White, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
  30. Igor Caragodin, Westminster, CA
  31. Rob Young, alexandria va
  32. Larry Lade, Saint Joseph, MO
  33. Graham Etherington, Norwich, United Kingdom
  34. Jeremy Faucher, Bloomfield, CT
  35. James Cole, Carmel, IN
  36. Joel Kits, Guelph, ON
  37. Aaron Brees, Des Moines, Iowa
  38. Jay Keller, Arlington, VA
  39. Kevin Picard, Temagami ON, Canada
  40. Ryan Beaulieu, Los Lunas, NM
  41. Nicholas Pederson, Albuquerque, NM
  42. Dustin McCrank, North Bay, Ontario
  43. Brian E. Small, Los Angeles, CA
  44. Thomas Schultz, Green Lake, WI
  45. Dan Mooney, Knoxville, TN
  46. Eva Pratt, Inman, SC
  47. Manuel Grosselet, Mexico city
  48. Kevin Kerr, Guelph, Ontario
  49. Ben Coulter, Erie, PA
  50. manuel mondejar, Taos,NM
  51. Raymond VanBuskirk, Albuquerque, New Mexico
  52. Nels F. Thompson, Owatonna, MN
  53. Steven Rodan, Cape May, New Jersey
  54. Larry Semo, Westminster, Colorado
  55. Thomas Snetsinger, Brownsville, OR
  56. Blake Mathys, Rutgers U., NJ
  57. Travis A. Mahan, Decatur, Illinois
  58. Mark Cranford, Mississauga, ON
  59. Adrian Azpiroz, St. Louis, MO
  60. Luke Seitz, Falmouth, ME
  61. Mark Peterson, Colorado Springs, CO
  62. Aaron Hulsey, Smiths Grove, Kentucky
  63. Karen Rubinstein, New York, NY
  64. Matt Pike, Lacey WA
  65. Stephen Seiffert, Lansdowne, Ontario Canada
  66. Sandra Keller, Barrington, NJ
  67. Nicholas Sly, Ithaca, NY
  68. Ben Griffith, Merrimack, NH
  69. Matt Anthony, Bel Air, MD
  70. David Hollie, Ringgold, Georgia
  71. Jim Pawlicki, Williamsville, NY
  72. Josiah Malueg, Hooper, Colorado
  73. Kalen Malueg, Hooper, Colorado.
  74. Matt Baumann, albuquerque, NM
  75. Philip Chaon, Cleveland Ohio
  76. David Vander Pluym, Santa Cruz, California
  77. Joseph Sutherland, Medford, MA
  78. Kai Reed, North Egremont, Massachusetts
  79. Richard Garrigues, San Antonio de Belen, Heredia, Costa Rica
  80. Rob Fergus, Austin, TX
  81. Sam Koenen, Bozeman, MT
  82. Craig D. Dodson, Clifton, CO
  83. Melissa Hein, North Branch, MN
  84. Kevin M Kincaid, Indianapolis, IN
  85. Louie Toth, Fairview Hgts, IL
  86. Eric Huston, Olympia, WA
  87. Kent Fothergill, Buhl, ID
  88. Alex Dopp, Ann Arbor, MI
  89. James McRacken, Charlotte, NC
  90. Ken Young, Coquille, Oregon
  91. Claire Curry, Greenwood, Texas
  92. Steven Mitten, St. Louis, MO
  93. Susannah B. Lerman, Keene, NH
  94. Cathy Carroll, Canton, Michigan
  95. Liis Veelma, Winnipeg, MB
  96. Claude Girard, St-Michel de Bellechasse, PQ
  97. Jack Stenger, Cincinnati, OH
  98. Jon Atwood, Keene, NH
  99. Jeff Brown, Crows Landing, CA
  100. Ben Young, Salem, OR
  101. Liz Day, Indianapolis IN
  102. Kendall Cochran, Kennesaw, Georgia
  103. Bob Williams, Bloomington, MN
  104. Dan Ombalski, Boalsburg, Pennsylvania
  105. John Arnfield, Columbus, OH
  106. Janneke Kimstra, Bilthoven, Netherlands
  107. Jerry Jourdan, Wyandotte, MI
  108. Maggie MacPherson, Haileybury, ON
  109. Filip Beeldens, Antwerpen, Belgium
  110. Bradley Wilkinson, Tallmadge, Ohio
  111. Harry Hooper, Tallahassee, Florida
  112. Dave Magpiong, Bellmawr, NJ
  113. Josh Southern, Greenville, NC
  114. Sandra Lautrup, Effingham, Il.
  115. Tim Avery, Salt Lake City, Utah
  116. James P. Smith, Keene, NH
  117. Andrew Sigerson, Wantage, NJ
  118. Per Ole Syvertsen, Mo i Rana, Norway
  119. Lori Fujimoto, Colorado Springs, CO
  120. Jim Hoover, Jefferson Hills, PA
  121. Paul Matthews, Ottawa, ON
  122. Elsa Suárez, Ottawa,ON
  123. Robert Doster, Albuquerque, NM
  124. Noah Strycker, Creswell, Oregon
  125. Jason Beason, Paonia, Colorado
  126. Bill Pranty, Avon Park, FL
  127. Dave Robichaud, Victoria, BC
  128. Kyle Carlsen, Vincent, OH
  129. Tasha DiMarzio, Seward, Alaska
  130. Ann McDonald, Kamloops, BC
  131. David Barrett, Lawton, OK
  132. Tim McFadden, Philadelphia, Pa

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.

Snow Bunting
Lapland Longspur
Lark Bunting
Common Redpoll
American Pipit
McKay's Bunting
Pine Siskin
Smith's Longspur
Sprague's Pipit


The photo and answer for this quiz were supplied by Chris Wood.