ABA Photo Quiz

ABA Online Bird Photo Quiz 29


Bird Photo

There are not that many birds with a bright yellow throat, bright yellow lores, and heavily patterned brown and black upperparts. While Yellow-throated and Grace's Warblers may come close in throat pattern, the intricately patterned upperparts, and more importantly, the long pointed bill really only leave us with Eastern and Western Meadowlarks.

When I was growing up (not really ALL that long ago), the conventional wisdom was that meadowlarks couldn't be separated except by voice. While vocalizations still are among the most reliable ways to separate meadowlarks, we've come a long way (just look at how many people answered this quiz correctly!)

One of the standard visual field marks used for separating Western and Eastern Meadowlarks is the extent to which the yellow on the throat extends onto the malar. But even here, we need to be careful with definitions. I prefer David Sibley's definition of malar, which is based on feather tracts. In this case, if we look at the base of the bill, we see a dark line extending downward that separates two feather tracts: the throat (left of the line) and the malar (right of the line to about where the streaked area on the auricular appears). Other definitions are based on patterns that may or may not exist on an individual bird, which make it a challenge to describe a facial pattern when some of the features are not present. So, using Sibley's definition of malar, we see that there is a bit of yellow that extends into the otherwise white malar. Usually when we think of yellow malar, we think Western Meadowlark. In this case, however, the yellow is very limited. Given the brightness of the throat and lores, it is much more limited than we would expect from on a bright Western Meadowlark. The head pattern overall is also very bold, with and inky black eyeline and lateral crown stripes that contrast boldly with what we can see of the median crown stripe and the rest of the face—very suggestive of Eastern Meadowlark.

The extensively streaked flanks are also typical of breeding season Eastern Meadowlarks. Furthermore, the extensive dark coloration to the tertials and rich black and brown pattern to the scapulars are characteristic of Eastern Meadowlark. Western Meadolark (and Lilian's Eastern Meadowlark of the Southwest) would have paler upperparts and a duller face pattern. Breeding season birds with a rich throat like this would have more extensive yellow onto the malar, and the flanks would appear more spotted.

I photographed this Eastern Meadowlark in June 2005 in Champaign County, Illinois.


The following people (listed by submission date beginning with the earliest) submitted correct answers for the August Bird Photo Quiz—Eastern Meadowlark:

  1. Mr Bertram E.B. Bree, Jersey island, Channel Isles near France
  2. Bill Schmoker, Longmont, Colorado
  3. Andy Bankert, Melbourne Beach, FL
  4. Tony Clements, Vienna, VA
  5. Danny Karp, Orinda, Ca
  6. Enrique Zamora, Ensenada, Baja California
  7. Brandon Percival, Pueblo West, Colorado
  8. Tim White, Hilton Head Island, SC
  9. Rich Swartzentruber, Salem, Oregon
  10. Dave Worthington, Toronto, Ontario,
  11. Amanda Auger, Portland, OR
  12. Karen Rubinstein, New York, NY
  13. Bonnie Reimer, Madison, Wisconsin
  14. Sam Pratt, Inman, SC
  15. Eva Pratt, Inman, SC
  16. Mark Stevenson, Tucson, AZ
  17. Barbara Duncan, Jefferson City, MO
  18. George Cresswell, Colorado Springs, CO
  19. Ryan Dudragne, Swift Current, Saskatchewan
  20. Mary Ann Dudragne, Swift Current, Saskatchewan
  21. Jeremy Faucher, Enfield CT
  22. Floyd Schrock, McMinnville, Oregon
  23. Brian E. Small, Los Angeles, CA
  24. Chris Benson, Rochester, MN
  25. TJ Hathcock, Cleveland, OK
  26. Kevin Hill, Seattle, WA
  27. Dan Walker, Canyon, Texas
  28. John Bissell, Grimes, Iowa
  29. Kevin Kerr, Guelph, Ont
  30. Fred Sladen, New London, NH
  31. Ethan Kistler, Newton Falls, Ohio
  32. Philip Kline, Tucson, AZ
  33. douglas Robberson, Tigard, OR
  34. Larry Kline, Woodbridge, VA
  35. Dave Magpiong, Bellmawr, NJ
  36. Michael S, Levy, Centereach, NY
  37. Thomas Ford-Hutchinson, Doylestown, PA
  38. Sharon Reilly, Honolulu, HI
  39. Tim McFadden, Philadelphia, Pa
  40. Aaron Hulsey, Smiths Grove, Ky
  41. Kevin Welsh, Novi, Michigan
  42. Robert Furrow, Cambridge, MA
  43. Caity Reiland-Smith, Sioux Falls, SD
  44. Matt Anthony, Bel Air, MD
  45. Rob Young, Alexandria, VA
  46. Matt Pike, Lacey WA
  47. Orrin Harvey, Tucson, AZ
  48. John Anderson, Reno, Nevada
  49. Christopher Colby, York, PA
  50. Al Mercer, Marietta, GA
  51. Patrick Dechon, Ellenville, NY
  52. Karen Carlsen, Lakewood, CO
  53. Derek Hill, Richardson, TX
  54. Ben Coulter, Erie, PA
  55. José Luis Copete, Barcelona, Spain
  56. Jack Stenger, Cincinnati, Ohio
  57. Tim Avery, Salt Lake City, Utah
  58. Tom Archdeacon, Tucson, AZ
  59. Richard Garrigues, San Antonio de Belen, Heredia, Costa Rica
  60. Jason Berry, Washington, DC
  61. Andrea Berry, Washington, DC
  62. Nell Haberman, Portland, Oregon
  63. Carrie Braden, Portage la Prairie, MB
  64. Aaron Boone, Columbus, Ohio
  65. Liis Veelma, Winnipeg, MB
  66. Lori Fujimoto, Colorado Springs, CO
  67. Kyle Carlsen, Vincent, OH
  68. Chris, Manheim, PA
  69. Cynthia Plank, Portland, Or.
  70. Luke Buckardt, Deerfield, IL
  71. David Hollie, Ringgold, Georgia
  72. Brandon Best, Lubbock, TX
  73. Jon Atwood, Keene, NH
  74. Nels F. Thompson, Owatonna, MN
  75. Betsy Beneke, Perry, Utah
  76. chris litherland, Kingwood TX
  77. Ross Gallardy, Canonsburg, PA
  78. Travis Rosenberry, Boise, ID
  79. John Andrade, Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.
  80. Tim Snieder, Ontario
  81. James A. Wheat, Jacksonville, FL
  82. Don Burt, Anaheim, CA
  83. John Engleberg, Billings, MT
  84. Marge Bergen, Erin, WI
  85. Craig Bateman, Novi, MI
  86. Alex Vinokur, Casselberry, FL
  87. tim hochstetler, millersburg oh
  88. Greg Zupansic, Eugene, Oregon
  89. Matthew Schneider, Silverton, OR
  90. Linda Swanson, San Francisco, CA
  91. Michael Woodruff, Spokane, WA
  92. Arun Bose, Richmond, VA
  93. Bobby Walsh, Valencia, CA
  94. Maggie MacPherson, Haileybury, Ontario
  95. Blake Mathys, Rutgers U, NJ
  96. Peter Dedicoat, Stafford, UK
  97. Sandra Lautrup, Effingham, Illinois
  98. Bryan Patrick, Woodland Park, CO
  99. Jim Wood, Saskatoon Saskatchewan
  100. Justin Rasmussen, Winnipeg, Manitoba
  101. Jess Bridges, Sanford, NC
  102. Tate Snyder, Menlo Park, CA
  103. Blake Matheson, Carmel, CA
  104. Kai Reed, North Egremont, MA
  105. Jennie MacFarland, Tucson, AZ
  106. Claire Curry, Greenwood, Texas
  107. Robert Doster, Albuquerque, NM
  108. Zack Barrow, McDonald, TN
  109. Kristin Combs, Jackson, WY
  110. Marcia Huff, Holland, MI
  111. Harry Hooper, Tallahassee, Florida
  112. Ann Marie Dinkel, Lewes, DE
  113. Bill Maynard, Monument, CO
  114. Alan J. Knue, Seattle, WA
  115. Ed Harper, Sacramento, CA
  116. Oscar Johnson, Ventura, California
  117. Eddie Mundall, Klamath Falls, OR
  118. Nick Anich, Ashland, WI
  119. Claude Girard, St-Michel. P.Q.
  120. Graham Etherington, Norwich, UK
  121. Karen Augenstein, Canal Winchester, OH
  122. Jason Beason, Paonia, Colorado
  123. James P. Smith, Amherst, MA
  124. James McKay, Mesa, AZ
  125. Jim Kopitzke, Mesa AZ
  126. Stephen Seiffert, Lansdowne, Ontario Canada
  127. Robert Lengacher, Tallahassee, FL
  128. Bob Power, Oakland, CA
  129. Cyrus Gust, osage, mn
  130. Blue Rubinstein, New York, NY
  131. Philip Brandt George, Arlington, VA
  132. Joan Weber, Mason,IL
  133. Quinton Nice, Willamina, OR
  134. MIchael Hilchey, Albuquerque, New Mexico
  135. ali rodgers, corrales, nm
  136. Wayne R. McBride, Ukiah, CA
  137. Dorleen McBride, Ukiah, CA
  138. chris west, Richland Center WI
  139. Nick Lund, Portland, ME
  140. Mike Burchett, Churchville, MD
  141. Ulf Buchholz, Henderson, NV
  142. Jack Rothman, City Island, New York
  143. Nathaniel Wander, San Francisco, CA

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.

Eastern Meadowlark
Western Meadowlark
Palm Warbler
Yellow-breasted Bunting
Yellow-throated Warbler


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