ABA Photo Quiz

ABA Online Bird Photo Quiz 35


Bird Photo

Waterbirds. They are among the first birds that we learn. Most are found in the open. Most are easy to identify. And most receive little attention after the first few years of birding. Oh sure, we often go look for scoters, eiders or other ducks that occur seasonally, or are rarities; but few of us look at ducks in the way that we look at shorebirds, warblers, or even gulls.

Structure so often provides the best clue for identifying birds. And while we can't see the head of this bird (we usually can't in these photo quizzes!), we can still get a sense that we are dealing with a fairly long bird, one that doesn't have a very long neck, but doesn't have the stubby neck we would find on an alcid.

Looking carefully, we should notice that the back of this bird's head looks a bit shaggy—sort of like how my friend Ted Floyd (Editor of ABA's Birding magazine) looks when he gets up early in the morning (as Ted would attest, I look far worse). Now this could just be misplaced feathering, but there is one group of birds that often displays a shaggy crest like this—the mergansers.

This bird's overall gray body isn't what we would expect on Hooded Merganser, which is either unmistakable (males) or more uniformly brown. Female and eclipse Common and Red-breasted Mergansers do have grayish bodies. We can also see that here the rufous or maybe rusty-brown head contrasts slightly with the gray body. On Common Merganser, we would expect much more contrast and a well-defined line between the rufous head and the grayish neck and body. In fact, this slight contrast in color, without an abrupt demarcation between the head and body, is exactly what we would expect on a Red-breasted Merganser.

I photographed this Red-breasted Merganser in December in Gloucester, Massachusetts.


The following people (listed by submission date beginning with the earliest) submitted correct answers for the February Bird Photo Quiz—Red-breasted Merganser:

  1. Rick Poulin, Ottawa, Onatrio
  2. Mark Brown, Dalmatia, PA
  3. Crystal Malick, Dalmatia, PA
  4. Luke Seitz, Falmouth, ME
  5. Ed Harper, Sacramento, CA
  6. katherine Raspet, Brooklyn, NY
  7. Luke Buckardt, Deerfield, IL
  8. Wayne Meyer, Denison, TX
  9. Bruce Dugger, Albany, OR
  10. Jeremy Faucher, Enfield, CT
  11. Steve Hampton, Davis, CA
  12. Philip Kline, Tucson, AZ
  13. Lee Barnes, Seattle, WA
  14. Bill Maynard, Colorado Springs, CO
  15. Barb Robertson, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  16. Stephen Joly, Kamloops, BC
  17. Alain Pataud, Paris, France
  18. Gia Kilbrith, Cold Spring Harbor, NY
  19. Ben Coulter, Erie, PA
  20. Marcel Gauthier, St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC, Canada
  21. John Bissell, Grimes, IA
  22. Marcelo Brongo, Barcelona, Spain
  23. Niko Ranta, Clackamas, OR
  24. Macy Brown, Leander, TX
  25. Nicolas Halle, St-Nicolas, Quebec, Canada
  26. Michael Hartley, Tallahassee, FL
  27. Gary W. Potter, Sanger, CA
  28. Bethany Kimmel, Banner Elk, NC
  29. Henry Wilton, Rutland, VT
  30. Seth Miller, Petaluma, CA
  31. Liis Veelma, Winnipeg, MB
  32. Philip Chaon, Cleveland ,OH
  33. Valerie Alzner, Bel Air, MD
  34. Arun Bose, Richmond, VA
  35. Brian Ahern, Tampa, FL
  36. Manolo Mondejar, Taos,NM
  37. Elaine MacPherson, Pasadena, CA
  38. Jim Hoover, Jefferson Hills, PA
  39. Stephen Seiffert, Lansdowne, Ontario Canada
  40. Scott Wieman, Katonah, NY
  41. Sam Galick, Flemington, NJ
  42. Robert Mottershead, Philadelphia, PA
  43. Joris Elst, Wuustwezel, Belgium, Europe
  44. Jim Gilbert, Bernardsville, NJ
  45. Oscar Johnson, Santa Barbara, CA
  46. Kevin Finley, Raleigh, NC
  47. Jim Mountjoy, Galesburg IL
  48. Matthew Schneider, Silverton, OR
  49. L. Craig Swanson, Benton City, WA
  50. Gary Bird, Maxeys, GA
  51. Nick Anich, Ashland, WI
  52. James McKay, Mesa, AZ
  53. Roberto Cavalieros, Brooklyn, NY
  54. Graham Etherington, Norwich, UK
  55. Myles Falconer, Peterborough, ON
  56. Matthew Williams, Provo, UT
  57. Francesc Jutglar, Cardedeu, Spain
  58. Mike Denny, College Place, WA
  59. Devin Bosler, Baton Rouge, LA
  60. Justin Bosler, Lancaster, PA
  61. Sean Fitzgerald, Grand Rapids, MI
  62. Jim Kopitzke, Mesa, AZ
  63. Joel Mundall, Loma Linda, CA
  64. Karen Rubinstein, New York, NY
  65. Blue Rubinstein, New York, NY
  66. Lori Fujimoto, Colorado Springs, CO
  67. Andrew Keaveney, Guelph, ON
  68. Melissa Hein, North Branch, MN
  69. James P. Smith, Amherst, MA
  70. Carrie Braden, Portage la Prairie, MB
  71. Robert Lengacher, Tallahassee, FL
  72. Eddie Mundall, Klamath Falls, OR
  73. Laurina Mundall, Klamath Falls, OR
  74. Haynes Werner, Beaufort, SC
  75. Glenn Werner, Beaufort, SC
  76. Matt Anthony, Bel Air, MD
  77. Marcus Mundall, Williamsport, MD
  78. Neil Gilbert, Beverly Hills, MI
  79. Craig Bateman, Novi, MI
  80. Sandra Lautrup, Effingham, IL
  81. Suzanne Feustel, Babylon, NY
  82. Linda Swanson, San Francisco, CA
  83. Lindsay Swanson, Portland, OR
  84. Corey Plank, Portland, OR
  85. Colin Gjervold, St Petersburg, FL

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.

Red-breasted Merganser
Common Merganser
Hooded Merganser
Black Scoter
Common Loon
White-winged Scoter
Common Goldeneye
Tufted Duck
American Black Duck
Common Eider
Great Cormorant
Ruddy Duck
Surf Scoter
Double-crested Cormorant
Fulvous Whistling-Duck
Marbled Murrelet
Pacific Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
American Coot
Brandt's Cormorant
Muscovy Duck
Ring-necked Duck
Spectacled Eider
Tufted Puffin


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