ABA Photo Quiz

ABA Online Bird Photo Quiz 40


Bird Photo

Shorebirds can cause headaches. There are a variety of reasons for this. Simply seeing them is complicated by a myriad of interacting factors like distance, heat waves, wind, beach-goers, that forgotten tide chart, olfactory overload, and that black ooze that many a shorebirder knows all too intimately. And while optics have improved considerably, tripods are made for photographers leaving us with heavy, jerky, unstable things that take too long to set up and rarely withstand the destructive abilities of TSA and airline baggage handlers (or even the bumpy road to get to that shorebird spot). [Venture capitalists, a world of opportunity awaits you in making a birding tripod!] But, seeing shorebirds well is only part of the problem. Throw in several different plumages, molt and feather wear, and it's easy to see why many people find shorebirds challenging.

In this photo, we're lucky. We have no black muck. We don't have to deal with a defective tripod. And the bird is close. Really close. Of course, compared to in the field, it's fair to say that our bird suffers from an acute case of immobility, and is stuck in a rather odd pose, but even that's not too bad.

The first step in dealing with shorebirds is to get the bird in the right group. This is a fairly chunky shorebird with a short neck and a short or medium length bill (while we can't see all of the bill, the width and position relative to the head are enough to tell us the bill is medium-length. From this alone we can eliminate the majority of shorebirds - from plovers to Tringas (yellowlegs etc.) to dowitchers to, well, anything that is not a Calidris.

At this point, let's look at the plumage, which appears uniform with relatively fresh feather edges. Throw in the bright coloration and we know we are dealing with either an adult in alternate (breeding) plumage or a juvenile plumage.

Now things may become a bit tricky. The extensive rufous coloration to the upperparts rule out the great majority of Calidris. Even the mostly brightly-colored Western Sandpiper does not have this extent of rufous on the upperparts (and one this bright, would also show extensive dark markings to the flanks). The extensive rufous coloration includes the tertials and some grater coverts, which eliminates Red-necked Stint. This leaves us Sanderling, Dunlin and Curlew Sandpiper. Both Curlew Sandpiper and Dunlin should show more markings on the underparts, with a bird this heavily patterned. Even from this angle, one would see a black belly on Dunlin, and dark rufous coloration and dark barring on Curlew Sandpiper. This leaves us with Sanderling. Looking more carefully, the crisp white feather edges to the tertials and greater coverts, and pattern of the scapulars are a perfect match for some of the more brightly colored Sanderling, from mid spring to early summer.

This Sanderling was photographed in Cape May, NJ in May of 2006.


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

  1. Rick Poulin, Ottawa, Ontario
  2. Ben Coulter, Erie, PA
  3. Gary W. Potter, Sanger, California
  4. Matthew Daw, Raleigh, North Carolina
  5. Bertram.E.B.BREE, Jersey Island, European Channel Isles near France
  6. Stephen Joly, Kamloops, BC
  7. Jeremy Faucher, Enfield CT
  8. James P. Smith, Amherst, MA
  9. Thomas Lechleitner, Fort Lupton, CO
  10. rob young, alexandria, VA
  11. Jim Mountjoy, Galesburg, IL
  12. Blake Mathys, Milltown, NJ
  13. Don Burt, Anaheim, CA
  14. Nila Petty, Saint Louis, MO
  15. Graham Etherington, Brisbane, Australia
  16. Alan J. Knue, Seattle, WA
  17. Leslie Rountree, Fayetteville, GA
  18. Philip Kline, Tucson, AZ
  19. Nick Anich, Ashland, WI
  20. Bill Maynard, Colorado Springs, CO
  21. Greg Zupansic, Eugene, Oregon
  22. Noah Gaines, Flagstaff, AZ
  23. Priscilla Lai, Markham, Ontario
  24. Linda Long, Chandler, AZ
  25. Barb Duncan, Jefferson City, MO
  26. Ryan, pasadena
  27. Bonnie Reimer, Madison, Wisconsin
  28. Jack Rothman, City Island, New York
  29. Benoit Dorion, St-Laurent, Quebec, Canada
  30. Kevin Kerr, Guelph, ON
  31. Marcelo Brongo, Barcelona, Spain
  32. Matthew Kenne, Algona, Iowa
  33. Marcel Gauthier, St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC, Canada
  34. Arun Bose, Richmond, VA
  35. Francesc Jutglar, Cardedeu, Spain
  36. Robert Doster, Albuquerque, NM
  37. Brian McAllister, Saranac Lake, NY
  38. Nancy Chen, Cambridge, MA
  39. Haynes Werner, Beaufort, S.C.
  40. Glenn L. Werner, Beaufort, S.C.
  41. Jon Mundall, Connell, WA
  42. Luke Seitz, Falmouth, ME
  43. Deborah Schwing, Hoboken, NJ
  44. Mary Chambers, Davis, CA
  45. Monica Berger, Brooklyn, NY
  46. Larry Kline, Fredericksburg, VA
  47. Heather Borman, Richmond, CA
  48. Tom Benson, San Bernardino, CA
  49. Ed Harper, Sacramento, CA 95841
  50. Steve Hampton, Davis, CA
  51. Jim Kopitzke, Mesa, AZ
  52. Eddie Mundall, Klamath Falls, OR
  53. Laurina Mundall, Klamath Falls, OR
  54. Tim Hochstetler, millersburg oh
  55. James McKay, Mesa, AZ
  56. Emily Rich, Clinton, NY
  57. Colin Woolley, Lee Vining, CA
  58. Adrian Azpiroz, St. Louis, MO
  59. malkolm boothroyd, whitehorse yt
  60. Erich Druskat, Marion, MA
  61. Karen Rubinstein, New York, NY
  62. Julie Cocke, Jacksonville, FL
  63. Josh Shramo, Dillon, CO.
  64. Philip Chaon, Cleveland,OH
  65. Thierry fournet, Paris, France
  66. Leta Bird, Maxeys, GA
  67. Gary Bird, Maxeys, GA
  68. Benjamin Griffith, Merrimack, NH
  69. Rachel King, Brooklyn NY
  70. Richard Green, Brooklyn NY
  71. Robert Lengacher, Tallahassee, FL
  72. Nicolas Halle, St-Nicolas,Qc,Canada
  73. Blue Rubinstein, New York, NY
  74. Richard Hibpshman, Issaquah, WA
  75. Cathy Ricketts, Savannah, GA
  76. Robin, Wilmington,NC
  77. TJ Hathcock, Cleveland, OK
  78. Liis Veelma, Winnipeg, MB
  79. Pam Baum, Tucson, AZ
  80. Pilaiporn Mundall, Yilan, TAIWAN
  81. Erik Mundall, Yilan, TAIWAN
  82. Kathryn Holm, Tamuning, Guam
  83. Sherry Lynn Punak-Murphy, Shilo, Manitoba, Canada

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.

Little Stint
Western Sandpiper
Red-necked Stint
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper
Curlew Sandpiper
Ruddy Turnstone
Common Snipe
Pectoral Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Snow Bunting
Spoonbill Sandpiper
Wilson's Phalarope


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