ABA Photo Quiz

ABA Online Bird Photo Quiz 46


Bird Photo

Frequent participants in the online photo quiz know that we tend to focus on structural clues in identifying birds. Many of these are found on the shape and size of a bird's bill. Of course, there are times in the field when you can't see a bird's head (and even more times when the head is hidden in a photo quiz!).

Structure is still helpful—here we see that we are dealing with a passerine of some kind. But there are two other important considerations, behavior and habitat. This bird is on the ground on what appears to be sand. Certainly, a lot of birds can momentarily land on the ground. Something has this bird's interest and it would be logical to think that the bird was feeding, or at least attempting to feed. So, I would turn my focus to birds that are routinely found on the ground (sparrows, longspurs, buntings), before turning to something like Purple Finch, which, yes, can feed on the ground, but would be a bit out of place on the sand. It's best to start with the most likely and move from there. So, before considering Pechora Pipit, you should make sure more common and widespread species are eliminated—yeah, this is hard when you don't know where you are!

So we have a bird that's on the ground on what looks like sand. Overall it appears streaky. Within the ABA area, there are a couple of species that immediately come to mind that look like our bird—Vesper Sparrow and Savannah Sparrow.

Much is made of the rufous lesser coverts on Vesper Sparrow, but these are often difficult to see. Here, for instance, we can only see the tips of the median coverts because the scapulars are covering much of the wings. We can't see any rufous on the wings, but that very well could be because it's hidden. The supercilium on our bird is quite pronounced, however—more obvious than on Vesper Sparrow. Also note that while this bird appears to have an eye-ring, it is not as bold and obvious as on Vesper Sparrow.

But this bird also looks quite frosty for Savannah Sparrow and the flank streaking appear paler, more of a rufous color. Most Savannah Sparrows are considerably darker than our bird, but there is considerable variation. In fact, Sable Island breeding Savannah Sparrows (Ipswich Savannah Sparrows) are much paler and look like this. Also note the short tail, which is typical of Savannah Sparrows. This Ipswich Savannah Sparrow was photographed in Delaware, December 2006.


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

  1. Karl Erich Mayer, Saint Clair Shores, Michigan
  2. Jill Kaminski, Naples, FL
  3. Matthew Daw, Raleigh, NC
  4. Nathan Swick, Chapel Hill, NC
  5. Luke Seitz, Falmouth, ME
  6. Anne Brown, Durham, NC
  7. Jerald Archer, Winthrop Harbor, Illinois
  8. Chris Warren, Portland, OR
  9. kevin bolton, prospect park n.j
  10. Sarah J. Zastrow, Riverdale Park, MD
  11. Philip Kline, Tucson, AZ
  12. Karen Rubinstein, New York, NY
  13. A. McAndrews, Xalapa, Veracruz
  14. Jason Waanders, Washington, DC
  15. Wayne Meyer, Denison, TX
  16. Kenneth Burton, McKinleyville, CA
  17. Ben Coulter, Erie, PA
  18. Jim Parker, Bishop, CA
  19. Kevin Kerr, Guelph, ON
  20. Brian McAllister, Saranac Lake, NY
  21. Marcelo Brongo, Barcelona, Spain
  22. Michael S. Levy, Centereach, N.Y.
  23. William Haffey, Norwalk, Connecticut
  24. Michael Miller, Chicago, Illinois
  25. Vera Capogna, Sayville, NY
  26. Brandon Percival, Pueblo West, Colorado
  27. Robert Mottershead, Philadelphia, PA
  28. Aaron Bilyeu, Placerville, CA
  29. Urs Geiser, Woodridge, Illinois
  30. Rob Young, Alexandria, VA
  31. Robert Furrow, Cambridge, MA
  32. Steve Kolbe, Oxford, OH
  33. Cinda Crosley, Pflugerville, TX
  34. Elaine MacPherson, Sierra Madre CA
  35. Ed Harper, Sacramento, CA
  36. Mike Denny, College Place, Washington
  37. Laura Coble, Cannnon Falls, MN
  38. J.B. Churchill, Frostburg, Maryland
  39. Kelly Perkins, Albany, NY
  40. Ken Young, Buhl, ID
  41. Joseph Lautenbach, Grand Rapids, MI
  42. John Brush Jr., Mattituck, NY
  43. Steven J. Carr, Folsom, CA
  44. Nigel Bates, Hopewell, NJ
  45. George Cresswell, Colorado Springs, CO
  46. Richard Garrigues, San Antonio de Belen, Heredia, Costa Rica
  47. Anton Mach, Yardley, PA
  48. Robert H. Packard, Haydenville, MA
  49. Michael Bender, Athens, GA
  50. Lois Goldfrank, Santa Cruz, CA
  51. Kristen Anderson, Flagstaff, AZ
  52. Alison Village, Berrien Springs, MI
  53. Blake Mathys, Milltown, NJ
  54. Tom Benson, San Bernardino, CA
  55. Jacob Saucier, Baton Rouge, LA
  56. Susannah Lerman, Amherst, MA
  57. Julie Cocke, Jacksonville, FL
  58. Jonathan Lautenbach, Grand Rapids, MI
  59. John Boback, Morgantown, WV
  60. Mike Burrell, Heidelberg, Ont.
  61. Mike Wasilco
  62. Eleanor Proctor, Peterborough, Ontario
  63. Harry Hooper, Tallahassee, Florida
  64. Brian Gatlin, Grand Canyon, AZ
  65. Cathy Carroll, Dearborn, MIchigan
  66. Jan Allen, Livingston, TX
  67. Tom Axthelm, Riverton, WY
  68. Malkolm Boothroyd, Whitehorse, Yukon
  69. Blue Rubinstein, New York, NY
  70. Kris Vande Sompel, Peterborough Ontario
  71. James P. Smith, Amherst, MA
  72. Neil Gilbert, beverly hills, mi
  73. John Walko, Collierville, Tn
  74. Josh Shramo, Dillon, CO.
  75. Francesc Jutglar, Cardedeu, Spain
  76. Matthew Schneider, Silverton, OR
  77. Aaron Boone, Columbus, Ohio
  78. John G. Anderson, Reno, Nevada
  79. Alex Ewing, Rocky Hill, NJ
  80. Linda Long, Chandler, AZ
  81. Matt Anthony, Bel Air, MD
  82. Greg Tito, Richmond, Virginia
  83. Zandall Carpenter, Los Angeles, CA
  84. Lori Fujimoto, Colorado Springs, CO
  85. Pam Baum, Tucson, AZ
  86. Myles Falconer, Lakefield, ON
  87. Rich Swartzentruber, Salem, Oregon
  88. Tim Hajda, Broken Bow, Nebraska
  89. Bill Hintze, Berwick, PA
  90. jim Kopitzke, mesa az
  91. Jessica Bruland, Damascus, MD
  92. Ben Young, Salem, OR
  93. Ron Pozzi, Granite Bay, CA
  94. Phoebe Mundall, Yilan, TAIWAN

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.

Savannah Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Purple Finch
Chestnut-collared Longspur
Brewer's Sparrow
Smith's Longspur
Seaside Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
House Finch
Sky Lark
American Pipit
Bachman's Sparrow
Brown Creeper
Cassin's Finch
Cassin's Sparrow
Clay-colored Sparrow
Common Redpoll
Pechora Pipit
Red-winged Blackbird
Rufous-winged Sparrow
Sage Sparrow
Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow


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