ABA Photo Quiz

ABA Online Bird Photo Quiz 54


Bird Photo

We could easily describe this as a typical view of a passerine—and, as such, it should be easy to identify. But field guide artists tend not to illustrate views like this. Perhaps it's the publishers who think a guide that emphasizes undertail coverts may not be as appealing to a broad audience as side views. And perhaps these publishers are right. But, as birders these are the views we often have, so paying attention and looking at birds at these angles will pay off, so to speak.

So, here we have a greenish bird with bright white undertail coverts. This may call to mind something like an American Goldfinch, but the horizontal angle is certainly atypical for a goldfinch. And the lack of broad wing bars eliminates the species completely.

Given the horizontal posture, seemingly small structure and the overall coloration, it makes sense to start with warblers (and 15 species of warblers were suggested for the answer, so it seems many people were thinking that way). As we already discussed, this bird has bright white undertail coverts—an oft mentioned field mark for fall Tennessee Warblers. So this must be a Tennessee, right? Well, let's hold our horses for a moment. There are LOTS of warblers with white undertail covets—including such dissimilar warblers as Canada, Pine, Prothonotary, Townsend's, Swainson's, Lucy's and Golden-winged. So the white undertail coverts are useful, but useful within a context. A helpful first step is to look at the wings. And while we can't see much we can see the greater coverts on the left wing. The tips to these feathers are what would form the lower wing bar, if the bird had one. And while there is a suggestion of olive edging to these feathers, they are not the bold wing parts we would see in Chestnut-sided, Blue-winged, and Pine Warbler [and the lack of bold wing bars also eliminates things like Cassin's and Yellow-throated Vireos].

In fact, that olive edging to the greater coverts that is slightly brighter at the tips is typical of many Tennessee Warblers in fall. And while it's difficult to make out tail length in this photo, the bird certainly appears short-tailed (like Tennessee). Furthermore, the bright brownish-olive color that comes far down on the flanks and almost wraps completely around the undertail coverts is also typical of Tennessee Warblers.

But, wait, we already had a Tennessee Warbler quiz this year! Yeah, we did. And we see many birds multiple times per year and it wouldn't be right not to include a bird just because we already did it once!

This Tennessee Warbler was photographed in Tompkins County, New York in August 2007.


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

  1. Terri Everett, Big Rapids, MI
  2. Brandon Percival, Pueblo West, CO
  3. Sam Burckhardt, Chicago, IL
  4. Aaron Hulsey, Smiths Grove, Ky
  5. Richard Garrigues, San Antonio de Belen, Heredia, Costa Rica
  6. Steven Mitten, Belize City, Belize
  7. Ben Loehnen, New York, NY
  8. Joseph Morlan, Pacifica, CA
  9. Janneke Kimstra, Bilthoven, Netherlands
  10. Tim Hodge, Roseland, VA
  11. Barb Duncan, Jefferson City, MO
  12. Ryan Phillips, Campbell, CA
  13. Aaron Bilyeu, Placerville, CA
  14. Jon Atwood, Keene, NH
  15. Steve Hampton, Davis, CA
  16. Avery Bartels, Nelson, BC, Canada
  17. Marcelo Brongo, Barcelona, Spain
  18. Jim Mountjoy, Galesburg, IL
  19. Matt Yawney, Chelsea, MI
  20. gary koehn, colorado springs, CO
  21. Kurt Pohlman, Kaneohe, HI
  22. Julie Cocke, Jacksonville, FL
  23. Chris Warren, Portland, OR
  24. Andy Jones, Cleveland Heights, OH
  25. Elaine MacPherson, Sierra Madre, CA
  26. Marlene Jay Cashen, Veradale, WA
  27. Matthew Schneider, Silverton, OR
  28. Liis Veelma, Winnipeg, MB
  29. Myles Falconer, Lakefield, ON
  30. Kumaran Arul, Santa Cruz, CA
  31. Jonathan Lautenbach, Grand Rapids, MI
  32. Brendan Fogarty, Nassau Co, NY
  33. Tim Hochstetler, Millersburg OH
  34. Ron Pozzi, Granite Bay, CA
  35. Charles Rossa, Manassas, VA
  36. John Kuenzli, Columbus, OH
  37. James P. Smith, Amherst, MA
  38. Erik Stromberg, San Anselmo, CA
  39. William Jones, Shropshire, England

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.

Tennessee Warbler
American Goldfinch
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Pine Warbler
Blue-winged Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Prothonotary Warbler
Scarlet Tanager
Yellow-throated Vireo
Blackpoll Warbler
Lesser Goldfinch
Wilson's warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Canada Warbler
Cassin's Vireo
Hooded Warbler
Orchard Oriole
Painted Bunting
Red-eyed Vireo
Summer Tanager
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
Yellow-rumped Warbler


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