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There are many ways that we could begin to identify this bird. Shape is great, but let's begin this time by doing something different. Let's look at where this bird was photographed—what kind of habitat. This is a pretty tight photo making it hard to see what kind of tree this is much less the overall habitat, but we can see a bounty of small red fruits. And while one could see a variety of species in a fruiting tree, it makes sense to begin with those species that have a particular fondness for berries. Hoofbeats in the ABA area: think horses not zebras…fruiting tree start thinking fruit eater not seedeater.
The potential problem is that there are a variety of species that eat fruits. But let's focus on those species that we see at fruiting trees most often: American Robins, both species of waxwings, European Starling, Townsend's Solitaire, Pine Grosbeak, maybe bluebirds and other thrushes. That's a good start. Among all these species, only one has the pinkish-red uppertail coverts—Pine Grosbeak.
At this point we have a pretty good candidate, let's go through the other field marks and see how they fit. This is a pretty chunky bird (good). The tail appears somewhat short, but that seems to be mostly the angle (Pine Grosbeaks have relatively long tails, but given the angle, the tail doesn't eliminate Pine Grosbeak—and the color to the edge of the tail feathers is perfect). What about the white borders to the tertials and white tips to at least the greater coverts forming a "lower wing bar"? Those are perfect. The grayish flanks and overall color of the upperparts is also bang on. In fact, everything we see about this bird suggests Pine Grosbeak.
This male Pine Grosbeak was photographed in southwestern New Hampshire during November 2007.
The following people (listed by submission date beginning with the earliest) submitted correct answers for the December Bird Photo Quiz—Pine Grosbeak:
The following list shows the number of submissions for each species guessed.
The photo and answer for this quiz were supplied by Chris Wood.