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ABA Photo Quiz

ABA Online Bird Photo Quiz 61

Answer

Bird Photo

This month's quiz bird produced an interesting array of responses, but most were of some species of duck. The wide bill and webbed feet certainly support such an identification. However, I suspect that the picture was something of an optical illusion for some and I can vouch for that possibility as no small number of times upon glancing at the picture, my impression was that the head was at a very different angle than it really is. And that makes all the difference. In actuality the bird is flying right at us with its bill leading the way.

So, we have a generally dark duck with two white spots on the head, one each anterior and posterior to the eye. This pattern should reduce the possibilities to just three species, White-winged and Surf scoters and Harlequin Duck. Thus it is well that those three species topped the list of responses. Of course, two of those species have to be incorrect. White-winged Scoter differs from the other two in having white secondaries, so it ought to be most readily eliminated from consideration if we're sure that we can see the quiz bird's secondaries. That tract is visible in the picture on the bird's left wing, though I won't fault anyone for thinking otherwise. There is another way to rule that species out that does not depend on our correct analysis of precisely which wing feathers are visible in the picture: we simply need to scrutinize the head pattern.

The meeting of bill and head feathering on White-winged Scoter is strongly slanted, allowing the white on the front of the face to extend well forward virtually to the nostrils. That is not the pattern we see in the picture, where the white patch meets the bill base in a nearly vertical manner, thus constraining the white into a more-vertical-than-horizontal patch unlike the reverse pattern of White-winged Scoter. Additionally, the white is well separated from the nostrils.

Our bird's head pattern is fairly similar to that of a female Harlequin Duck. Note that male Harlequin Duck is ruled out by the lack of any other white bits, particularly the vertical stripe on the side. Unfortunately for those guessing the species, female Harlequin Ducks sport pale bellies, something that our quiz bird lacks.

The bird's head pattern is an exact fit for Surf Scoter and the dark belly tells us that our bird is not a juvenile. I took this picture of an adult female Surf Scoter at Bolinas Lagoon, Marin Co., CA in November 2007.

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

  1. Aaron Bilyeu, Placerville, CA
  2. Adrian Azpiroz, St. Louis, MO
  3. Brendan Fogarty, Hempstead, NY
  4. Daroczi J. Szilard, Tg.-Mures, Romania
  5. John Gluth, Brentwood
  6. Raymond VanBuskirk, Albuquerque, NM
  7. Ian Davies, Medford, MA
  8. Jim Peck, Wausau, WI
  9. Jeremy Medina, Tucson, AZ
  10. Jim Kopitzke, Mesa AZ
  11. Gary W. Potter, Sanger, California
  12. Liis Veelma, Winnipeg MB
  13. Joshua Watson, Gainesville, FL
  14. Alan Dupuis, Cambridge, NY
  15. Stephen Joly, Kamloops, BC
  16. Matt Pike, Lacey, WA
  17. tom graham, seabrook, NH
  18. John Bissell, Grimes, IA
  19. Mark LaRose, Waconia, MN
  20. Willis Brubaker, Wooster, OH
  21. Mark Rosenstein, Cambridge, MA
  22. Matthew Kenne, Algona, Iowa
  23. Matt Baumann, ABQ, NM
  24. Grant Gardner, Ottumwa, IA
  25. Kelly McKinne, Ann Arbor, Michigan
  26. Kathryn Zimmerman, Ann Arbor, Michigan
  27. Nathan Swick, Chapel Hill, NC
  28. Terri Everett, Big Rapids, MI
  29. Kevin M Hill, Shoreline, WA
  30. Thomas Hall, Livermore, Colorado
  31. Tom Benson, San Bernardino, CA
  32. Amy St.Pierre, Kelly, WY
  33. Richard Garrigues, San Antonio de Belen, Heredia, Costa Rica
  34. Wayne Meyer, Denison, TX
  35. Jason Giovannone, West Columbia, SC
  36. Steve Arlow, Rochford, Essex, England
  37. Sam Burckhardt, Chicago, IL
  38. Eric Huston, Tumwater, WA
  39. Chris Warren, Portland, OR
  40. Greg Schrott, Sebring, FL
  41. Maria Mayer, Saint Clair Shores, MI
  42. Eva Pratt, Inman, SC
  43. Jim Mountjoy, Galesburg IL
  44. Rob Lane, Chandler, AZ
  45. Beau Schaefer, round lake beach, IL
  46. Graham Etherington, Norwich, UK
  47. Ben Kolstad, Boca Raton, FL
  48. Mikey Lutmerding, Frostburg, MD
  49. Brian McDermott, Asheville, NC
  50. Mike Wasilco, Scottsville, NY
  51. Michael S. Levy, Centereach, NY
  52. Greg Gillson, Hillsboro, OR
  53. Dave Tietjen, Huntsville, AL
  54. Andrew Fayer, Fort Washington, PA
  55. Angie Hardesty, Bowling Green, KY
  56. Julie Desmeules, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
  57. Pete Fenner, East Peoria, IL
  58. Bret McCarty, Lakewood, OH
  59. Nell Haberman, Portland, Oregon
  60. Josh Southern, Apex, NC
  61. Joshua Covill, Columbia Falls, MT
  62. Olaf Soltau, New Preston, CT
  63. Lori Fujimoto, Colorado Springs, CO
  64. Kevin Kerr, Guelph, ON
  65. Wes Serafin, orland park, IL
  66. Luke Downey, Friendswood, TX
  67. James P. Smith, Amherst, MA
  68. John Kuenzli, Columbus, OH
  69. Gerald Hockemeier, Omaha Ne
  70. Daryll Myhr, Kelowna,BC
  71. David Perpinan, Omaha, Nebraska
  72. Tamara Brenner, Elmhurst, IL
  73. Jeff Hole, Orlando, FL
  74. Ed Harper, Sacramento, CA
  75. Patty McKelvey, Sheffield Village, OH
  76. Kathy Brodhead, San Quintin, Baja California
  77. Phoebe Mundall, Tai Chung ,Taiwan
  78. Howard Sands, Eagle Point, Oregon
  79. Andy Johnson, Ann Arbor, MI
  80. Richard Jeffers, Santa Clara, CA
  81. Luke Seitz, Falmouth, ME
  82. Javier de Leon, Edinburg, TX
  83. Philip Kline, Tucson, AZ
  84. Marcel Such, Lyons, CO
  85. Shaun Hicks, Morrisville, PA
  86. Malkolm Boothroyd, Whitehorse, Yukon
  87. Deneise Conrad, San Antonio, Texas
  88. Urs Geiser, Woodridge, Illinois
  89. Ana Komro, West Bend, WI
  90. Evan Houston, Seattle, WA
  91. Jonathan Lautenbach, Grand Rapids, MI
  92. Koel Ko, Cambridge, UK
  93. Jason Pietrzak, Logan, Utah
  94. Jessica Prutzman, Philadelphia, PA
  95. Rick Poulin, Ottawa, Ontario
  96. Romney Bathurst, Highlands, NC
  97. Geoffrey A. Williamson, Chicago, IL
  98. Michael Bernard, Nashville, TN
  99. Steve Freed, Milan IL
  100. Adam Nisbett, Saint James, MO
  101. Robert Doster, Albuquerque, NM
  102. Max Wilson, Kensington, MD
  103. Jonathan Cooley, Mooresville, NC
  104. Alex Watson, Austin, MN
  105. Stephanie Smith, Redford, MI
  106. Ben Loehnen, New York, NY
  107. Sean Williams, Boston, MA
  108. Steve Steimel, Severna Park, MD
  109. Alex Ewing, Rocky Hill, NJ
  110. Michael Lester, Haworth, NJ
  111. Steve Carbol, Naples, Florida
  112. Henry Trombley, Starksboro, Vermont
  113. Anthony H. Bledsoe, Pittsburgh, PA
  114. David Yeany II, Cumberland, MD
  115. James McKay, Mesa, AZ
  116. Alexandre Anctil, Québec, Québec
  117. Jerry Jourdan, Wyandotte, MI
  118. Brendan Collins, New Haven, VT
  119. Thomas Collins, Pittsfield, MA
  120. Georgia Conti, Patzcuaro, Michoacan, Mexico
  121. Steve Klotz, Rineyville, KY
  122. Marcelo Brongo, Barcelona, Spain
  123. Matthew Schneider, Silverton, OR
  124. Scott Gilmore, Lantzville, British Columbia
  125. Michael Youn, Grand Rapids, MI
  126. Myles Falconer, Lakefield, ONTARIO
  127. Blake Mathys, Milltown, NJ
  128. Bobby Walsh, Davis, CA
  129. Randall Royal, Beaufort, SC
  130. Erica Wunder, Beaufort, SC
  131. Phil Kenny, Vienna, VA
  132. Tim Hochstetler, millersburg oh
  133. Mary Walsh, Valencia, CA
  134. Julie Hart, Hartland, VT
  135. Matthew Daw, Raleigh, NC
  136. Dan Walker, Canyon, Texas
  137. Matt Medler, Niskayuna, NY
  138. Pam Baum, Tucson, AZ

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.

Surf Scoter
138
Harlequin Duck
45
White-winged Scoter
14
Black-footed Albatross
7
Blue-winged Teal
7
Canada Goose
4
Masked Duck
3
Audubon's Shearwater
2
Ruddy Duck
2
Black Scoter
1
Black-vented Shearwater
1
Brant
1
Garganey
1
Golden Eagle
1
Mallard
1
Muscovy Duck
1
Northern Goshawk
1
Rhinoceros Auklet
1
Snow Goose
1
Spectacled Eider
1
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
1

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The photo and answer for this quiz were supplied by Tony Leukering.