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We certainly do not have much to go on with this month's quiz bird and solving it requires some knowledge of behavior not readily extracted from the typical field guides. Our bird is obviously diving and that fact combined with the black-and-white plumage should leave us a few groups to consider: diving ducks, grebes, and alcids. The plumage aspects visible (dark wingtips, a dark gray tail, and a dark rump that sports white sides) are, actually, enough to identify our bird. However, the primary reason that I took this photo and then used it in the quiz is to talk (write) about diving style.
Though very little of our bird's wings are visible, the position of the wingtips indicate that the wings are, at least, partly open at the beginning of the bird's dive. This behavior rules out a lot of species that dive for a living, as many species dive with their wings closed and do not use them to propel themselves underwater. Those species that use their wings underwater include a few diving ducks (White-winged and Surf scoters, eiders, and Long-tailed and Harlequin ducks) and alcids; loons, grebes, and other diving ducks are eliminated from consideration by this behavior. This simple behavior, thus, cuts the number of our black-and-white-diving-bird options roughly in half.
Our bird's tail is the next target of scrutiny, as we should know that alcids sport very short tails and that, despite our bird's apparently quite short tail, its length is still more impressive than that of any alcid tail. Thus, we find ourselves searching among the few diving ducks and we need only ascertain which of these options exhibits our bird's fairly distinctive rump pattern. Perusing the standard field guides, we can quickly see that scoter options are out, as are eider options, even those in adult male plumage. Harlequin Ducks, too, don't sport white rump sides, leaving Long-tailed Duck as the only possible answer. I took this picture of a female Long-tailed Duck in Lewes, Kent Co., DE, on 7 April 2008.
The following people (listed by submission date beginning with the earliest) submitted correct answers for the September Bird Photo Quiz—Long-tailed Duck:
The following list shows the number of submissions for each species guessed.
The photo and answer for this quiz were supplied by Tony Leukering.