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Even though this bird is looking away from us, we can see that it has the distinctive shape of an owl. The edge of the facial disk creates a rather flattened face that is apparent on the right side of our bird's head. Facial patterns are one of the best ways to identify owls, but at times we can't see them and must therefore rely on other characters.
There are some species of owl that aren't even close to our bird-think Barn Owl and Snowy Owl. In fact, once we consider it a bit more carefully, we realize that most owls have streaked or barred underparts, unlike our bird, which has a combination of distinct spots and streaks.
The spotting might call to mind Spotted Owl, but that species has spots that are more horizontal; also, on Spotted Owl, the brown on the underparts doesn't have the odd warm-brown coloration that our bird has. Furthermore, our bird's head appears large in comparison to its body, even for an owl.
The only species that fits this combination is the Boreal Owl.
This Boreal Owl was photographed in the Rockies in northern Colorado in early fall by Bill Schmoker. More of Bill's photos can be seen at www.schmoker.org.
The following people (listed by submission date beginning with the earliest) submitted correct answers for the November Bird Photo Quiz—Boreal Owl:
The graph below shows that the highest number of answers submitted was for Boreal Owl (37), followed by Spotted Owl (14). We received a number of answers that did not conform to the ABA Checklist format. Please note that answers must consist simply of the Common or English name exactly as it appears in the ABA Checklist.
The photo and answer for this quiz were supplied by Chris Wood.