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This month, we've got an all-dark bird perched on a rock (and, yes, the picture is oriented correctly). The features that pop out to me, other than the “unicoloredness,” include the very long wings and the very short bill. We could spend a lot of time paging through the field guide looking at all-dark (or, at least, apparently all-dark) birds, but just a bit of biology knowledge can short-stop that task. Very few birds perch in this vertical manner and the only ones that do that reside on the ABA list and that are also all dark are the swifts. Once into this family, we can quickly rule out the two “White-throateds” – Swift and Needletail; White-collared, Common, and Fork-tailed swifts; and Antillean Palm-Swift due to our bird's lack of white on the underparts, particularly the throat and chest. This massacre of ABA-area rarity possibilities and one regular species leaves us with only our two Chaetura swifts (Chimney and Vaux's) and Black Swift. Vaux's Swift nearly always sports at least an obviously paler throat than does our bird so we might be able to rule out that wee beastie. Even Chimney Swift has a throat at least a bit paler than the rest of the bird. The confirming features of this latest elimination of possibilities lies in the face. Neither of the two Chaetura sport our quiz bird's deep-black patch immediately before the eye contrasting with the silvered loral area. In fact, no other ABA-area swift matches our bird's facial pattern. However, it's a good thing that no other Cypseloides swifts (a generally neotropical genus) have been accepted to the ABA-area list, as making a definitive ID of this bird would be incredibly more difficult, if not impossible.
I took this picture of an adult Black Swift at Zapata Falls, Alamosa Co., CO, on 17 August 2006. The bird was one of nine (or so; my memory doesn't serve me all that well at times; it's heck to get old!) Black Swifts that staff and volunteers of the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory (www.rmbo.org) caught and banded as part of a long-term project to map colonies and determine various parameters of the occupation of colony sites. RMBO's efforts in Colorado have greatly increased our knowledge and understanding of this very poorly known species. In fact, with an awful lot of luck, this summer's efforts may finally reveal the winter grounds of North American-breeding Black Swifts, as data loggers were placed on some of the Black Swifts banded in 2009. The luck aspect is required because they will need to recapture at least one of those individuals with data loggers in order to be able to obtain the information on where those birds have been in the intervening year. I whole-heartedly wish them that luck!
The following people (listed by submission date beginning with the earliest) submitted correct answers for the May Bird Photo Quiz—Black Swift:
The following list shows the number of submissions for each species guessed.
The photo and answer for this quiz were supplied by Tony Leukering.