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Actually, even if this month's bird hit you in the head, it probably wouldn't hurt, as it is obviously quite small (comparison can be made to the elm leaves in the background, which are not all that large). The bird is also obviously not a duck, but a small passerine, what with the wing bars, white spots in the tail, and yellow rump.
Whoa, did I say yellow rump? Is it that easy? Let's take a closer look.
Few ABA-area bird species sport such contrastingly and bright yellow rumps, most all of them warblers. Some of the Asian Phylloscopus warblers have such, but only one of those has occurred in the ABA area, and Pallas' Leaf-Warbler has a strongly-striped head. Lawrence's Goldfinch and Virginia's, Nashville, and Palm warblers all have yellow or yellowish rumps, but without the strong contrast to the back and uppertail coverts as on our quiz subject, rather grading into the neighboring colors. So, white tail spots, wing bars, and contrasting yellow rump should lead to the obvious conclusion, right?
Not so fast. Granted, we've got three characters that agree with an identification of Yellow-rumped Warbler – the most abundant and widespread of yellow-rumped passerines in the ABA area, but are they sufficient? Looking at our bird's throat, we can see that it's yellow, which if a Yellow-rumped Warbler, would make it an Audubon's Warbler. However, Audubon's has – at least – white outer edges to the greater coverts (adult males have nearly the entirety of those feathers white and forming the white wing panel typical of the plumage), the tips of which form the lower wing bar; our quiz bird does not show such. Well, then, perhaps it's an intergrade Audubon's x Myrtle Warbler, showing an Audubon's throat, but a Myrtle wing pattern. Unfortunately, south of the yellow throat, we can also see that the bird's chest – not just the "shoulders" – is yellow, ruling out all forms of Yellow-rumped Warbler.
Looking even more closely at the underparts, we should note the thin band of gray between throat and chest. We should also critically examine those tail spots. We can see two of ‘em, each on a corresponding third rectrix on the left and right sides of the tail and the critical aspect of them is their placement: virtually in the middle of the tail from base to tip. The tail spots on those feathers in Yellow-rumped Warblers that sport spots on those feathers would be very near the tip, not the middle. Only one ABA-area species sports a white band in the middle of the tail, a contrastingly bright yellow rump, white wing bars, yellow throat, gray necklace, and yellow chest. I took this picture of an immature female Magnolia Warbler at Cape May Point, Cape May Co., NJ, on 10 September 2010.
The following people (listed by submission date beginning with the earliest) submitted correct answers for the November Bird Photo Quiz—Magnolia Warbler:
The following list shows the number of submissions for each species guessed.
The photo and answer for this quiz were supplied by Tony Leukering.