ABA Photo Quiz

ABA Online Bird Photo Quiz 95


Bird Photo
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During low-light conditions near dusk, a dark bird flies over our heads from behind us and we only have a quick look as it's going away – what is it?

Obviously, if we'd have seen it flap, we could have ruled small birds in or out on wingbeats, but our static picture does not permit that. However, the impression of large size is provided by the bird's long wings, much longer, relatively, than on any small birds. While some large immature gull might pop into our thoughts, the bird's strongly-banded primaries rule that option out, but where to from here? Well, those strongly-banded primaries don't leave us all that many options for big birds; in fact, only raptors and owls. If our quiz bird is an owl, the narrowness of the wings rules out the wide-winged genus Strix, leaving only a few options with such long wings and dark underparts: Great Horned and the two eared owls. While we might spend some time debating these options – and it's not all that easy to rule them out on the strength of wing pattern, all of which are remarkably similar – our bird's tail is just too long and too narrow to be that of an owl.

With the Strigiformes eliminated from consideration, we must search for our solution among the raptors, but we have more information to quickly narrow our choices. The wings are too long and too narrow for any of the buteos or accipiters. The only kites with banded primaries have wide hands and eagles are right out. The pointedness of the wingtips might start us down the falcon road – many species do have banded primaries, but the particularly strong blackish markings at the wrist rule those out. Besides, only American Kestrel would have a tail long enough for that of our quiz bird and its wings are much longer than a kestrel's. Osprey sports long wings with banded primaries and dark wrists and a longish tail, how about that one? Though the lighting may be throwing us off on our estimation of the color of the underparts, I would think that an Osprey's bright white there would be more evident than in this picture. However, the combination of low light and camera exposure may be wreaking havoc with our color estimation, but we can rule out Osprey on the style of banding in those primaries: the bands are too few, too wide, and too obvious. That leaves us only one option, and the one that many of us would probably have shouted out when the bird first appeared above us, as it's quite a distinctive one.

I took this picture of a juvenile Northern Harrier at Cape May Point State Park, Cape May Co., NJ, on 10 October 2010.


The following people (listed by submission date beginning with the earliest) submitted correct answers for the February Bird Photo Quiz—Northern Harrier:

  1. Lance Verderame, Livingston Manor, New York
  2. Steve Hampton, Davis, CA
  3. Dan Vice, Barrigada, Guam
  4. Benoit Dorion, Laval, Quebec, Canada
  5. Claire Miller, Fair Oaks, CA
  6. Ali Iyoob, Raleigh, NC
  7. Karl Erich Mayer, Saint Clair Shores, Michigan
  8. David Hollie, Ringgold
  9. Ben Coulter, Etna, PA
  10. John Sterling, Woodland, CA
  11. Monica Nugent, New Westminster, BC
  12. Spencer Hardy, Norwich, VT
  13. Jimmy Warren, Schwenksville, PA
  14. Terry O'Connor, Indianapolis,Indiana
  15. Ed Harper, CA
  16. Peter Scully, Anchorage, AK
  17. Benjamin Shamgochian, East Providence,RI
  18. John Shamgochian, East Providence, RI
  19. Wayne Meyer, Denison, TX
  20. Terri Everett, Big Rapids, MI
  21. Jason McGuire, London, ON
  22. Brandon Cullen, Clyde, OH
  23. Miriam Rognlie, Bozeman, MT
  24. Ross Schaefer, Atascadero, CA
  25. Bob Proctor, Elgin, Scotland
  26. Daroczi J. Szilard, Tg.-Mures, Romania
  27. Claude Auchu, La Pocatiere, Quebec
  28. Jacob Drucker, New York, NY
  29. Olivier Barden, Quebec City, Qc
  30. Kevin M Hill, SHORELINE, WA
  31. Tristan Weinbrenner, McPherson, KS
  32. Larry Therrien, Belchertown, MA
  33. Andre Moncrieff, Berrien Springs, MI
  34. Margaret Smith, Boulder, CO
  35. Joel Such, Lyons, CO
  36. Mike Wasilco, Caledonia, NY
  37. Robert Meehan, Durham, NC
  38. Marc Ribaudo, Woodbridge, VA
  39. Aaron Bilyeu, Placerville, CA
  40. Michael Cannon, Mount Prospect, IL
  41. Jon Atwood, Keene, NH
  42. Rob Fergus, Perkasie, PA
  43. Thomas Hopkins, saint Petersburg, Florida
  44. Kevin Jacobson, Hamilton, GA
  45. Steve Arlow, Rochford, Essex, England
  46. Graham Etherington, Norwich, UK
  47. Joshua Covill, Columbia Falls, MT
  48. Tom Benson, San Bernardino, CA
  49. Liston Rice, Houston, TX
  50. Caity Reiland-Smith, Sioux Falls, SD
  51. Ann Gibson, Winfield, BC
  52. Robert Packard, Riverside, CA
  53. Nathan Swick, Chapel Hill, NC
  54. John Hammond, Durham, NC
  55. Landon Neuman, Logansport IN
  56. Cynthia Barstad, Tucson, AZ
  57. Barb Robertson, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  58. Georgia Conti, Patzcuaro, Michoacan, Mexico
  59. Myles Falconer, Walsingham, ON
  60. Kevin Kerr, Arlington, VA
  61. Matthew Daw, Raleigh, NC
  62. Kayla Parry, Hamler, OH
  63. Nancy P., Hamler, OH
  64. anise algazzali, Pinole, CA
  65. Andrew Birch, Hackensack, MN
  66. Larry Kline, Fredericksburg, VA
  67. Chad Heins, Mankato, MN
  68. Annie Meyer, Tacoma, WA
  69. Greg Schrott, Sebring, FL
  70. Greg Tito, Williamsburg, VA
  71. Mike McCloy, Cullowhee, NC
  72. Benjamin Van Doren, White Plains, NY
  73. Michael Kline, Freddericksburg Va.
  74. Eric Plage, Saint Petersburg, Florida
  75. jim Mountjoy, Galesburg, IL
  76. Andrew Guttenberg, Bozeman, MT
  77. Greg Zupansic, Eugene, Oregon
  78. Steve Walker, Pennington, NJ
  79. Ron Pozzi, Granite Bay, CA
  80. Mike Fialkovich, Pittsburgh, PA
  81. Joshua LaCelle, Camden, NY
  82. Marcel Such, Lyons, CO
  83. Jim Flynn, Seattle, WA
  84. Michael Miller, Chicago, IL
  85. Yousif Attia, Calgary, AB
  86. Neil Gilbert, Grand Rapids, MI
  87. Joshua Hodge, Hattiesburg, MS
  88. Nancy Hetrick, Albuquerque, NM
  89. Blake Mathys, Williamstown, NJ
  90. Linda Swanson, San Francisco, CA
  91. Matthew Schneider, Silverton, Oregon
  92. Joel Mundall, Loma Linda, CA

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.

Northern Harrier
Swainson's Hawk
American Kestrel
Mississippi Kite
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Black Swift
Common Nighthawk
Cooper's Hawk
Harris's Hawk
Herald Petrel
Northern Fulmar
Peregrine Falcon
Rock Pigeon
White-tailed Kite
Zone-tailed Hawk


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