Quiz Birds!!

August 31, 2011 | Greg Dodge

Once again it’s time for you to test your bird identification skills by answering the question in the caption on the photo.

Who am I?

Clues to use:

I am a bird of the marsh.

I, my brethren and cousins, form huge flocks in winter.

I am the name and mascot of a minor league baseball team whose major league team has for its name and mascot another, more colorful, bird in the same family that I belong to.

I was photographed at the bird feeders in Catch the Wind (not much help there).

That’ll do it.

A fabulous prize awaits the first person who answers correctly*.

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* Prize must be picked up in person.

—-ANSWER TO QUIZ BELOW—-

It is indeed a Red-winged Blackbird.

Wilma, the Baltimore Orioles have a Minor League team called the Rochester (NY) Red Wings, so you are at least partially correct.

To all readers:

If the species ID is all that you’re interested in you can stop reading here. If you want to hear more about “male or female” and how they may possibly be confused with one another when at the age of the bird in the photo, then read on…

Initially, I looked at this bird and thought, juvenile male Red-winged Blackbird. I thought about that for a while longer and had second thoughts. So, in order to not make a fool of myself by proclaiming it what I thought it was when it was actually something else, I did some research by checking my copy of “Identification Guide to North American Passerines” which used be one of my most trusted companions on bird banding outings, when I did such things.

Under the heading of HY/SY (hatching year/second year) female on page 230 of that book it states that “the lesser coverts (where the orange is on the bird in the photo) blackish, sometimes with some buffy-orange or orangish….”

If that weren’t enough, check these three web sites which offer further confusion and photographs on the subject:

http://winterwoman.net/2008/07/15/another-fine-day-at-bird-banding/

and

http://www.migrationresearch.org/mbo/id/rwbl.html

and also

https://kb.osu.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/1811/22726/V080N5_236.pdf

Of course, if I could hold the bird in my hand I could measure its wings, the male’s wings are longer than the females. I don’t have the bird in hand, nor did I at the time, so that’s out of the question.

After a lot of the tooling around in the books and web sites though, I still think that the bird is a male. Here’s why. There is one large incoming blackish feather on the wing of the bird in the photo above. It looks like a secondary feather (a flight feather on the “upper arm” of the bird). If this bird were a female I think that perhaps that new feather would be browner than it appears in the photo.

However, unless we capture the bird we may never know for sure whether it is a male or a female bird. We CAN be sure, though, that it is a Red-winged Blackbird.

Congratulations to all of you! You all deserve a prize. In fact, you all WILL get one if you desire. Next time that you’re in Explore the Wild hunt me down and I’ll hand over your gift. Wilma, I know that you’re not local, so next time you’re in Durham, NC stop by the Museum.

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