Friday, October 24, 2008

a return to the photo quiz

So, I put this photo up a few days ago to try to illustrate a point.  I've been somewhat annoyed lately by some of the photo quizzes in the back of Birding magazine where sometimes their hints are to look at the habitat or the type of vegetation the bird's in.  Overall, that's certainly good advice while considering many birds over time, but it has little to do with the identification of any one single bird.  One of my old Washtenaw friends, Dea Armstrong, would always say on field trips she led, "birds have WINGS, and they USE them."  Truer words were never spoken.  

At any rate, getting back to the photo, we see a backlit bird feeding on seeds in pine cones.  Based on the conical bill, it's pretty clearly a passerine.  It's perched at an odd angle with the tail pointing downward toward the camera so looks oddly short.  Perhaps a person might consider a nuthatch for that reason, but the bill is clearly wrong.  Based on the information presented, of a passerine with a conical bill feeding on pine seeds, the assumption would be that it's a finch, and if so then the best guess would probably be pine siskin based on the bill shape.

That's not what this is.  It's a red-winged blackbird, flocks of which have been feeding on the pine seeds from the cones around my house.  While we think of them as birds of marshes and fields (quite correctly), they apparently branch out considerably in their large migratory flocks in the fall to take advantage of other food sources in settings that a person might not have expected:


Jerry Jourdan said...

Well done, Matt! I wouldn't have guessed RWBB based on the wing projection in the quiz. Note how short the tail appears to be. Keep up the great work!


Jeff Schultz said...

This was a good one, Matt! I was leaning towards a PISI myself. keep the blog going. Its one of my favs along with Jerry Jourdan's.