Dead Bird Quiz

6 03 2010

We got an almost instantaneous correct answer from John “Quick Draw” Stanton, and another set of correct answers shortly thereafter from Mary “Dark Horse” Wright (who fired a shot across Doug Suitor’s bow in the last quiz). OK, the idiomatic expressions are getting out of hand, so why don’t we move on to the Quiz.

"Bird" A was really just the partial wing of a Wild Turkey

Bird A is, as John and Mary asserted, a Wild Turkey. Note: Libby Rock also cringingly offered her guess of Wild Turkey and seemed to worry that the idea was so absurd that the SEANET blogger might smack her with a rolled up newspaper. But you were correct, Libby!

In the picture here, you can see the bold striping on the outstretched wing of this tom turkey, strutting about in embarrassing fashion as usual. The lesson here is to consider all possible bird species, and not to be blindered by SEANET’s particular affinity for seabirds. One might find just about anything out there, and SEANET is interested in reports on all dead avians. Wild Turkey, once nearly extirpated, now range far and wide throughout all of SEANET’s territory, so any Seanetter might chance upon such a find, whether in Maine or Florida.

Bird B is, as John and Mary both knew, a Lesser Scaup. When presented with the photos, the SEANET bird consultant, Marshall Iliff, answered that the combination of all that white in the secondary feathers on the wing, and the white feathers on the back with fine vermiculations (all that black barring) identify it as a scaup. From there, it can be difficult to say whether the bird is a Greater or Lesser. Some birders swear by head shape, or the sheen on the head feathers, or the bill shape.

Bird B was a Lesser Scaup

We Seanetters have some advantages over those who attempt to identify live birds–we have the luxury of measurements, and we can examine the outstretched wing in some detail. The Lesser Scaup is, not surprisingly, smaller than its Greater cousin, and the culmen length reported for this specimen was well below the 40-48mm range of the Greater. Additionally, one may be able to appreciate that the white in the secondaries of our Bird B does not extend into the primaries. This is characteristic of the Lesser Scaup. The Greater Scaup shows an extensive white patch in the primaries as well as the secondaries.

Thanks for playing! Oh, and a programming note: Seanetter Ray Bosse has recommended that we check out “Addicted to Plastic,” a documentary on plastic’s impact on the global environment, marine and otherwise. It will air on the Sundance Channel this Sunday (March 7) at 11am. Though not likely to be a feel-good film, the SEANET blogger has set her DVR to record it so she may view it when she is feeling particularly resilient. We recommend that you check it out too.

See you back here next week, Seanetters!

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