Dead Bird Quiz answers

10 01 2012

Razorbill in breeding plumage. Quite striking.

Bird A didn’t really stump anyone; all respondents knew this was a Razorbill. These guys can be tricky though, especially when it comes to distinguishing them from murres. When the carcass is intact, check the bill. While breeding Razorbills have a distinctive vertical white stripe on the bill, and a white line running back to the eye, Seanetters are unlikely to encounter birds in breeding plumage as the species nests only from Maine northward. In non-breeding adults, the bill is more subtle, but still shows the deep, arcing profile, and some trace of a white line. Young birds have a shallower bill and bear the most resemblance to murres. In those cases, the tail can be of help. In Razorbills, the tail is long, pointed, and extends beyond the feet. In murres, by contrast, the tail does not extend beyond the feet.

A more demure looking Common Murre. Oh, that's a terrible pun! Sorry!

Bird B was an entirely different story. We did get a correct response, all the way from Europe, from Wouter van Gestel who correctly identified Bird B as an American Wigeon. It’s our very first of the species here at SEANET, so this bird is big news! Tell-tale field marks here are the black secondaries with a white wing patch. This is a male American Wigeon, which is the easier to identify of the sexes. As you can see from these two photos from the Wing and Tail Collection of the University of Puget Sound (a spectacular resource), only the male has that broad white patch, and a small, iridescent green area on the speculum. The female’s wing is more muted, with only a thin, white bar.

On Thursday, this blog will address the topic of weird bird bones and how they look nothing like the bones you’re used to, and more like, as Libby Rock has pointed out to me, dragon skulls.

Male American Wigeon wing. Photo from University of Puget Sound collection

Female American Wigeon wing. Photo from University of Puget Sound collection.

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