Dead Bird Quiz answers

3 04 2013

Hoorah! Lots of answers proferred on this latest quiz! For Bird A, everyone responded with scaup. But what kind of scaup? We don’t see a lot of scaup generally, so I don’t have a great deal of experience with these i.d.s, but fortunately, I have found one detail to latch onto in making the distinction between Greater and Lesser Scaup: just how much white is in the wing? In the Greater (refer to this photo in the fabulous digital collection at the Slater Museum out at the University of Puget Sound), the white in the wing clearly extends well into the primary feathers. In the Lesser (as in this photo), the white fades out rather quickly, leaving only a light brownish color in the primaries. Thus, I feel fairly certain that Bird A is a Lesser Scaup.

The weird face of the American Woodcock.

The weird face of the American Woodcock.

Bird B threw a lot of people for a loop. Is it a godwit? A heron? Or a bird with no business being on a beach, like…an American Woodcock?! A friend of mine who works in downtown Boston found three dead Woodcock on the ground outside her heavily windowed building. They likely struck the glass and knocked themselves dead. This species is good at that, since their eyes are located almost on the backs of their heads so they tend not to see in front of them all that well. Because of this incident, I had the species on my mind when I looked at our Bird B. I do think Bird B is a Woodcock, though it’s a little difficult to make out its facial features from this angle. But the eyes do appear to be quite a bit farther back on the head than they would be in a godwit or other shorebird (though the forest-dwelling, earthworm-eating Woodcock is, itself, a shorebird by classification). The bill on Bird B is quite long, but straight, rather than upturned as in a godwit, and the white tips of the underside of the tail feathers are also a hint, recalling the displays of live Woodcock who tip their tails up in display like such. One of my favorite species, so I might be susceptible to seeing them where they aren’t, but I really do think this is our Bird B!




6 responses

3 04 2013
Wouter van Gestel

Oh great, with two out of two I must have won the reeking bag of dead bird bits! That happens to be my favorite gift (but my wife keeps giving me other stuff for my birthday), since my on-line bird skull museum still lacks a lot of American species. And yes, I do have a permit from my government, so if you need my adress, just ask 😉

5 04 2013

You know, there is some potential there, if we could overcome all the red tape here stateside…do you have species you particularly covet, Wouter?

5 04 2013
Wouter van Gestel

Thanks for the offer, I know it’s not easy to get through the tangled mass of read tape in your government, it’s a bit like being a loon and meeting an abandoned fishing net ;). I’ll send you a list of wanted species by Email later this week. You do only have east coast species isn’t it?

10 04 2013

Yes, we are strictly an east coast program. Do send the list, and if I can finagle a way to get the skulls to you and remain on the right side of the law, I’ll do it! You’ve been such a help to us!

4 05 2013

I’m pretty sure Bird B is NOT a woodcock. The pattern of bicolor on the bill is proportioned wrong, and the legs, toes, and tail are WAY too long for a woodcock. I’d concur with an earlier poster on Marbled Godwit, although the timing is VERY odd..

6 05 2013

very possible–we deal mainly in scoters and gannets and all that, so we are out of our usual comfort zone with shorebirds. I will say that I have learned not to trust coloration in dead birds. It can be wildly off from what one sees in life. As can, surprisingly, the apparent proportions of the body. I prefer to rely on things like culmen, wing chord, and tarsus length but I admit to not being well versed in how those things would compare between godwit and woodcock. I’ll take another look and pass the pics around to our dead bird pros again too.

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