This week's quiz was about trying to identify a bird by focusing mainly on the bird's silhouette, along with studying the only few visible field marks that might help us with the ID process. The silhouette tells us a lot about a bird, (body shape, bill shape, the bird's posture, etc). The silhouette helps us narrow down a bird to a limited number of species, or family, by shape and size. Obviously, our bird is not a waterbird, or a shorebird. It isn't the right size or shape to be a bird of prey, and we can tell by posture and the way the bird is perched, that it isn't a warbler either. Our bird is a medium-sized passerine, with a long tail.
When we enlarge the photo, the bird doesn't appear to be a light, or colorful bird, but dark and kind of dull, maybe gray. Ok, now we're getting somewhere! When we think of medium sized, fairly long-tailed, gray birds, Townsend's Solitaire, Gray Jay, Northern Mockingbird, Gray Catbird, and the Shrikes may come to mind.
We can eliminate Townsend's Solitaire and Gray Jay by range alone. Townsend's Solitaire is a bird of the mountains of western North America. The Gray Jay is found in a few states in the western U.S, and up into Canada and Alaska. Our bird was both seen and photographed in San Antonio, Texas. Both the Townsend's Solitaire and Gray Jay would be extremely rare in southern TX.
Let's move on to the Northern Mockingbird. If our bird was a Mockingbird, Overall, it would be larger, and the tail would be longer. Let's look very closely at our bird. Look at the wing. The wing is black with a small white patch. This bird is lacking the wingbars of a Northern Mockingbird, as well as the large white patch. Now we can also eliminate the Mocker from our list of possibilities. Gray Catbirds are about the same size as a Northern Mockingbird, and have an orangy, rufous color on the the undertail. If we look at the undertail of our bird we can't see any rufous coloration there at all. Also, our bird was photographed during winter, and Gray Catbirds are only here during spring and summer.
Now, we're down to the shrikes. In North America, we only get two species - the Northern Shrike, and the Loggerhead Shrike.
The Northern Shrike looks like it matches up pretty well with our bird, right? It's a medium-sized gray bird, with a long tail, it has the black wing with a small white patch. Now, remember where our bird was seen - it was seen in San Antonio, Texas. Let's check the range map for the Northern Shrike. The Northern Shrike is widely distributed throughout North America, but, (other than a couple of rare sightings) it is not found in Texas. This leaves us with the Loggerhead Shrike. Loggerheads are smaller than Northern Shrikes, and have shorter tails. The Loggerhead is found year-round in the San Antonio area, and is a perfect match for our quiz bird.
I photographed this Loggerhead Shrike last winter at the Mitchell Lake Audubon Center in San Antonio, Texas.
Tallies of incorrect guesses:
- American Goldfinch - 1
- Field Sparrow - 1
- Kryptos18 - 15
- Danielle - 10
- Spyonabird - 15
- Stitch58 - 15
- Kcbirder - 10
- Ceylon - 10
- Bird brain - 5
- Chickenjoe - 5
- Roundywaves - 5
- Col. Weed - 5
- Corbett - 5
- Firebird2011 - 5
Thank you all for participating!
Next photo will be posted on Monday