Archive for Quizzes


Photo Quiz: An Answer

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Screenshot 2014-01-11 16.43.37

As predicted, this Pine Siskin didn’t pose too many problems for most of us, and the responses tallied pretty much all of the classic “field marks,” including the pointed bill, the small head, the fine black streaking, and the wing markings.

The major “confusion species” for this bird, especially since the 1940s, is the House Finch, females and juvenile males of which are also brown and streaked and fond of bird feeders. There are differences, of course, most of them covered by the respondents to the quiz — the most important, though, unmentioned.

House Finch

House Finch, bits of which are visible in the photo above, is a long-tailed, short-winged bird, with the primaries protruding just a short distance beyond the tertials and the wing tip often barely seeming to extend down the tail at all.

Contrast that with the very different rear end of a Pine Siskin:

Pine Siskin

The long, long primaries of this bird create a noticeably attenuated wing tip extending far beyond the tertials, and that sharp little tail seems barely an afterthought. This is the structural difference that strikes me every time, from any distance, before I can gauge the head size or the bill shape or the wing pattern or the width of the shaft streaks on the underparts.

Over most of the continent, it hasn’t been much of a finch winter. But maybe next year will find more of them at our feeders — and maybe the reminder to start at the rear will make them easier to identify.

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Photo Quiz

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Another seasonally appropriate choice from the pages of Bird-Lore.

Screenshot 2014-01-11 16.43.37

I don’t think this one will prove much of a problem, but I’m interested to learn just how you identify this species, familiar and abundant over much of North America at the right season in some years.

Answers in the comments, please.

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Photo Quiz!

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This is a tough one.

What is this object, and what was it used for?

Screenshot 2014-01-31 17.09.29

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Weather and Birds

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And the answer to yesterday’s photo quiz.

It’s been a rough few days over much of the US and Canada, with temperatures like in the old days — made only worse by the weather people’s insistence on giving us the “wind chills,” too.

It’s been hard on the birds, too, as anyone watching feeders or out driving the country roads will have noticed. But I don’t think it can compare to a nasty night 105 years ago today in Lincoln County, Nebraska.

Screenshot 2014-01-06 11.36.26

Most years, I don’t even see 10,000 Lapland Longspurs, far less walk around town picking them up from vacant lots.

Stay warm!

Congratulations to A.B. for pointing out some of the important characters that permit the identification of this bird. The very long wings are a great way to rule out the superficially similar sparrows and Old World sparrows. 

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Photo Quiz

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A few years ago, Kenn Kaufman pointed out that the “photo quiz” was not an innovation of Birding or British Birds or Continental Birdlife.

No, the first birding photo quiz appeared in Bird-Lore in December 1900, with the intention, as Frank Chapman put it,

of arousing the student’s curiosity [and] impressing the bird’s characters on [her or ] his mind far more strongly than if its name were given with its picture.

In honor of the sesquicentennial of Chapman’s birth, coming up this summer, we’ll be “re-running” the Bird-Lore quizzes on and off over the next months.

Here’s one that seems especially timely:

Chapman photo quiz I

What is it? Please respond in the comments, and be sure that you include an account of how you identified the bird, not just its name.

And if you already played in 1900, please give others a chance before jumping in.


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