First off, congratulations to all who tried the quiz, and to Mike and Jason who got it right.

Recapping the quiz … I recently purchased a new book on birds and used it as the single source for this week’s quiz.  The book is from 2005 called “Identify Yourself, The 50 Most Common Birding Identification Challenges”.  The authors are Bill Thompson III and the editors at Bird Watcher’s Digest.

Showing a huge amount of faith, I closed my eyes and opened the book.  Magically, page 237 appeared and this week’s quiz was born.

Here are the clues:
1. This identification is usually a no-brainer.  The only time it is difficult is based on location or during an irruption year.
2. Size is interesting, but isn’t definitive.
3. Facial characteristics are interesting, but aren’t definitive.
4. Behavior is interesting, but won’t help.
5. Song is interesting, but isn’t definitive.
6. Wing coloration while sitting will help.  But not while flying.  Think “white”.
7. Call will help.
8. Beware of hybrids.

I live in upstate New York where only one of these two species occurs.  When I traveled to Philadelphia a few years ago to bird with a friend in her neck of the woods, I saw a CHICKADEE and wanted to confirm BLACK-CAPPED or CAROLINA.  She dismissed it as Carolina solely based on location.  I felt let down that we couldn’t ID it with some solid field marks.

I can safely say that if I was confronted with the same situation and had this book in hand, I would have to encounter a very cooperative bird to get a handle on it, if I could even do that.  Perhaps one with a name tag on its breast would help.

Better yet, I want to invent a new generation of binoculars and scopes.  Focus on a bird, double-click on it and magic happens.  The bins will indicate key characteristics to note. If I still don’t get it, double-click again, more hints, pictures and text will appear.  Or the bins would read the text out loud.  I would always be able to click on the “?” and the species name will appear.  The embedded microphone will allow ID by voice as well.  Of course.

Balance … take away some of the mystery and fun, replace it by some solid learning.  At least we would be able to choose.

Perhaps this is an answer to question 1 of Mike’s “Crossley ID Guide Giveaway” contest, where we are supposed to predict the future of bird guides.  My answer … a good guide will be embedded within your binoculars and scopes.


Written by Jory
Jory's first field guide-identified bird was a Northern Cardinal. This turned out to be his gateway drug into birding. In 2007 Jory became the least accomplished birder to see 300 birds in New York State in one year. He has birded the world over but maintains his birding "beginner mind", of which he is inordinately proud. Just ask him. Jory is the 10,000 Birds Avian Quizmaster, coming up with ever more diabolical ways to stump his legion of devoted fans. He lives with his wife and the possessions of his children just outside of Albany NY.