Jory Langner served up another challenging avian ID quiz this week. Here is his answer:

The Just for Fun Avian ID Quiz (if you haven’t tried it yet, don’t proceed to the answer below!) presented the following clues, just for fun:

  1. This bird would be a lifer for me. There was virtually no chance of me recording this bird in my 2007 New York State Big Year.
  2. “Charming pale plainness”
  3. Smallest of its “family”
  4. Tail Bobbing
  5. Nests regularly in tree cavities
  6. Mesquite along a desert wash
  7. EXTRA CREDIT: “The expression is innocent.” This sentence was used in describing this species. What does this mean?

Answers received include Wrentit, Bushtit, Lucy’s Warbler, and Elf Owl.

The correct answer, which was guessed by many, is LUCY’S WARBLER. I was hoping that someone could ID another species would fit the bill as well. Maybe next time.

Jochen, you mentioned that you thought Lucy’s Warbler might be easy to find in NY. Not true! Their range is southwestern US.

Grant, Rick and Tom … thanks for explaining the Extra Credit clue about “The expression is innocent”. It was in Pete Dunn’s Essential Field Guide Companion, as noted.

Under the category of Too Much Information, I researched ELF OWL, BUSHTIT, and WRENTIT. Good guesses that had many aspects correct, but they do not completely fill the bill. Here are some quick reasons why the other guesses didn’t work:

Elf Owl: no tail bobbing and it’s not at all described as pale.
Bushtit: no tail bobbing, not in the desert, and doesn’t nest in tree cavities.
Wrentit: no tail bobbing, not necessarily in the desert, and doesn’t nest in tree cavities.

Sources include,, Pete Dunne’s Essential Field Guide Companion by Pete Dunn, and Peterson Field Guide’s Warblers by Jon Dunn / Kimball Garrett.

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.