posted September 10th, 2012; last edited September 10th, 2012 –– David Sibley

Quiz 52: Trees for birders


The quiz below shows four photographs of the leafy crowns of trees, as you might see them while looking for birds through binoculars or telescopes. Differences in leaf “posture”, arrangement, and color are just as obvious as differences in leaf shape, and all of these species are readily distinguishable at a glance, even in silhouette.

Just like beginning birdwatching, you can start by learning to recognize a few common and distinctive species of trees that you see every day, and as those become familiar you will add more species to your “repertoire”.

These photos were all taken with a Canon digital camera held to a Swarovski telescope at The Nature Conservancy’s Mashomack Preserve, Shelter Island, New York, on 27 August 2012.

Question 1
A
Hickory
B
Sassafras
C
Post Oak
D
Eastern Black Oak
Question 1 Explanation: 
Leaves stick out stiffly on very short stalks, typical of the white oak group. The rounded lobes, suggestion of cross shape, and matte green color are also indicative.
Question 2
A
Hickory
B
Red Maple
C
Sassafras
D
Eastern Black Oak
Question 2 Explanation: 
Hickory leaves form large untidy clumps, with pointed leaflets sticking out at all angles. Leaves are compound with five to seven leaflets, and what we see here are the leaflets, each one oval with a long point. Because there are so many leaflets the twigs seem to be surrounded by large clusters of oval leaves, but inside each of these clusters is a single vertical twig. This is probably a Pignut Hickory, but I did not identify it in the field.
Question 3
A
Hickory
B
Sassafras
C
Red Maple
D
Eastern Black Oak
Question 3 Explanation: 
The distinctive leaf shapes of Sassafras are not visible in this photo, but the leaves "rolled" and showing the paler underside is unlike most other trees.
Question 4
A
Red Maple
B
Post Oak
C
Eastern Black Oak
D
Hickory
Question 4 Explanation: 
Most leaves hang down, arched gracefully on fairly long stalks, typical of the red oak group. Also notice the pointed lobes on each leaf, and the shiny surface.
There are 4 questions to complete.

Read more about trees

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