Bird Identification

White flickers

  This beautiful and striking bird is a partial albino Northern Flicker, photographed in Massachusetts in Sep 2015 by Michael Beagan. A second, very similar, bird had been photographed nearby in 2012 by John Harrison, and – besides being very attractive birds – the two provide a good opportunity to discuss some of the details …

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Underwing pattern in Cory’s Shearwater

If you keep up on the news of subspecies, you will have heard of Scopoli’s Shearwater. It’s the Mediterranean breeding population of Cory’s Shearwater, overlapping very little with populations nesting on Atlantic Islands, and many authorities have split the two into separate species recently. Both populations occur off the Atlantic coast of North America, although Cory’s in …

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A very young sandpiper

This image is for sale in an auction here Identification of downy young sandpipers can be a real challenge in the arctic, where multiple species occur, but I saw and sketched this one on Great Gull Island, New York, last weekend. At that latitude only a few other species are possible, and most are easily eliminated …

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A quiz on dabbling ducks

duck identification quiz4

Below are six ducks in a typical foraging posture, with their heads underwater. See if you can identify the species by their back ends. (All paintings by David Sibley)

Comparing the songs of Willet subspecies

The Eastern and Western subspecies of Willet are often mentioned as likely candidates for splitting into two species. They differ in size, proportions, details of plumage, migration pattern, and have no overlap in breeding range and very little in winter range. There is a lot of good information in print about how to identify them …

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