Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

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[Mystery bird] Phainopepla, Phainopepla nitens, photographed in Arizona. [I will identify this bird for you tomorrow]

Image: Richard Ditch, 2006 [larger view].

Date Time Original: 2006:05:07 07:33:04
Exposure Time: 1/200
F-Number: 14.00
ISO: 200

Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.

Rick Wright, Managing Director of WINGS Birding Tours Worldwide, writes:

There are birds that are instantly recognizable once we “know” them, but those same species can be puzzling when encountered for the first time or out of range. In the American southwest, a long-tailed, dusky bird perched at the tip of a dead twig is often a Phainopepla, the darkest and most northerly of the silkies.

Shape identifies this bird right away to birders who are the least bit familiar with the species. In addition to the long tail and short wing, note the small, markedly square head, the spiky crest, and the short, rather undistinguished bill of a frugivore and flycatcher.

In the field, we would likely hear this bird giving its soft, sweet hooting call, and when it flushed, we’d see the bird fly off in a distinctive stuttering flight, stalling mid-air, then recovering with a few fast wingbeats.

Review all mystery birds to date.

Comments

  1. #1 John Callender
    October 29, 2008

    Heh. An adult male Phainopepla. If I have to name a field mark, I’m naming it’s scary red eye! Aaaughhhhh!
    :-)

  2. #2 Wendy
    October 29, 2008

    Ah! Phainopepla! I ADORE those birds, and hardly ever get to see them! (I think their range extends into California, but I’ve never seen one here. Or, maybe I’m wrong about the range. I didn’t need to open a field guide to ID this photo. :D).

    And yeah, that’s an adult male, and since John already mentioned the scary red eye, I’ll go with . . . sweet little feathery crest on the head! Um, yeah. Really, this isn’t a bird that’s likely to be confused with anything else, is it?

  3. #3 Hilary
    October 29, 2008

    Yes – Instant ID: Phainopepla, the Goth blackbird.

  4. #4 Selasphorus
    October 29, 2008

    Adult male Phainopepla. The silky black feathers and crested head are dead giveaways, and it’s right for the location.

  5. #5 Albatrossity
    October 29, 2008

    I think it’s one of these, and probably hangs out with one of these in the springtime!

  6. #6 The Ridger
    October 29, 2008

    I’ve never seen him, but he is pretty unmistakable. “Scary red eye” for sure.

  7. #7 smilodon
    October 29, 2008

    Goth blackbird indeed! Yes, a male Phainopepla with all black feathering (except on the folded part of the wing), evil red eye and a crest.

  8. #8 bobk
    October 29, 2008

    Bronzed Cowbird.
    Don’t be misled by the Halloween costume – Fred Astaire in top hat and tails.

  9. #9 wesele
    October 30, 2008

    I’ve never seen him, but he is pretty unmistakable. “Scary red eye” for sure too:)

  10. #10 wesele
    October 30, 2008

    Goth blackbird indeed! Yes, a male Phainopepla with all black feathering (except on the folded part of the wing), evil red eye and a crest.

  11. #11 Sheri
    October 30, 2008

    To correct a very common mistake, this is actually that fine Irish-American bird, the Féin O’Pepla.

  12. #12 Smilodon
    October 30, 2008

    Sheri, that made me laugh.

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