Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

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[Mystery bird] Blue Grosbeak, Passerina caerulea, photographed at High Island, Texas. [I will identify this bird for you tomorrow]

Image: Joseph Kennedy, 11 April 2007 [larger view].

Nikon D200, Kowa 883 telescope TSN-PZ camera eyepiece 1/500s f/8.0 at 500.0mm iso800.

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

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

A blue bird. With a short, broad tail. And a huge bill. This is a male Blue Grosbeak in all his glory.

The classic confusion species is Indigo Bunting, another member of the genus Passerina. But especially in a view like this, we’d see the longer, paler, uniformly dark of an Indigo Bunting, the more slender body, the uniformly dark blue wings, the more diffusely blackish face, and the more sparrow-like bill of that smaller species. In poor light or at a distance, either species can appear simply blackish, but even then the longer tail, finer body, and slighter bill of Indigo Bunting should distinguish it readily from the fist-shaped Blue Grosbeak.

Review all mystery birds to date.


  1. #1 John Callender
    November 29, 2008

    Haha. Now there’s a bird. None of this indeterminate chick stuff.

    Male Blue Grosbeak, based on the blue color and that gross beak.

  2. #2 Russell
    November 29, 2008

    Blue grosbeak. At first, I thought it was an indigo bunting, but looking more closely at the beak and the shoulder color, I’m going with the grosbeak.

  3. #3 The Ridger
    November 29, 2008

    It’s a blue cardinal! OMG! No, seriously: blue grosbeak. Black face, big beak, blue color, flash (from this angle) of rusty red on the shoulder, and shape and color of tail.

  4. #4 Ian H Kinman
    November 30, 2008

    Male Blue Grossbeak. The large bill and the rufus on splash on the wing are diagnostic.

  5. #5 Rick Wright
    December 1, 2008

    It’s important to note that this species is in the genus Passerina.

  6. #6 "GrrlScientist"
    December 1, 2008

    wow, DUH! thanks for the correction, rick. i am so tired that i cannot think straight today, which i assume is glaringly obvious at this point. time to go to bed, methinks.

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