Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

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[Mystery bird] Female Painted Bunting, Passerina ciris, photographed at Pelican Island (A&M Property), Galveston, Texas. [I will identify this bird for you in 48 hours]

Image: Joseph Kennedy, 19 April 2007 [larger view].

Nikon D200, Kowa 883 telescope with TSN-PZ camera eyepiece 1/320s f/8.0 at 500.0mm iso400.

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

Review all mystery birds to date.


  1. #1 John Callender
    December 27, 2009

    I’ll hold off on the ID to give others a chance, but if I knew Latin (and was actually witty) I’d make a droll comment about the meaning of the name. I’m actually kind of disappointed by my inability to find a Web resource for translating Latin into English.

    This is another bird that I only know because of the CONE Welder birdcam. The overall shape and silhouette (and the food plant and foraging behavior) gave me the genus, and the bright green color gave me the species (and a case of unrequited longing).

  2. #2 idbirds
    December 27, 2009

    I also know this bird from CONE. It is a female …. (I won’t give it away) …

  3. #3 zoo713
    December 27, 2009

    The beak shape and lovely color clued me in (surprising – at least for me). The white eye ring and lack of ‘wingbars’ seems to confirm – a female Painted Bunting, Passerina ciris (?)

  4. #4 Adrian
    December 27, 2009

    I’m fairly sure I know this one too, but I’m not arty enough to make Latin puns.

  5. #5 David Hilmy
    December 31, 2009

    LOL John and Adrian,

    Unfortunately in this case it’s not Latin that would help but Greek mythology told through the work of Ovid in his Metamorphoses! You will probably know various versions of the myth of Scylla an Charybdis, the two sea monsters that guarded what we now know as the Strait of Messina near Sicily, either through the tales of Aeneas (who avoided them), Jason and the Argonauts (who were helped by “the gods” to escape them), or Odysseus (who chose to tangle with the eight-headed Scylla as opposed to the whirlpools of Charybdis, thereby losing fewer sailors), but an obscure myth tells how Scylla was turned into a ciris, a small purple bird with red legs that was thereafter chased by her father Nisus (whose tuft of purple hair she cut) who was turned into a sea eagle…!

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