Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

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[Mystery birds] Razorbill, Alca torda, photographed at the Machias Seal Island, Maine. [I will identify these birds for you in 48 hours]

Image: Paul Sweet, 26 May 2008 [larger view].

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

These stunning birds are the only member of their genus — can you identify it? As a bonus question, can you tell me about one of its famous relatives?

Review all mystery birds to date.

Comments

  1. #1 Bardiac
    April 6, 2010

    Field marks: Very SHARP bill. Big vertically, but not as big as a puffin’s, and black with white markings. Looks almost penguiny in some ways (how it stands, the tuxedo look), only not.

  2. #2 Tabor
    April 6, 2010

    I have never seen this bird before. Very lovely and I look forward to its identification. Must plan a trip to Maine SOON.

  3. #3 Adrian
    April 6, 2010

    As a “beardie” I never have to pay these birds! Which is great!!

  4. #4 Katharine
    April 6, 2010

    ‘Sharp’ appears to be the key word here.

  5. #5 Katharine
    April 6, 2010

    Oh, also, it’s related to a well-known, recently extinct (as in the past few centuries) bird.

  6. #6 Hai~Ren
    April 6, 2010

    It’s relative happens to be the original ‘penguin’.

  7. #7 Bob O'H
    April 6, 2010

    It’s the Zorro Bird. Identifying marks: the mask, the sharpness, and the almost supernatural fitness which means it’s never out of breath (if it was it would be puffin’).

  8. #8 Amber
    April 6, 2010

    Do we post what it is here or e-mail it somewhere?

  9. #9 Amber
    April 6, 2010

    Its a Razor billed Auk. Its easy to tell by the shape of the beak and the white stripe through its face.

    Its a relative of the Great Auk, which is now extinct. (and was a character in the original Alice in Wonderland book if I’m not mistaken)

  10. #10 Jana
    April 6, 2010

    The bill shape, head shape, posture, and overall appearance put it in the Alcidae or auk-type birds. The beak markings are pretty distinctive…I guess from a distance you could also think thick-billed Murre, but it has a shorter, thicker beak, and those fantastic stripes.

    Gorgeous shot!

    The most famous relative to me is the Great Auk, as immortalized in a great story as told by Jay O’Callahan, but if you’re not into live storytelling you might be thinking of more ecological histories…

  11. #11 Jana
    April 6, 2010

    The bill shape, head shape, posture, and overall appearance put it in the Alcidae or auk-type birds. The beak markings are pretty distinctive…I guess from a distance you could also think thick-billed Murre, but it has a shorter, thicker beak, and those fantastic stripes.

    Gorgeous shot!

    The most famous relative to me is the Great Auk, as immortalized in a great story as told by Jay O’Callahan, but if you’re not into live storytelling you might be thinking of more ecological histories…

  12. #12 Bardiac
    April 6, 2010

    Jana, you’re totally right about the great shot! I love that one looks almost laughing. The white trim at the edge of the wing is just cool. I need to learn more bird families.

    Bob O’H, you cracked me up.

    Amber, good job :)

    Adrian, it’s sad that it took me a while to get yours!

  13. #13 Bob O'H
    April 6, 2010

    Sorry Bardiac. Email me your address and I’ll send you some glue and plasters.