Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

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[Mystery bird]Gray Wren-warbler (perched), also known as a Zambia Wren-warbler or Western Wren-warbler, Calamonastes simplex, and a Lesser Striped Swallow (flying), also known as a Striped Swallow, Hirundo abyssinica, photographed near the Pangani River Camp, Tanzania, Africa. [I will identify this bird for you in 48 hours]

Image: Dan Logen, 14 January 2010 [larger view].

Nikon D300s, 600 mm VR lens. ISO 640, 1/640 sec, f/5, Exposure Compensation +3.7.

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

You’ve seen one of these two African mystery bird species before, and it closely resembles a North American species as well, so you should be able to ID that bird to genus, at least (I admit that the other one is going to be challenging)

Review all mystery birds to date.


  1. #1 Dan Logen
    July 18, 2010

    I will give people a clue. These are two different species of birds.

  2. #2 Adrian
    July 18, 2010

    Thanks for that, Dan! The hirundine is fairly straight forward, there is only one with these markings. The other is a problem as I can’t see enough detail on it to fully eliminate some similar species. I think it’s a Babbler though.

  3. #3 Utah Flower Girl
    July 18, 2010

    Are there any more images available? I am from the states but this looks very much like a photo my mother has from the philippine islands of what was an unidentified scarlet headed bird from the 70s. It was rather huge.

  4. #4 Adrian
    July 18, 2010

    No further clues? OK I’ll go for broke. Brown Babbler and Lesser Striped Swallow. Am I right?

  5. #5 Dan Logen
    July 19, 2010

    Adrian, you get half credit! The smaller bird is dwarfed by the swallow. The Brown Babbbler should be about the same size as the swallow. Also the bill on the babbler would be thicker than the more delicate bill on this bird–better seen on the larger image.
    Also, the Brown Babbler does not occur in the area of Pangani River Camp, according to range map in Stevenson.
    The bird in question occurs only in the north eastern part of Tanzania, so Pangani River Camp would be a great place to search for this bird if you need it on your Tanzania list.
    So, we have a small brownish-grey bird with a relatively delicate bill, found in Northeast Tanzania, not far from Kenya.
    Sorry, Utah Flower Girl, I don’t have any better images.

  6. #6 Murray
    July 30, 2010

    Have a picture of an almost identical (as far as I can make out) bird in the Princeton series of African birds (southern), Dan, only with a red eye! Your photo made me smile, to see the contrast in size between the swallow and its tiny friend. Do you or Adrian have a book on African birds that you might recommend ?

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