Quacking ID Challenge

Identifying birds in flight presents a challenge to most birders. The first problem with flying birds is that they are moving, often very quickly. Additionally, we often see birds flying at a distance, thus size is tough to assess, especially with lone birds or homogenous flocks that offer no size context. While most of us avoid trying to identify small passerines in flight, other species, such as raptors, are most often seen flying, thus they are sometimes easier to identify in flight than when perched. A good example of this is the Northern Harrier, which is a slam-dunk ID when seen flying, but might convince you that you are seeing all manner of hawks, falcons, and owls when perched. A friend of a friend coined the term "The Great Fooler" to describe a sitting harrier. In my circle of birding friends, we've come to call Northern Harriers "foolers," which can be quite mystifying to someone birding with us for the first time. "What page is that on?"

Ducks fall into the middle of this spectrum. Their field marks tend to be bold and often readily visible even at a distance. However, ducks are fast fliers and they compound the challenge of identification by mixing in flocks that often include several species. So, for the purposes of this exercise, we have provided a stop action image of a mixed flock of flying ducks. We'll get you started by pointing out that there are five species in these two images, four that are represented by both male and female birds and one species represented only by females. We invite you try to find them all, name them, and post your results to our comments section. I want to thank Steve Mlodinow for providing the excellent original photo that was cropped to create the images below. Good luck.


These two images were cropped from a photo taken at "El Tanque" near LaPaz, Baja California Sur, Mexico in March 2009.


Northern Shoveler, Cinnamon Teal, Blue-winged Teal, Green-winged Teal, Redhead.

But I am wondering how you can conclude that there are both males and females of Blue-winged Teal AND Cinnamon Teal?


Top photo:
Blue-winged Teal (1m, 1f)
Green-winged Teal (1f)
Cinnamon Teal (2m, 2f)
Northern Shoveler (3m, 4f)
unidentified partial duck belly (1)

Bottom Photo:
Blue-winged Teal (2m, 1m)
Green-winged Teal (1f)
Northern Shoveler (5m, 5f)
Redhead (1m, 1f)


Nice quiz. I would only add that the image of the female Blue-winged Teal is not strictly identifiable—on our monitor—because the white chin spot and facial details do not show clearly. However, the distinct paleness of the bird’s face, together with the Chevy-standard bill (not somewhat large as in Cinnamon, nor very small, as in Green-winged), suggest that that’s what it is. And often this is how female Blue-wings appear in flight, so this ends up being instructive. I was also interested in seeing the female Redhead, since I can’t recall ever having identified one in flight. Offhand, I couldn’t have told a birder who asked what wing pattern Redheads have, but that face pattern is distinctive, and that’s what I used.


You are a jerk for not posting my original comment.


I’ve certainly earned the right to be called a “jerk” a time or two, but in this case I am afraid my actions (actually lack of actions) have me scratching my head about being labeled such. On occasion, efforts to post comments to our site have not been successful. I have no ability to edit comments that are posted. Only our web design guys can remove posts, and they would have no motivation to do so. As long as your comments are not profane or otherwise considered to be offensive to our presumed audience, they will appear as posted. If we were in the business of censoring, the comment above would be gone by now. I would invite you to try to post your original comment again and if that is unsuccessful, send it to me directly at llsdirons@msn.com and I assure you it will be posted, unless of course it is just another episode of name-calling. BirdFellow.com endeavors to be inclusive of birders of all levels. We welcome any comments that pertain to content on the site whether you love it, hate it, or somewhere in between, we want your feedback.


I see the Blue-winged Teal, the Northern Shoveler and the Redhead but where in the picture is the Green-winged Teal and the Cinnamon Teal?


I feel I just have been acknowledged about this topic
at pub 2 days ago by a mate, but at that time
it didn’t caugh my attention.


As your conviction is strengthened you make tumble to that there is no longer the dire to be suffering with a meaning of control, that things commitment bubble as they at one’s desire, and that you drive surge with them, to your great delight and benefit.




Another possible start of regulation on teenagers is small screen, but box’s address has always been that the distress seeking actually, clear-headedness and world quiet pales through relationship with the miss to a toothpaste that offers whiter teeth and fresher breath.


Those who possession of to the standard faiths demand that the control of their faith rests on expos‚, and that publication is confirmed in the pages of books and accounts of miracles and wonders whose features is supernatural. But those of us who force great discarded the intuition in the mysterious still are in the presence of revelations which are the base of faith. We too partake of our revealed religion. We accept looked upon the clock of men and women that can be to us the symbols of that which is holy. We have heard words of divine wisdom and really viva voce in the possibly manlike voice. In of the quarter there set up hit to us these occurrence which, when accepted, give to us revelations, not of supernatural doctrine, but of a regular and fated certitude in the clerical powers that spark and live in the center of [a person’s] being.

Post a Comment

Name Valid Error
Email Valid Error