Photography Quiz #1: Mystery Bird on the Water

So this is a nifty little game I’ve seen played on all the big-time birding websites: a pop quiz on naming birds in a photograph! As if recreating a real-life scenario of questioning a bird’s identity based on a poor glimpse in the field, the quiz is meant to challenge the seasoned birder in trying to verify an ID through the odd angles birds often pose in for photography. Besides the disadvantage of having only one image to study, the quiz-taker is further handicapped by being denied other clues that can usually be relied upon if one were really out in the field, such as if the bird were to make any noise, like, perhaps, quack (that’s an early hint for the following quiz).

So what do you say? Care to test your metals, show you’ve got what it takes to be a serious birder and know exactly what kind of bird you’re looking at every time? Then why don’t you try to tell me what kind of bird you’d be looking at if you were looking at the bird in the photograph below???

I took this photograph sometime in the early spring, on some type of body of water somewhere in the general area of the ‘Burgh. I’d be more specific, but then cheaters could use that information to search the eBird database.

I took this photograph sometime in the early spring, on some type of body of water somewhere in the general area of the ‘Burgh. I’d be more specific, but then cheaters could use that information to search the eBird database.

So, what kind of bird do YOU think this is? Hint: If this bird wanted to get around recreationally, I think he’d (that’s another hint: it’s a male!) probably use a surfboard or maybe a scooter. With that in mind, I’ll let you have another look at the bird:

The same Mystery Bird photograph as before

The same Mystery Bird photograph as before.

QUIZ ANSWER (NO PEEKING UNTIL YOU’VE GUESSED!): Give up? Okay, so, first thing to consider when trying to identify birds by their photograph: habitat. Where does the bird live? This bird is in the water, so that means it’s a duck. (Careful though: not all ducks have the word “duck” in their names. I’ll bet this tripped up a few of you!) Next up: color. What color is the bird? It’s black, which tells you it’s a black duck, so you’ll likely say it’s an American Black Duck. But remember what I said about not all ducks being called “ducks?” Forgot already, didn’t you? Well, this is actually a type of duck called a “scoter,” because of the way it scotes in the water. But not so fast! It’s black, and it’s a scoter, so obviously it’s a Black Scoter, right? DEAD WRONG, ROOKIE! No, the secret lies in the beak. Look at that big weird beak: there’s some white on it, isn’t there? Black Scoters only have yellow and black on their big weird beaks. Therefore, this is a SURF SCOTER! If you guessed correctly: congratulations!

As I had known all along: this is a Surf Scoter (Melanitta deglandi)

As I had known all along: this is a Surf Scoter (Melanitta deglandi).

So, what kind of bird did YOU think it was? Leave your answers in the comments section below, and let’s see if you were right!

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3 Responses to Photography Quiz #1: Mystery Bird on the Water

  1. HDAWG says:

    Definitely a mallard.

    Like

  2. Squidtea says:

    I wasn’t sure if I could use my bird book… That probably would have helped. But whenever you mentioned scooter I recognized the name, but couldn’t think of any other types of scoters, such ad apparently, surf. Cool quiz though!

    Like

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