Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Photo Quiz #6 (Answer)

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Thanks for participating! Here is the answer:

This quiz would have certainly been easier given a different angle on this bird. Some of the key marks were less obvious from the low angle the photo was taken at but it is still readily identified. The quiz bird does appear to have a dark line through the eye, a key feature for separating Chipping Sparrows from other Spizella sparrows. However, this bird does not belong to the genus Spizella, but rather Aimophila. A quick look at the rather largish bill hints at this, as does the lack of even faint wingbars. Even so, our bird does have the rufous cap in common with adult Chipping Sparrows, but an adult Chipping Sparrow would also show a white supercilium between its rufous cap and black eye-line where our bird clearly shows gray. The other Spizellas with a rufous cap, American Tree Sparrow and Field Sparrow, are separated by a central breast spot and strongly bi-colored bill, or by a pinkish to flesh-colored bill, respectively. One final field mark that adds to our certainty is the wide black lateral throat-stripe that contrasts with a pale malar. This, combined with a thin white eye-ring (only half visible here), a rufous cap, and a clean unmarked breast separate it from all other sparrows.

The Rufous-crowned Sparrow is often heard before it is seen as it gives its loud alarm call "deer deer deer" to announce the presence of a birder or other intruder. They are fairly common on open rocky slopes with shrubs and grass throughout the southwestern US and the higher foothills of the Mexican central plateau.

I took this photo of a Rufous-crowned Sparrow in Feb 2009 in Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico.

Here are the people who submitted correct answers:

Karen Carlsen
Lucas Foerster
Jessica Lux
Joel Such
Marcel Such
Andrew Tillinghast

Thanks for participating,

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