Archive for the 'Quiz' Category

Apr 02 2014

The Sound Of A Lonesome Dove

Published by under Quiz,Vocalizations

This morning I heard the sound of a lonesome dove.

When seeking a mate male mourning doves call like the ones in this video.  Those who’ve found true love don’t need to sing because the cooing is a solicitation call, not a territorial defense.

Unmated males perch-coo from the heights as loudly as they can, “Ladies, I’m available.”  It’s amazingly loud considering they don’t even open their mouths.  A few have already begun calling in my neighborhood but the peak time will be late April through June.

Males also use flap-glide flight to attract female attention.  Taking off with exaggerated wing-claps, they fly up above the trees and rooftops, then spiral down with stiff wings held slightly below their bodies.  From a distance their silhouettes resemble kestrels or sharp-shinned hawks.  They’ve fooled me more than once. Here’s my attempt at what they look like, gliding from left to right:

Mourning dove flag-glide flight (drawing by Kate St. John)
Today sunrise is at 6:49am so a lot of us are awake before the perch-cooing begins, but lonesome doves can be annoying in June when they start calling at 5:00am.

 

Quiz!  Test your “birding by ear” skills with this video.  In addition to the mourning dove there are at least seven other species singing in the background.  Who are they?

 

(video by Carl Gerhardt, musicofnature.org via YouTube. Silhouette drawing by Kate St. John)

8 responses so far

Feb 13 2014

Great Backyard Bird Count Starts Tomorrow

Published by under Books & Events,Quiz

American goldfinches at the feeder (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

Fill your feeders and get ready for the bird count you can do in your pajamas.

For four days — tomorrow February 14 through Monday February 17 — you can participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count from the comfort of your home.  All you need to do is count birds for at least 15 minutes, keep track of the highest number of each species you see, and record your count on eBird (instructions here).  If you take pictures, submit them to the GBBC Photo Contest.

Join with others across the continent in this weekend science project.  Your data will show trends in winter bird populations across North America as you can see in these statistics from prior years.

Don’t want to stay indoors?  You can count birds anywhere or join others at one of these local events. (Scroll down for the many events in Pennsylvania.)  Here’s how to participate no matter where you choose to count.

Meanwhile, you can practice counting with this photo by Marcy Cunkelman.  What species and how many birds are in the picture?

 

(photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

2 responses so far

Jan 14 2014

Inca Birds

Published by under Quiz

Inca tern at the National Aviary (photo by Shawn Collins)

My blog about the pyramid of Inca doves got me thinking of birds named for the Incan people.   How many of these names exist?

A search found 13 birds with “Inca” in their English names…

Hummingbirds:

Black Inca Coeligena prunellei
Bronzy Inca Coeligena coeligena
Brown Inca Coeligena wilsoni
Collared Inca Coeligena torquata

Inca-finches:

Buff-bridled Inca-finch Incaspiza laeta
Great Inca-finch Incaspiza pulchra
Grey-winged Inca-finch Incaspiza ortizi
Little Inca-finch Incaspiza watkinsi
Rufous-backed Inca-finch Incaspiza personata

Other species:

Inca Dove Columbina inca
Inca Flycatcher Leptopogon taczanowskii
Inca Tern Larosterna inca
Inca Wren Thryothorus eisenmanni

…and prompted two quiz questions:

  1. All but one of these species is native to South America.  Which bird doesn’t live in the land of the Incas?
  2. Can you think of birds named for other native American tribes or empires?  I can think of only one.

 

(photo of an Inca tern at the National Aviary by Shawn Collins)

3 responses so far

Dec 18 2013

Tracks Count

Published by under Quiz

Bird footprints in the snow (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

‘Tis the season for Christmas Bird Counts and snow.

During the Christmas Bird Count volunteers tally the number of birds by species in each 15-mile diameter circle.

Did you know that you can count a bird if you find its fresh footprints?  The tracks tell you the bird was here recently. But what bird?

Here’s a quiz to test your skill.  Identify the species that made these tracks:

(#1) In the photo above the tracks are about 2″ to 3″ long and 4″ apart and were made in a city.  What bird made them?

(#2) In the photo below the footprints are 6″ to 7″ long in a rural backyard in Saxonburg, PA

Bird tracks in snow, Saxonburg, PA

 

and (#3) below, from the Ode Street Tribune blog, are footprints about 5″ long in a city park near a river.

Bird footprints in the snow, Arlington VA (photo from Ode Treet Tribune blog)

 

Test your skill.  Leave a comment with your answer.

 

(photos: top and middle footprint photos are from Wikimedia Commons. Last photo is from the Ode Street Tribune blog. Click on each image to see the original … and it will give you the answer to the bird’s identity.)

p.s.  Click here for Christmas Bird Count information from Audubon.org.

9 responses so far

Sep 19 2013

Fancy Feet

Published by under Bird Anatomy,Quiz

Snowy egret feet (photo by Chuck Tague)

Monday’s blog about identifying white wading birds got me thinking about snowy egrets’ black legs and fancy yellow feet.  Wow!

Are there other birds in North America whose legs and feet are different colors?

The immature blackpoll warbler has them.  Adult blackpolls have bright orange-yellow legs and feet but the youngsters have black legs.  Their contrasting feet are a good identification tip during fall migration.  This one is wearing orange slippers.
Immature Blackpoll warbler (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

 

Beyond the blackpoll I was stumped.  I searched my field guide page by page and discovered that golden-crowned kinglets have dark legs and pale yellow feet.  Who knew?  I never looked at their feet before.
Golden-crowned kinglet (photo by Shawn Collins)

 

Do any other North American birds have fancy feet?  I don’t think so, but maybe you know of one.

In the meantime I’ll leave you with this thought …

Have you ever seen a Eurasian Coot?
Eurasian coot (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

(photo credits:  Snowy egret feet by Chuck Tague, immature blackpoll warbler by Marcy Cunkelman, golden-crowned kinglet by Shawn Collins, Eurasian coot from Wikimedia Commons)

2 responses so far

Sep 09 2013

Which Cone Is Wetter?

Published by under Plants,Quiz

Wet and dry pine cones, head on (photo by Kate St. John)

While writing about dripping pine cones I learned that mature cones open and close many times and can do so for many years.

They do this in response to wetness — even after they release their seeds, even after they’ve fallen from the tree.  In fact the open/closed status of fallen cones is a simple indication of wildfire risk because it shows the dryness of the forest floor.

So what does a wet cone look like?  Can you tell which one is wet and which is dry, above?

Here’s a view of the tail end.

Tail end of wet and dry white pine cones (photo by Kate St. John)

And here’s an overhead view.

Wet and dry white pine cones side by side (photo by Kate St. John)

 

By now you’ve probably guessed the answer so you’re ready to play Cone In A Bottle.

Put the closed cone in a bottle and wait for it to open.  If you want to get the cone out, do you add water or remove it?

The answer is in the comments below.

(photos by Kate St. John)

5 responses so far

Aug 19 2013

Western Hummer Season

Published by under Migration,Quiz

Mystery Hummingbird #1 (photo by Steve Valasek)

Last week Scott Weidensaul reminded Pennsylvania birders that with hummingbird migration underway we might — just might — see a rarity at our feeders.

He wrote, “PABIRDers will recall that last fall and winter we documented an astounding 94 western hummingbirds of four species in Pennsylvania, and that was probably the tip of the iceberg.”

In honor of Western Hummer Season I’ve made a quiz with a twist. These recent hummingbird photos were all taken outside of Pennsylvania by former Pittsburghers.  Some of these birds can be found in Pennsylvania, one cannot, and one of Pennsylvania’s rarities isn’t pictured here at all.

Can you identify these hummingbirds?  (starting with Mystery #1 above)

Experts will know what they are.  The rest of us can appreciate the beautiful photos.  Don’t feel bad if you can’t identify them — I couldn’t without looking them up.   Answers are in the first Comment.

Mystery Hummingbird #2:
Mystery Hummingbird #2 (photo by Steve Valasek)

 

Mystery Hummingbird #3:
Mystery Hummingbird #3 (photo by Steve Vlasek)

 

Mystery Hummingbird #4:
Mystery Hummingbird #4 (photo by Steve Valasek)

 

Mystery Hummingbird #5:
Mystery Hummingbird #5 (photo by Chuck Tague)

 

Keep your hummingbird feeders full and watch for unusual birds this fall.  The hint may be just a slight color difference.

After October 15, any hummer you see in Pennsylvania is a western rarity to report on PABIRDS or to Bob Mulvihill at the National Aviary (412.323.7235).

 

(all photos by Steve Valasek, except for the photo with a flower which is by Chuck Tague)

p.s.  See Rob Protz’ comment for the western hummer species I forgot to mention…

8 responses so far

Jul 14 2013

Guess What

Published by under Plants,Quiz

Intricate flower on a common weed (photo by Kate St. John)

This summer I’m having fun taking a close-up look at nature.

Here’s a small, incredibly common flower that a lot of people can’t stand.  Can you guess what it is?

Here are some interesting facts about it:

  • It’s native to Eurasia, introduced to North America and Australia.
  • The flower spike blooms bottom to top.
  • The plant is wind-pollinated, which probably explains why the stamens stick out so far.
  • It grows very easily in sunny disturbed soil.  I’ve found it growing in cracks in the pavement.
  • In archaeology its pollen has been used as an indicator of agriculture.
  • It is very hardy and will come back again and again after mowing.
  • Tea made from its leaves is an herbal remedy for coughs.
  • In some states it’s not listed as invasive because it only grows in disturbed soil and waste places.
  • Chemical lawn treatments target these broad-leaved plants but force those lawns to be monocultures of grass.

Can you guess what it is?  

 

(photo by Kate St. John)

8 responses so far

Apr 04 2013

This Is A Test

Published by under Quiz,Vocalizations

This is a test.  For the next two minutes this video will test your ability to identify birds by sound.  This is only a test.

Well, actually it’s a video of mockingbirds singing. Whose songs and calls are they imitating?

Use this quiz to get your ears in shape for birding by ear this spring.  At minimum you’ll remember the mockingbirds’ three-repeat song.

This is only a test.  If there had been an actual blue jay in the video you would have seen him.

(video by grcapro on YouTube)

5 responses so far

Mar 22 2013

Who’s My Nearest Relative?

Peregrine falcon, Dorothy (photo by Jessica Cernic Freeman)

Time for a quiz!

Remember the first time you were puzzled by the arrangement of birds in your field guide?   Why were loons at the beginning of the book?  Why did kingfishers come after hummingbirds?

It took me a long time to get used to taxonomic order but I finally mastered it and could thumb to the right place every time.

Not anymore!  DNA testing has revealed new relationships.  The old order is shaken up.  Ducks are first, kingfishers follow motmots, falcons have moved to be near their closest relatives.

So here’s a quiz:
Of the four birds shown below, which two are most closely related to peregrines?

Red-tailed hawk?                                                      Red-crowned parrot?
Red-tailed hawk by Bobby Greene, Red-crowned parrot from Wikimedia Commons

 

Red-legged seriema ?                                      Yellow-crowned night heron?
Red-legged Seriema (Wikimedia Commons), Yellow-crowned Night-heron (Chuck Tague)

 

Pick two and leave a comment with your answer.

 

(photo credits:
Peregrine falcon (Dorothy) by Jessica Cernic Freeman,
Red-tailed hawk by Bobby Greene,
Red-crowned parrot by Roger Moore Glandauer via Wikimedia Commons,
Red-legged seriema from Wikimedia Commons,
Yellow-crowned night-heron by Chuck Tague

Inspiration for this Tenth Page comes from a conversation with Dr. Tony Bledsoe, Dept of Biological Sciences, University of Pittsburgh)

p.s.  Watch this space for clues.

8 responses so far

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