Answer to Pop BirdQuiz 9: New Jersey, May

 

PopQuiz8OK, so here we have a bird whose plumage shows two colors; overall it is mostly a fairly uniform greenish-yellow, with black restricted to its wings and perhaps the tail, although the color of the tail is less clear due to poor lighting here. The wings are all-black, with no obvious wing bars. That is actually a pretty distinctive pattern and should bring experienced birders quickly to the correct answer. For inexperienced birders however, this is an example where it might be best to begin with the structure of the bird to first get an idea of what family of birds it belongs to (or what families can be eliminated from consideration). The best place to start is usually with the bill. This bird lacks the short pointed bills typical of warblers, or the blunt conical seed-eating bill typical of the the finches, which greatly simplifies the options. Instead it has a somewhat intermediate-length bill that might be expected of orioles, tanagers, or vireos. Within that group, there are no vireos with all-black wings, and the bill is actually more rounded that of orioles, so we quickly narrow down to the tanagers. But aren’t Summer Tanager and Scarlet Tanager (our ‘normal’ eastern tanagers) normally bright red? Yes, the males are brilliant red, but the females are yellowish-green, and as often happens in birds, the female sports a duller, ‘shadow’ pattern of the male. The all-black wings with no wing bars and yellowish-green plumage point to a female Scarlet Tanager. Compare her pattern with that of a breeding-plumaged male below.
Scarlet tanager2

 Posted by at 8:51 AM