Answer to PopBirdquiz 14: April, New Jersey


Well there’s really not too much to help us here, is there? We have a bird that is as drab as drab can be, with no notable color pattern. Facial markings? None.  Stripes? No.  Wingbars? No.  But instead of bemoaning the lack of distinctive markings, let’s turn it to our advantage; there are a few species whose lack of dramatic color actually makes them stand out, and this is one of them. As is often the case, another clue comes from its structure, and in this particular case the most striking feature is the bill shape, somewhere between that of a sparrow and a grosbeak. The lack of any stripes on the undersides eliminates the female finches, the species that it is most likely to be confused with, while the lack of any patterning on the wings eliminates all the sparrows.  Putting our two clues together, we can identify this as a female Brown-headed Cowbird. This is a good bird to become familiar with in spring here in the northeast US, because it is relatively common and you will therefore encounter them sooner or later. Its a bird whose drabness makes it stand out.

 Posted by at 7:58 PM