The first in a new series of Mystery Birds and a very encouraging set of answers. 24 respondemts all got the correct genus!! and 21 got the correct species!!
As it happens, narrowing the field to only two species is actually fairly straightforward. The bird has yellow legs, and the tertials have broad, bright, brown and white fringes with dark centres. Among all the birds on the New Zealand list this combination only existes in Pectoral, and Sharp-tailed, Sandpipers. But which of these two?
I dont think the answer is all that easy. Pecs have yellower legs than Sharpies - but just how bright is that yellow colour in the photograph? The cap of a Sharpie is better defined than a Pec - and this seems rather well-defined - but Sharpies tend to have a more of a chestnut, even ginger, tinge to the cap - and surely this bird doesnt show that?
In the end there is only one definitive clue. The blackish streaks on the vent area, that extend round to the rearmost flanks. Pectoral Sandpipers may have fine streaks around the vent, but the size and extent of the streaks visible in this photo are just too much. Sharp-tails in breeding plumage show streaks just like this - and they carry on throughout the flanks. This bird is indeed a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, photographeed by Neil at Miranda on 14 March 2006.
I think this was a good start to the new quiz. Hard enough to make one think and possible to solve correctly with a little detective work. If I had even a tiny bit of computer savvy, I would copy in here a more obvious photo of the same bird which Neil sent, but I have tried to do that and failed miserably - so would you put it in please, Neil?
Thanks to all who attempted the quiz - more next month, cheers
Monthly challenge to test and improve your bird identification skills.
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- Neil Fitzgerald
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