Mystery Bird #4, The Answer

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Brent Stephenson
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Mystery Bird #4, The Answer

Postby Brent Stephenson » Sun Nov 22, 2009 6:17 pm

Sorry for the delay in posting this one folks, Sav is currently on tour so I have stepped in for him on this one. As with last months quiz the general consensus was in the right direction, with 15 of the 22 answers being correct.

From general size of the bird, and especially the bulk of the neck and head, this would seem to indicate one of the larger shag species. Both little (pied) and little black shag tend to appear thin necked and small headed. Moreover, little shag has a relatively stubby bill that always shows traces of yellow, and little black shag doesn't ever have white feathers in normal plumages.

The general black and white plumage of course eliminates spotted and Pitt Island shag, but not much else. Foot colour would have been useful, but of course in this photo the feet are not visible. The real clue as to the birds identity however, is the presence of a faintly coloured oval caruncle at the base of the bill (caruncle = fleshy growths on the facial skin near the nostrils of some shags). Of the New Zealand shags or cormorants, only the King shag, pied shag, and Chatham Island shag tend to show oval shape caruncles like this. In Chatham Island shag this caruncle is red (with a blue eye ring), whilst in both King and pied shag this caruncle is yellow. Clearly, the bird in the photo has a faintly yellow caruncle. So now we are down to two possibles.

Both juvenile and adult King shags show clean white throats and breasts, with the white forming a 'V' under the chin. This white is never patchy and mottled like in the photo of our mystery bird. Furthermore, adults show a white patch on the folded wing which is visible as a white bar when in flight, although in juveniles this generally just appears as patchy white scapulars. Pied shags on the other hand have all black wings, as our bird does, and adults have a clean white throat and breast, with white cheeks and side of the head. Juveniles however, have dark cheeks and patchy blotched white underparts, that gradually whiten with age, but match the bird in our photograph quite well. The pale yellow caruncle also ties nicely with our mystery bird being a juvenile PIED SHAG.

This photo was taken on 7 Aug 2009 at the Waikanae ponds. Several of these juvenile pied shags were present and were harrasing adults and being fed whilst on the pond. The photo below would have been a much simpler pick, especially as it shows the black feet which eliminate all of the strictly saltwater shag species.

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_MG_9717.jpg (99.92 KiB) Viewed 7264 times


Cheers,
Brent Stephenson
Wrybill Birding Tours, NZ - Great birds, real birders
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philbattley
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Re: Mystery Bird #4, The Answer

Postby philbattley » Mon Nov 23, 2009 10:26 pm

Dang, got so sidetracked with work that I plum forgot to even answer this one! There's a simple way to fail...

Phil
Jan
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Re: Mystery Bird #4, The Answer

Postby Jan » Wed Nov 25, 2009 4:40 pm

Hi Brent,,

Don't suppose sav would consider a booby prize for the only RR who has consistently got each mystery bird WRONG?

I believe there's a nice Booby sp in the kermadecs?

Cheers,
jan
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Brent Stephenson
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Re: Mystery Bird #4, The Answer

Postby Brent Stephenson » Thu Nov 26, 2009 8:35 pm

Hi Jan,
Yes, you're going to have to pick up your game :) At the end of the day though it's not about getting it right as much as being open to learning and having a bit of fun at the same time. There's probably a lot of people sitting on the fence every month too afraid to have a go, so good on you for doing so! I'm sure we can send a chocolate fish down by post!

And, Phil, you'll have to be more organised next month...put it in your outlook calendar to automatically remind you...you must be getting old! And yes the last substantiated white-rumped sand 38 years ago was before I was born!

Cheers,
Brent Stephenson
Wrybill Birding Tours, NZ - Great birds, real birders

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