The Contest to win an autographed copy of our new field guide.
The bird you had to indentify correctly to win is a Yellow-rumped Warbler, 1st-winter. f. of the subspecies coronata. This used to be considered a separate species and was called Myrtle Warbler. The above photo appears on page 610 of The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America.
And the winner of the contest for an autographed copy of our new, The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America is... drum roll... Howard Staples! Congratulations and thanks to all of you who entered!
The above photo was taken by me in Sanibel, FL in late winter. The reason I took the photo and included it in our new guide is that it is a great example of an abundant and hard to identify fall warbler. We include multiple photos per species in our new guide, including seasonal and age differences of each species. To quote from the Yellow-rumped species account from our new guide;
"1st Winter: Similar to ad. winter. 1st-winter m. and f. practically indistinguishable. 1st-winter female can be very drab, with yellow on breast sides faint or absent."
Aside from the correct answers, some people had other guesses including, vireos, siskins, kinglets, flycatchers, mockingbirds, and other warbler species.
Bird identification is hard and a continual learning process. We ourselves are constantly learning. We find that looking carefully is a key part of becoming better at bird identification. Experts we know look very, very, very carefully at all the parts of a bird and even they can make mistakes.
Yellow-rumped Warblers indeed have yellow rumps and that is a sure clue to their ID. But you often do not see the yellow rump, making their ID in fall more difficult.
On the above photo notice the very faint yellow patch on the side of the breast. Almost all Yellow-rumped Warblers in fall have this and it is often a more visible clue than their yellow rump. Notice also the wing-bars and streaked breast, the chin is white. You can also see that the undertail coverts (area under the tail) are white. There is a small, slender, pointed bill, dark mark on the cheek that hints of a mask, slight white line above eye and whitish crescent below eye.
In our guide, we include a similar species section under the bird species accounts and for Yellow-rumped Warbler say;
"Similar winter Palm Warbler has yellowish rump but bright yellow undertail coverts and pumps its tail; similar winter Magnolia Warbler has yellow rump but is yellow below; similar winter Cape May Warbler has yellowish-green rump and is smaller; similar imm. f. Pine Warbler lacks yellow rump" and would have faint or no streaking on breast.
Shape and size are important in identifying birds. Kinglets are very small birds, smaller than warblers, and have unstreaked breasts. Vireos are slow-moving, somewhat large-headed, dull-colored birds with larger bills than warblers and unstreaked breasts. Siskins are streaked brown with yellow on the wings, and have rather conical finch bills that are broad at the base.
Thanks to all who entered the contest we hope you had fun. Continue enjoying the birds.