Sunday, May 15, 2011

An Uncommon Identification Problem

On Saturday morning, Maureen and I took part in the North American Migration Count (NAMC), covering our home turf, Daggerwing Nature Center in Boca Raton. Sadly, the winter migrants have nearly all departed, and we found ourselves warblerless after three hours.

Our highest tally for the day was 85 for White Ibises passing overhead throughout the day. Common (30) and Boat-tailed (25) Grackles were both abundant in the areas close the to the boardwalk, while European Starlings (28) made a strong showing at late morning.

Juvenile Common Grackle

A single Black-crowned Night-heron couldn't decide which direction he wanted to fly, and passed over us, first from one direction, and then the other, shortly after. By the end of the morning, we had also counted Great Blue (3), Little Blue (2), Tricolored (12), and Green Herons (2), and Great Egrets (4). 

An indecisive Black-crowned Night-Heron

The only real surprise came when we reached the end of the boardwalk and found a female cowbird at the top of a snag. Maybe this speaks against me, but I've never seen a cowbird in South Florida. The question we were faced with was, which type is it? Anywhere else in the country, the ID would be definitely point to Brown-headed. But here in South Florida, there's another possibility: Shiny Cowbird. As someone who hasn't got Shiny Cowbird on my life list, I'm admittedly biased. However, my first impression was of that rich brown, unmarked plumage pegged it as a Shiny. The feedback we've received so far is that the stout bill suggests Brown-headed. Would anyone else care to stir up some debate by venturing an ID?

(Probably) Brown-headed Cowbird

With a Starling, who very generously posed for a size comparison

1 comment:

  1. I would also say Brown-headed Cowbird due to the bill.

    That being said, you should definitely look over all the blackbirds. We had a male Shiny Cowbird at Green Cay a couple of years back.