Utah Birds
Photo Quiz Answer

      Quiz # 017  (October 2011)




Our photo this month shows 4 birds Ė 3 in flight and 1 in water but just about to take off. The water is an obvious clue and we can eliminate most birds based on that alone. Structurally these birds are obviously not gulls or terns, so hopefully everybody can recognize them to be shorebirds. The plumage on all 4 birds is a combination of black, gray, and white. There are not a lot of shorebirds that have this color pattern in any season. Phalaropes are really the only choice.

In Utah we have recorded all 3 species of phalarope. Wilsonís breed here and are common in marshes during the summer. Red-necked are common migrants during spring and fall migration. Red Phalarope are very rare in Utah, mostly showing up in the fall or early winter months.

All 3 species are very colorful in summer, so it is safe to say that these birds are in nonbreeding plumage. Wilsonís are light but solid gray on their backs and lack the prominent black cheek or eye stripe shown by the birds in the photo. In flight Wilsonís show a white rump and donít have any wing bar like the birds in the photo. If there is still any doubt, the legs of the birds in the photo are black and nonbreeding Wilsonís have yellow legs. That leaves us Red and Red-necked.

Both Red and Red-necked (and the birds in the photo) have an obvious wing bar in flight, a dark patch on the cheek, and a dark line separating an otherwise white rump. However, Red Phalaropes are a pale gray on the back and lack any streaking. Our birds show a lot of streaking on the back, especially visible on the 2 birds on the right. Red Phalaropes also have mostly white underwings, but from what we can see in the photo these underwings appear more dark than white. One more characteristic is the bill size. Reds have a relatively short and stubby bill, while Red-necked have a long and thin bill. We canít see the bills on 3 of the 4 birds in the photo, but the one we can see appears long and thin.

I photographed these Red-Necked Phalarope along the Antelope Island Causeway in mid September.


Correct Answers (in order received):
  1. Craig Fosdick
  2. Bryant Olsen
  3. Eric Huish
  4. Weston Smith
  5. Deedee OíBrien
  6. Cliff Weisse
  7. Stephanie Greenwood
  8. Jeff Cooper
  9. Melanie Hoffman
 10. KC Childs
 11. Bill Fenimore
 12. Leah Lewis
 13. Lee Jones
 14. Steve Carr
 15. Howard Browers
 16. Jeff Bogan

Incorrect Answers:

  • (none)