Bird ID

Bird identification can be a challenge and that is part of the fun of birding.  It’s exciting to discover a species we haven’t seen before.  Let’s take a bird ID quiz and start with the bird that was easiest for me to identify today.  He was spotted along the south side of Highway 49.  Do you know what it is?  Your answer is worth 2 points.

Ring-billed Gull at the Horicon Marsh

It is a Ring-billed Gull.  It is a bit hard to tell in this picture because the fish is partially impaled on the end of the beak, but there is a dark ring there.  The Herring Gull has a red spot on the bottom part of the beak (mandible).  The Ring-billed Gull has yellow legs.  The Herring Gull has pink legs.  Also notice that the Ring-billed Gull has a red eye ring around its yellow eye.  You get extra points if you can identify the fish.

This is the next bird I saw.  He was frolicking in the water, which is a bit unusual for this bird, in my limited experience.  I have always seen it wading.  Your correct answer is worth 3 points.

Lesser Yellowlegs at the Horicon Marsh

This photo gives us a solid clue as it reveals the bird’s yellow legs.

Lesser Yellowlegs at the Horicon Marsh

This is a Lesser Yellowlegs.  The bill is dark and slender.  The Greater Yellowlegs has a bit thicker bill with a slight upturn at the end.  The length of the bill is about equal to the length of the head in this Lesser Yellowlegs.  The bill is about 1.5 times the length of the head for the Greater Yellowlegs.

Now let’s look at the most difficult identification of the day.  Is this the Short-billed Dowitcher or the Long-billed Dowitcher?  Your correct answer is worth 5 points.

Short-billed Dowitcher at the Horicon Marsh

Here is another angle.

Short-billed Dowitcher at the Horicon Marsh

Apparently, the best way to distinguish the Short-billed from the Long-billed is by their call.  You can listen to the Short-billed Dowithcher’s call here and the Long-billed Dowitcher’s call here.  Today, there were several Dowitchers wading in the water and they weren’t talking.  They were eating.  They were probing their long beaks up and down in the water and mud like long sewing machine needles.  I think this is the Short-billed Dowitcher.  The Short-billed has an orange wash to the face, neck, breast, and underparts.  It has variable spotting on the upper breast. The belly can include some white.  The Long-billed is brick-red on the underparts and has dark upperparts with reddish markings.  It has a barred breast with no white areas on the belly.

How did you do on the quiz?  Did you get all 10 points plus the bonus points for the fish identification?  I referred to Birds of North America:  Eastern Region, Editor-in-Chief Francois Vuilleumier, Field Guide to Birds by Donald and Lillian Stokes, and The Sibley Guide to Birds by David Allen Sibley for my information today.  Do you have a favorite bird ID book?  Please share your favorites in the comments section.


  1. Reply
    Jerry September 27, 2016

    Lisa, I got zero points, but enjoyed the quiz! The quiz was a great idea.

    • Reply
      Lisa September 27, 2016

      Thanks for taking the quiz Jerry!

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