Category Archives: identification challenges

Individualism: All of these things are not like the others

There are two statements that will immediately and significantly damage a birder’s credibility: “I’m sure of the ID, because the bird looked exactly like the picture in my field guide.” and “It couldn’t be that species because it doesn’t look … Continue reading

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Gull Season

Winter is the time to study gulls in the Willamette Valley. If you feel a little overwhelmed by some of the fine plumage details described in birding references, consider looking at the shape of the bird. The silhouette above can … Continue reading

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Sunny Day at Westmoreland Park

Best known as a local gull hotspot, Portland’s Westmoreland Park also hosts good numbers of Cackling Geese in winter. This December has been unusually dry and sunny, so instead of my photos being grainy and dark, they are now overexposed. … Continue reading

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Fernhill Dog Days

In preparation for my shorebirds class for Portland Audubon, I have made several trips to Fernhill Wetlands (Birding Oregon p. 61) in recent weeks. As expected in the Willamette Valley in late summer, species diversity is fairly low, but there … Continue reading

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Eurasian and American Wigeons

It’s always nice when similar species pose side by side for direct comparison. These two wigeons, Eurasian on the left, American on the right, were engaged in some synchronized grazing. The female Eurasian Wigeon is a warm brown color, compared … Continue reading

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Thayer’s and Herring Gulls

Once considered to be part of the same same species, Thayer’s and Herring Gulls can appear quite similar at first glance.The pattern on the spread wing is very different between the two, but that doesn’t help you with birds at … Continue reading

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Second cycle gulls

Here are a few gulls in their second plumage cycle (often referred to as their second year, but that is not always the case). The first two birds are four-cycle gulls. On a four-cycle gull, the second cycle looks much like … Continue reading

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Sharp-shinned Hawk

This Sharp-shinned Hawk was trying to be inconspicuous while hanging out near the bird feeders. As usual, the songbirds were nowhere to be seen as long as this guy was around. Some of the field marks for distinguishing Sharp-shinned Hawks … Continue reading

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Tufted Ducks

Two male Tufted Ducks (Aythya fuligula) have been spending the winter on the Columbia River near the Portland airport (Birding Oregon p. 63). One of these birds appears to be a Tufted Duck X scaup hybrid. Bearing in mind that … Continue reading

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Lesser Canada Goose

It is time for another installment in the constant effort to separate Lesser Canada Goose (Branta canadensis parvipes) from Taverner’s Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii taverneri). The two species overlap in size and coloring, but structural differences are often apparent to … Continue reading

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