Late Spring 2005 Photo Quiz
If we could see the head and bill of this bird the identification would be straightforward but not very challenging. Photo quizzes force us to think about field marks we don't usually have to consider. The long legs might suggest a heron but most herons have unpatterned white or blue upperparts; our quiz bird has brownish upperparts with pale spotting. Immature Night-Herons do have spotting on the upperparts but both species have greenish or yellowish legs; the legs of our quiz bird look grayish. Night-Herons also have massive heads compared to the small head of our candidate. Green Heron has heavy ventral streaking and greenish legs. American Bittern has a streaked neck. Plegadis ibises are much darker overall. King and Virginia Rails have streaked upperparts and prominent black and white barring on the sides. Common Moorhen and Purple Gallinule have darker unpatterned upperparts.
Our quiz bird looks right for a shorebird, particularly one of the larger varieties. Black-necked Stilt and American Avocet have even longer, spindlier legs and are essentially black and white in color. American Golden-Plover has spotted upperparts but has longer wings that extend beyond the tip of the tail. Black-bellied Plover also has spotted upperparts but has streaking, not barring on the sides in juvenile and basic plumages. The Tringa sandpipers all have yellow or green legs and are white on the underparts. Upland Sandpiper has yellow legs and a tail that extends beyond the folded wings. The gray legs and heavy build of our quiz bird might suggest a Willet but Willet is grayer with barring on the wings in breeding plumage and paler below in other plumages. How about a godwit? Marbled Godwit always has prominent barring on the upperparts and is warmer brown in color. Hudsonian Godwit is red below in breeding plumage and has plainer, unspotted wing coverts in any plumage. Long-billed Curlew has an upperpart pattern and overall color that is very similar to a Marbled Godwit. So what does that leave? By elimination, Whimbrel. This Whimbrel was photographed at Montrose Beach in Chicago on May 24, 2004.