vanilla’s Mystery Pair

Here’s a shot I’ve been wondering about for a few days now. vanilla took it at 9:00 a.m. on May 15:

She posted in an accompanying comment, “Bird on left zipped in and out before I could close in.” So, what might those birds be?

Based on the posture, and what you can see of the markings, I’m leaning toward the bird on the left being either a swallow or some kind of flycatcher. Looking through the checklist of Welder birds, there are several possibilities for each. To my mind, the question ends up turning largely on scale: If that bird on the left is relatively small, then I’d have to think it’s a swallow. If it’s somewhat larger, then I’d have to think it’s a flycatcher of some kind. And that means that the bird on the right ends up being an important clue. If we could identify it, we’d have a much better idea of the size of the bird on the left.

Unfortunately, I’m not getting any strong feeling at all from that bird on the right. Color-wise I could see it being an Inca Dove, but the tail (to the extent you can see it) seems too short, and the legs seem too long. I could also imagine it being a female Red-winged Blackbird or a female Brown-headed Cowbird; if I had to pick something, that might be where I’d go. In any of those cases, that would make the bird on the left swallow-sized rather than flycatcher-sized.

I’d like to find a shot of a known bird in that same tree so I could answer that scale question; maybe I’ll see if I can do that during the day tomorrow. In the meantime, I’m interested in hearing what you all think about this shot.

Update: Here’s a shot I took a few minutes ago. It is lower down in the same tree, and I believe it is at pretty much the same zoom setting, and hence the same scale, as the shot above. That’s a male Great-tailed Grackle, which I would think puts my two mystery birds at swallow-and-female-Brown-headed-Cowbird size, rather than at flycatcher-and-larger-mystery-bird size.

2 Responses to “vanilla’s Mystery Pair”

  1. vanilla says:

    With the evidence you’ve gathered, I think my vote would be for the swallow on the left and the female cowbird to the right…. or possibly even the Inca Dove, as in this shot it almost looks as though the bird’s body is slightly twisted, shortening the perspective of tail length.

  2. birderbf says:

    No swallow is yellow underneath (Barn can be orangy though). I’m surprised nobody has tried this:

    Note the cool fact: Male Lesser Goldfinches in the most eastern part of their range in the United States tend to have black backs and napes. Those found to the westward have green backs and only a black cap. The amount of black varies throughout the range, with many birds having partly-green backs. The amount of black shown by males can vary within a given locality too. South of central Mexico, all of the males are black-backed.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.