Mystery Birds Galore!

There have been a lot of tantalizingly mysterious birds showing up at CONE Welder over the last several days. Here, in chronological order, are a bunch that have me puzzled. (Thanks to robin54 for writing to bring my attention to these; she suggests we might want to see if we can get Dr. Selma Glasscock to weigh in on them, which sounds like a great idea to me.)

I’m going to number them for convenience in referring to them.

Mystery Bird #1

leacox took this shot on June 22 at 7:18 a.m.:

There’s a really interesting wine color going on there. It immediately made me think of finch, or maybe the Rose-breasted Grosbeak that was around the first week or so the camera was live, and hasn’t been seen since. But I assume the grosbeak hasn’t been back because they were migrating through, and are on the their breeding range now, well north of Texas, and really, that bird doesn’t say “finch” to me in any particularly strong way. What do you suppose it is? Is that color just a trick of the light? I wish we had a better shot.

Mystery Bird #2

Here are four shots of a bird from June 23 at 7:33 a.m. The first two shots was taken by txbird; the last two by rafa:

I’m leaning toward an immature Brown-headed Cowbird on these. I wasn’t familiar with what immature cowbirds looked like before this, but looking carefully at Sibley, I think this bird fits the bill pretty well.

Mystery Bird #3

These two shots were taken at 12:07 p.m. on June 23. The first is by txbird, the second by rafa:

I wish these shots were just a bit clearer, so I could get a better sense of the bird’s beak. The txbird shot looks like it shows a distinct wingbar, which has me thinking “oriole”. If I only had rafa’s shot to look at, though, I might be inclined to vote for a female Painted Bunting. But given that wingbar, I think I’d put my chips on oriole, maybe a female Orchard?

Mystery Bird #4

These shots were taken at 4:00 p.m. on June 23. The first is by vanilla, the second by tinyang:

This bird has an interesting posture. But I think maybe it’s a relatively familiar bird that just happens to be holding its body in a somewhat unusual position. I guess I’d go with a female Brown-headed Cowbird here.

Mystery Bird #5

txbird took this photo at 5:15 p.m. on June 23:

I’ve got nothing here. Could be another female Brown-headed Cowbird. Could be any of a bunch of other things, too. Really hard to say. Some shots just weren’t meant to be ID’d, I guess.

Mystery Bird #6

Update: Oops. There is no mystery bird #6. The bird I originally had here was a mislabeled shot that was taken during the same sequence posted above as mystery bird #2. I’ve moved it there now. Thanks to rafa for pointing out my mistake. One mystery solved! 🙂

Mystery Bird #7

So, what have we here? The following shots were taken around 2:07 p.m. yesterday (June 24), by txbird (the first photo and the last two) and by rafa (the second and third photos).

That’s a really interesting yellow color on the throat, especially in the first image by txbird. The plain wings pretty much rule out orioles for me, so what does that leave? Female Painted Bunting seems like a possibility, but what I can see of the beak seems too big. I could see this being a female tanager, either a Summer (which makes more sense per the Sibley range map) or a Scarlet (which Sibley shows in the area only during migration). The Welder checklist shows both of them as “uncommon” in the summer.

Or it could be an immature Brown-headed Cowbird, I suppose, with the yellow being more a video flare than a real color. I’m not seeing any of the pale edging on the back and wing plumage, though, that the immature cowbird is supposed to have. (See the mystery bird #8, below, for a nice example of that.)

Mystery Bird #8

Our last mystery shot was taken this afternoon (hm; yesterday afternoon, now, since it’s after midnight here), June 25 at 5:19 p.m., by txbird:

I’m leaning toward an immature Brown-headed Cowbird for this one.

All in all, a nice big batch of mysterious birds to argue about. 🙂 What do you all think?

4 Responses to “Mystery Birds Galore!”

  1. Rafa says:

    For mystery bird #1 I would say female Northern Cardinal preening and arching neck in a weird way.

    I saw some of the others when they showed. I couldn’t say Brown-headed Cowbird for any of them from #3 to #7. Most showed green, dark grayish green, some yellow and grey and didn’t look as the inm. Cowbirds we have seen. No clue about #8

  2. birderbf says:

    Here are my thoughts, some of which I have expressed in the gallery.

    #1 I just assumed to be a male Eastern Bluebird preening (I see blue on the hindneck, but I don’t think others do!). The placement of the red and white underneath matches as well, in addition to shape and size, etc. A description of the bird from the observer would probably solve this case quickly.

    #2 I originally thought a female Indigo Bunting, but Brown-headed Cowbird seems more correct and likely (even though a male INBU was sighted recently).

    #3 Putting my chips on the same species as elanus.

    #4 Unless the light is completely tricking me, I’m seeing the gray head and dark green back of a 1st year Painted Bunting ( The pattern of light head and dark (off black) back is wrong for female/young cowbirds.

    #5 I’m not even sure which way it’s facing. Could be just about anything, including the common Welder visitors.

    #7 Summer Tanager for me, quite young (bare face even?). Explanation for why it’s not a cowbird or something else above in blog post. Scarlet Tanagers have contrasting dark wings in all plumages, unlike this bird.

    #8 Definitely a juvenile cowbird. Late afternoon light is giving it odd colors. Look beyond the colors.

    There was also another mystery bird that didn’t make this batch that appeared to be a Myiarchus flycatcher species (Ash-throated or Brown-crested).

  3. elanus says:

    What date and time was the possible Myiarchus photographed? I’d like to add it.

  4. birderbf says:

    It is currently on the 7th pageof the gallery if defined by “Unclassified.” it was shot at 4:55 PM on the 25th of June.

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