Sunday, June 07, 2009

Duck, Duck, Goose, Cormorant??!

From Birds of Reid Park

I've been doing a bit of attempted birdwatching at that park I'm embarrassed to mention yet again, since it's all I seem to write about lately. I say attempted because although I've certainly seen lots of birds and in some cases photographed them, that's only half the game. You've got to identify them too. I haven't been carrying my National Geographic Society Field Guide to the Birds of North America, and when I compare my photos on the computer screen with the illustrations in the book, I often fail to convince myself that I've identified a bird correctly. I swear I used to be pretty good at this stuff. No longer!

Let's start with the bird at the top of this entry. From size, color and position, I assumed it was a falcon, and that I just needed to figure out which kind when I got home. Wrong! My current guess is either a Sharp-shinned Hawk or Cooper's Hawk. What do you think?

This little guy was in the same tree at the same time. It's a Vermilion Flycatcher.

Here are a couple of Black-crowned Night Herons in a tree. Despite appearances, they're both the same species. The big one has the plumage of an immature bird.

There are lots of ducks, of course, around the two urban lakes; there's a reason they're commonly called the duck ponds. Aside from the mallards there are domestic white ducks, some newly-arrived (I think) domesticated black ducks,and lots of cross-breeds. I have yet to identify a Black-bellied Whistling Duck here, or any of the other duck species I've seen elsewhere in Tucson.

These are geese, of course, the white Domestic Goose and, um, not sure, perhaps a Greater White-fronted Goose? A couple of the latter kind were actually hissing at Cayenne - perhaps at all three of us, but I think they were specifically reacting to Cayenne, who as usual was very interested in the birds.

Now these guys pretty well have me stumped. The shape is all wrong for a duck or a loon, they're too big to be grebes, they're clearly not pelicans, storks, or spoonbills and they're probably not herons or egrets. What they kinda look like is Olivaceous Cormorants, which is possible but very unlikely. Any ideas, folks?

Check out the Picasa album these photos are in for more shots of each of these birds.



Wil said...

You were there; I wasn't. Did they look oily to you? Those sure appear to be Cormorants. Which variety I can't help you with as all my bird books are home in Maine and I'm still just a piece of (aluminum) tube steak in Baton Rouge...

J. G. Coleman said...

They are unquestionably cormorants judging by the overall shape of the body and, specifically, the beak. The body shape could also be indicative of an anhinga, but the hooked beak does away with that possibility.

It really depends on just where you took the photograph. More likely than not, there are only one or two species of cormorant in any given locale.

Karen Funk Blocher said...

Thanks, J.G. The reason I found it hard to believe they were cormorants was that I photographed them in a park in the middle of Tucson, AZ, over 400 miles from the nearest ocean. I saw them for weeks afterward, so they weren't just passing through.

On the other hand, I once saw an osprey on a saguaro in my back yard in the foothills of the Tucson Mountains, so I know ocean birds do occasionally turn up!