June 18, 2021

What's this bird?


Photographed yesterday by Lake Mendota (in Madison, Wisconsin). I tried various "What is this bird?" websites, but I couldn't figure it out. I asked Meade, and he said "A penguin."

IN THE COMMENTS: The most frequent suggestion is Eastern Kingbird, which was one of the options I saw, using bird identification websites, but I saw some differences. One reader, Bart, sent a picture of an Eastern Kingbird, the head of which I will juxtapose to my bird. I think the head shape is different (or maybe Bart's bird is ruffling its feathers and mine is a cooler character):

ADDED: With my photo cut off at the chest, Meade's "penguin" ID becomes entrancingly apt!


Ann Althouse said...

Jim writes: "Looks like an Eastern Kingbird. Lovely bird, a flycatcher; white tip of tail
is quite noticeable usually."

Eastern Kingbird is an option I noticed on bird identification websites, but I rejected it. I saw some differences.

Ann Althouse said...

I'm looking at a bunch of pictures of the EK. Still dubious!

Sorry I don't have the tail tip in the picture.

Ann Althouse said...

Bart says: "Looks like an Eastern Kingbird to me, but I am not 100% sure. The tip of his tail looks like it is below the end of the wall he is standing on so I cannot tell if his tail is white-tipped or not. At first I thought some sort of swallow might also be a possibility given the dark-top, light-belly coloration, but its beak is too large for a swallow."

Ann Althouse said...

Amadeus 48 writes: "I think it is an Eastern Kingbird…A TYRANT FLYCATCHER!"

Ann Althouse said...

Deborah says:

Merlin a birding ID app I use gives me three possibilities for this bird.

Eastern Kingbird
Says Phoebe
Eastern Phoebe

Hopefully, one of those is your bird! Update the blog with the ID, please. I'd be interested in knowing what bird it is too.

Ann Althouse said...

Bart returns to say:

You're right to be skeptical. The variation within kingbirds is significant, and in your photo I did not see the extension of the white belly onto the sides of the neck and the very top of the shoulders that I associate with kingbirds. I managed to find a photo of a kingbird with its head turned the way yours is. The shape of the white cheek coloration looks fairly similar.

Apologies if you did not intend to cause this level of Bird ID back-and-forth.

I did intend to cause this level!

Ann Althouse said...

Dave H writes:

You are right that the head on the Kingbird is usually ruffled, but it is not always so.

Check out this image: https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-h7168cECdMk/TfYbZVhrphI/AAAAAAAAGpo/wVs74mQCBVw/s1600/kingbird.jpg

From Stokes Birding Blog via DuckDuckGo.

Okay! I'm convinced!!!

Ann Althouse said...

Just when I'm convinced, Tom writes:

I don’t think that’s an Eastern Kingbird. At this time of year when Kingbirds are defending nests and adjacent territory, I would not expect to see one on the ground. I run into them quite a bit now during my research (a couple today!) and they are airborne chasing away other birds or hawking.

I’ll look at your picture in closer detail later today.

If it helps, he stood right there for a little while. Seemed vigilant but not involved in any activities. It was exactly 5:24 a.m. He flew away when I got closer.

Ann Althouse said...

Bart is back. He says:

My best guess is a Tree Swallow. If there was any greenish tinge on the back the ID is certain. However, we have hundreds of them nesting in our woods, and there are brownish, blackish, and greyish variants, especially with younger birds.

Unless someone can give me a better ID, I'm going with a first-year Tree Swallow.

It was 5:24... less than 10 minutes after sunrise, so the light can be confusing.

I thought the Kingbird looked less rounded in the belly, and the Tree Swallow does look more like the shape.

Ann Althouse said...

Bart — Bart H! — is back to say:

Some other Bart must have sent you the kingbird messages, because we also have loads of kingbirds around here, both Eastern and Western. We have 6 species of tyrant flycatchers nesting on the farm, along with 7 species of swallows within half a mile. The two types of birds have a very different overall "look".

The only one I sent you was the Tree Swallow ID. Please verify the source of email from "other Bart". If it comes from PrairieStarFarm{dot}com ... I've got a problem.

I'm fine if you note me as Bart H.

He's right. There was another Bart!

This is the problem with the default to first names that I am using.

It would help if when you send email, you follow the rule I've added to the instructions above the compose window: "If you want to be identified by something other than your first name, just end (every email) with "call me [the name you want].""

It's much better to have a distinctive name. But it's also fine to ask to be completely anonymous.

If you have a name like Michael or Joe, it's close to being anonymous, so let me know what you prefer.