Name that Bird (Road Edition)

If these birds don’t look familiar to you, there’s a good reason. Both pictures were taken in April by Kurt Kuehn … in Sierra Vista, Ariz.

OK, travelers, we need your help on these. Can you name either or both of these birds?

No. 1:

No. 2:

Your bird pictures, observations and comments are warmly embraced. Send them to me at :

A mystery bird controversy

Wherever two or three birders are gathered, you will have differing opinons on …. What is that bird anyway?

Such as the case with our most recent round of Name that Bird. It hasn’t gotten many responses, but those who have responded agree the bird in question is a ruby-throated hummingbird.

Except that Kurt Kuehn, who took the picture, thinks it’s more likely an Eastern phoebe.

Let’s take another look at the photo. This version, toned in Photoshop by my colleague Beverly Godfrey, is a little lighter, so there’s no quite so much shadow on the bird:

It’s a ruby-throated hummingbird, writes Duluth native Kathy Carr Lodholz, now of Ridgefield, Wash., in an e-mail. "There’s only one bird that has a bill like that, and they do have more of a notched tail than other hummers, depending on how he is holding his tail at the time."

But Kurt is standing by his phoebe. "I still don’t think so," he writes of the hummingbird theory. "Where are the scallops where the gorget ends?"

Well, I couldn’t answer that question — at least not without scrambling for my dictionary. The gorget is the "necklace" that gives the hummingbird its ruby-throated name. I have to admit I’m still not quite sure about those missing scallops.

For comparison, Kurt offers other pictures that he is pretty sure are of the same bird, and he’s pretty sure that bird is a phoebe. Here’s one of them:

To my eye, this is a wonderful picture of an Eastern phoebe. But the bird in the first picture looks more like a hummingbird — mostly because of that bill. But my thoughts are definitely not the final word.

While we’re looking at pictures, here are two more that Kurt sent my way today, both of birds that weren’t very cooperative with the photographer:

A robin, of course, but notice the white patches. Kurt describes this as a partially albino robin.

And this:

 Probably a tree swallow, Kurt says. It’s obviously in a hurry to get somewhere.

Keep those pictures, observations and comments coming! And thanks, everyone. My e-mail address:

Frankly, Scarlet …

I’ve been waiting for a long time to use that heading. I thought I’d use it when I finally saw a scarlet tanager.

Instead, it’s Corey Flath of Fargo, N.D., who not only spotted a scarlet tanager outside of his house but got pictures of it as well.

Check out this beauty:

I told Corey that the scarlet tanager is No. 1 on my list of birds I want to see.

I might, possibly have seen one fly past me on the Western Waterfront Trail earlier this year, but I didn’t get nearly a good enough look to count it. A return visit to the same spot a few days later yielded nothing.

Bird pictures — scarlet tanagers or otherwise — observations and comments are gleefully accepted at

Name that bird

We’re agreed. Friday’s mystery bird, submitted by Kurt Kuehn, was a common nighthawk. (I didn’t get it, but I’ve never seen a nighthawk.) "That’s what they do all day" was a clever clue, Kurt.

Here’s another one from Kurt, and again he has me baffled:

Kurt had one idea, but that forked tail didn’t really fit. I had a couple of ideas, but a closer look in the bird book seemed to shoot down both of them.

What do you think?

Bird observations, pictures, comments enthusiastically received at:

This one might be harder

OK, we’re all agreed. The mystery bird picture Kurt Kuehn submitted a few days ago is a pine sisken (actually, a group of pine siskens in the first picture).

Here’s another one from Kurt, and this one might be harder. At least I haven’t figured it out:

Here’s a hint from Kurt: "I think I have it ID’d. So this is what they do all day … "

Meanwhile, votes continue to trickle in on our original "name that bird." Here’s a reminder of the picture, which was submitted by Ken Conito of West Duluth:

I’m running out of fingers and toes, but as far as I can tell, the vote (including one or two sent via e-mail) goes like this:

Merlin — 5

Cooper’s hawk — 2

Sharp-shinned hawk — 2

Female house finch — 1

Female red-winged blackbird — 1

And so the winner is: Cooper’s hawk.

Oh, wait. I forgot this isn’t Iran.

At least one more "Name that bird" is waiting in the wings, so to speak. Thank you for playing our game.

Your comments, bird observations and pictures are coveted. Send them to:



Another mystery bird

It’s time for another round of Name That Bird.

This wonderful picture comes from Kurt Kuehn. What do you think these birds are?

At first, Kurt thought they were purple finches, but a closer look caused him to change his mind. A second picture, with a closer view, caused both of us to decide on a particular bird. Here’s the picture:

But I’m not going to tell you our conclusion. What do you think?

Your bird pictures, mysterious or otherwise, and observations are joyously welcomed. Send them to me at:





Bird droppings

Bits and pieces (or maybe a bit and a piece) from here and there:

  • The folks at the Cornell Lab or Ornithology are sponsoring a fun contest they’re calling the Funky Nests in Funky Places Challenge. Here’s an excerpt of their description: "For the Funky Nests in Funky Places challenge, we want you to take photos, do a painting, write a story or shoot a video showing a bird’s nest built in some out-of-the-way or out-of-this-world place." I’m sure there are some funky nests in funky places in the Northland. Contest details and more information are available at the Cornell Lab’s "Celebrate Urban Birds" Web site here: Contest deadline is July 31.
  • Here’s a reminder that Peregrine Watch is under way from Lake Place Park in Duluth, as peregrine falcons raise their young on the Greysolon Plaza Building. Hours are 10 a.m to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, weather permitting. More information is available here:

A bluebird and a chestnut-sided warbler

I love it that people are willing to share their bird pictures with me. Here are a couple that have come in during the past couple of days:

Yes, there are bluebirds in the area, even if I don’t see them. This striking picture was taken by Kurt Kuehn in Alden Township. Seeing this bird makes me think it’s even more probable that the bird I saw a couple of weeks ago near Ely Peak was a bluebird, but it didn’t have the classic blue shade that Kurt’s bird has.

News Tribune photo chief Bob King, aka Astro Bob, took this picture of a male chestnut-sided warbler singing in willow trees in Lakewood Township this morning. My high school chorus director tried to get us to open our mouths like this when we sang. Bob says he loves this warbler’s "witchew, witchew," song.

Thank you, Kurt and Bob!

Your bird pictures and observations are eagerly received. Send them to me at

Name that Bird II

Thanks for your ideas about that bird Ken Conito of West Duluth took a picture of.

We didn’t reach a consensus, but we seem to be headed in the same general direction.

Via e-mail, Ron Koistinen of Watertown, S.D., said he thought it was a merlin. Joseph Schlecht and Eric Chandler also went with merlin. Tony M. thought it looked more like a sharp-shinned hawk. Jim and I thought it was a Cooper’s hawk. At least we seem to have it narrowed down to raptors.

I had identification problems, as well, during a midweek camping trip to Split Rock Lighthouse State Park and a hike at Kadunce River Canyon north of Grand Marais. I got really good looks at a couple of warbler-like birds and still couldn’t identify them.

The FOY (first-of-year) birds I could identify were male and female American redstarts at Split Rock and black-and-white warblers on the trail near Kadunce River. I always see redstarts at Split Rock, and it’s always a pleasure.

And I heard but didn’t see white-throated sparrows. These birds are party animals: I heard their distinctive songs as late as 10:30 at night and as early as 3:40 in the morning.

I like making up my own lyrics to their song. As I was breaking camp this morning, I imagined the white-throated sparrow was singing: Too-bad-you-have-to-go-away-so-soon.


Name that bird

Ken Conito, who lives in West Duluth, took this wonderful picture from the deck of his home.

"What kinda bird is it?" he asks.

I offered my idea, but I’d like to hear from you as well.

Identifications, anyone?

Bird pictures and observations welcomed and encouraged: