Image: Joseph Kennedy, 16 April 2007 [larger view].
Nikon D200, Kowa 883 telescope TSN-PZ camera eyepiece 1/125s f/8.0 at 1000.0mm iso400.
Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.
Rick Wright, Managing Director of WINGS Birding Tours Worldwide, writes:
Hard to image anything plainer. But that very plainness — plus the odd hint of greenish-blue at the bend of the wing — identifies this bird as surely as any set of lavish field marks would.
We’re looking at a fairly small bird, with a short tail, medium-short wing, and a heavy, “seed-eating” bill. Apart from the color at the bend of the wing, the only plumage “field marks” are the diffuse streaks on the breast and flanks. The shape says Passerina bunting, and the cold, gray-brown color and lack of conspicuously contrasting plumage characters says Indigo.
A Lazuli Bunting generally shows narrow, well-defined whitish wingbars; the underparts would be unstreaked, and the breast might show a warm cinnamon tone, continuing onto the throat. Varied Bunting is also unstreaked, and generally noticeably darker, especially on the underparts and tail; while the culmen is straight on this bird, it is obviously curved on Varied Bunting, making the latter species look fatter-billed from most angles.
Famously, Indigo and Lazuli Buntings interbreed freely on the Great Plains, and many male hybrids and introgressants are readily identified by their combination of plumage characters. Female-plumaged birds are much more difficult, largely because the differences separating “pure” examples of each are so slight. I have never identified with certainty a brown Passerina hybrid, though one would assume that they are as frequent as male birds showing mixed characters. So if I were to obey my conscience, I’d call this a brown Passerina displaying no obvious indications of hybrid origin — but to tell the truth, I don’t think I’d bother to be quite that punctilious. Indigo Bunting it is!
Review all mystery birds to date.