Mystery Bird: Blue Grosbeak, Passerina caerulea

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[Mystery bird] Blue Grosbeak, Passerina caerulea, photographed at High Island, Texas. [I will identify this bird for you tomorrow]
Image: Joseph Kennedy, 11 April 2007 [larger view].
Nikon D200, Kowa 883 telescope TSN-PZ camera eyepiece 1/500s f/8.0 at 500.0mm iso800.

Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.


Rick Wright, Managing Director of WINGS Birding Tours Worldwide, writes:
A blue bird. With a short, broad tail. And a huge bill. This is a male Blue Grosbeak in all his glory.
The classic confusion species is Indigo Bunting, another member of the genus Passerina. But especially in a view like this, we’d see the longer, paler, uniformly dark of an Indigo Bunting, the more slender body, the uniformly dark blue wings, the more diffusely blackish face, and the more sparrow-like bill of that smaller species. In poor light or at a distance, either species can appear simply blackish, but even then the longer tail, finer body, and slighter bill of Indigo Bunting should distinguish it readily from the fist-shaped Blue Grosbeak.
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About GrrlScientist

grrlscientist is the pseudonym of an evolutionary biologist and ornithologist who writes about evolution, ethology, and ecology, especially in birds. After earning a degree in microbiology (thesis focus: virology) and working at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, she earned her PhD in zoology from the University of Washington in Seattle, where she studied the molecular correlates of testosterone and behaviour in white-crowned sparrows. She then worked a Chapman Postdoctoral Fellow at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where she studied the speciation and distribution of lories and other parrots throughout the South Pacific Islands. A discarded scientist, she returned to her roots: writing. Formerly hosted by The Guardian (UK), she now writes about science for Forbes and for the non-profit think tank, the Evolution Institute and she writes podcasts for BirdNote Radio. An avid lifelong birder and aviculturist, she lives with a flock of songbirds and parrots somewhere in Germany.
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0 Responses to Mystery Bird: Blue Grosbeak, Passerina caerulea

  1. Haha. Now there’s a bird. None of this indeterminate chick stuff.
    Male Blue Grosbeak, based on the blue color and that gross beak.

  2. Russell says:

    Blue grosbeak. At first, I thought it was an indigo bunting, but looking more closely at the beak and the shoulder color, I’m going with the grosbeak.

  3. The Ridger says:

    It’s a blue cardinal! OMG! No, seriously: blue grosbeak. Black face, big beak, blue color, flash (from this angle) of rusty red on the shoulder, and shape and color of tail.

  4. Ian H Kinman says:

    Male Blue Grossbeak. The large bill and the rufus on splash on the wing are diagnostic.

  5. Rick Wright says:

    It’s important to note that this species is in the genus Passerina.

  6. wow, DUH! thanks for the correction, rick. i am so tired that i cannot think straight today, which i assume is glaringly obvious at this point. time to go to bed, methinks.