Date: 6/3/18 2:47 pm
From: Craig Miller <gismiller...>
Subject: [obol] Re: Eastern Or Say's Phoebe
This does not look like any Say's Phoebe that I have seen. What's with the
faint streaking on the flanks? If anything, the cinnamon/color should be
more intense around the undertail coverts, but instead they are paler on
this mystery bird.

Very interesting indeed!

Craig Miller

On Sun, Jun 3, 2018, 1:11 PM Nicholas Mrvelj <nickmrvelj...> wrote:

> Hello all,
> I've attached two crudely photoshopped images with my post. The first has
> James's Phoebe juxtaposed with two Eastern Phoebes taken in June/July. The
> second has his Phoebe juxtaposed with two Say's Phoebes taken between the
> same date range. All images were found on Cornell's Macaulay Library via
> eBird.
> For my money, I feel this is a rather worn Say's Phoebe. The lack of
> contrast between the upperparts/underparts, especially the head, lack of
> gray on the breast (vest pattern), and overall impression this bird gives
> are my main reasons. When I originally looked at this individual as an
> Eastern Phoebe, something just looked a tad off. There are additional
> points of scrutiny, as others have mentioned, but I'm feeling a bit lazy at
> the moment and will just leave it with those three for now.
> In doing research on molt timing, I found that Say's Phoebes have a
> relatively short molt cycle as opposed to Eastern Phoebes, with peak
> activity of body/primary molt occurring between the beginning of August and
> ending the beginning of September. Eastern Phoebes peak activity begins in
> the middle of June for both body/primaries and goes until the end of
> October (and even into early November for the primaries).
> With all that being said, did you hear it vocalize at all? Pardon me if
> you mentioned this detail already.
> Very interesting bird and great find. Thanks for sharing and what a good
> study.
> -Nick Mrvelj (Portland)
> On Sun, Jun 3, 2018 at 11:36 AM Alan Contreras <acontrer56...>
> wrote:
>> I read your comments and Matt’s and looked at the vids. A few thoughts
>> from someone who has not seen an Eastern Phoebe for a few years.
>> First, this is a rather worn bird and is also really fluffed so colors
>> are probably a little off from what we’d normally see. When we compare to
>> online photos, compare to worn birds. The fluffiness may also make the bird
>> look stubbier than it really is.
>> One thing that makes me think Eastern is that a Say’s normally has
>> essentially the same color above—there isn’t really much contrast except
>> for the very dark tail. Eastern usually has a paler back relative to a
>> darker head, which this bird does. The head looks a lot darker than the
>> back in the video when the head turns. However, I’m not sure what extended
>> wear would do to that comparison—the back is probably an area that wears
>> very little.
>> Too bad there are no crisp flight shots from above as Eastern has a
>> darker-winged look while Say’s is fairly pale, sort of a Forster’s Tern
>> frostiness in gray.
>> The shape of the bird is more like an Eastern—Say’s always looks lanky
>> and this bird just seems short—but the fluffing may affect that perception.
>> I don’t know which species is more likely to retain color for ten months
>> without a molt and what that color would look like.
>> Alan Contreras
>> <acontrer56...>
>> Eugene, Oregon
>> On Jun 2, 2018, at 8:06 PM, James Billstine <billstinj...> wrote:
>> Yesterday I reported what I thought was an Eastern Phoebe in Tillamook.
>> Upon further discussion and review it has been brought to my attention that
>> there are some inconclusive field marks that leave me wondering.
>> I think what stands out the most is how gray or brown most of the wings,
>> back, nape, face and head of the bird I observed. The photos of Eastern
>> Phoebes on Cornell's Macaulay Library show birds that are much darker:
>> charcoal gray to blackish.
>> Next, if we look at the flanks, other photos of Eastern Phoebe show some
>> light yellow washing. The bird I was photographing and taking video of was
>> front-lit, which may have lessened the appearance of the bird's flanks to a
>> yellow in the field (instead of the cinnamon of a Say's) which you can see
>> hints of in the lower part of the belly and the undertail coverts.
>> Moving forward from there, the Macaulay birds have generally white
>> breasts, chins, and throats. Some do show a yellowish wash-but that is
>> shown in the pictures I have studied next to definite white on the sides of
>> the breast and throat. The bird I observed shows a faint yellow and almost
>> orangish color throughout the breast, chin, and throat, without any
>> contrasting white. And again, the front-lighting of the bird I observed may
>> make it look lighter than it actually was.
>> The photos also show a lot of static/noise based on the camera I use
>> which may have also distorted the color.
>> Finally, I was having major allergic reactions with my eyes watering
>> profusely and swelling when I first observed the bird. I was focusing on
>> taking photos for documentation. Even with clear eyes I don't know if I
>> would have been able to pick out these details, but my binoculars and scope
>> provide much better optics than my camera.
>> In summary: Initially I thought it was a Say's Phoebe. Lack of orange and
>> yellow and a possibly white wash in throat and chin made me think Eastern
>> Phoebe. After studying photos and comparing to pictures in Macaulay Library
>> and some discussion with others I am leaning back towards Say's.
>> If you are interested in a truly close study I recommend opening the
>> first youtube video link, and then hitting the gear cog symbol in the lower
>> right hand corner of the frame to turn the resolution to 1080P, and then
>> the speed to .25. It allows you to see a lot of details while the bird is
>> moving.
>> I would like to hear what others with more experience in both species
>> have to say. It can be embarrassing to admit one is wrong, especially with
>> a mis-ID of a rare bird, but this wasn't wishful thinking on my part (I
>> have talked myself out of plenty of rare birds) and I accept this as a
>> tough bird and a learning experience. And I would never, ever, in any case
>> fault the judgment of my birding peers and mentors who have taught me so
>> much and selflessly given up so much of their time and energy to guide me
>> and grow my passion for the pastime. Without them I would truly be lost in
>> a sea of feathers.
>> Ebird report with similarly washed out Say's Phoebe showing evenly
>> diffused coloring:
>> Macaulay Photos of an Eastern Phoebe:
>> My Report:

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