Date: 11/29/18 9:44 pm
From: Shawneen Finnegan <shawneenfinnegan...>
Subject: [obol] Clatsop bunting
I sent photos of the bunting to Paul Lehman for his thoughts given he has spent the last 20+ falls up at Gambell. He is in the process of completing a book on the birds of Gambell. I would imagine he has seen far more Snow/McKay’s Buntings than any of us have put together. One or two like this show up every fall at Gambell.

After looking at Diana’s photos he said he could send lots of photos that exactly match this bird. The bottom line is that young females this time of the year are the most difficult to identify. Are they young McKay’s, hybrids or pale Snow Buntings? His answer is that he just doesn’t know what they are. There are birds, too, that are seen every fall that look far more like McKay’s than these young pale females.

These two species a very closely related. From talking to Dan Gibson (retired museum curator of the University of Alaska Fairbanks) and others when the pale PDX bunting was around a few years ago I came away understanding that these birds are very difficult to confidently identify. Am I confident that the Pyle guide is the end all to telling these species apart? Not necessarily when you have such an understudied species that hybridizes.

It may just be that it can’t be assigned to one or the other species. Not all birds can be pigeon-holed into a particular species just because we want them to be one or the other. If the folks who have been studying this ID problem for years have difficulty assigning a name to these maybe we shouldn’t rush into it either.

Shawneen Finnegan
Beaverton, OR



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