Date: 8/25/20 3:18 pm
From: Tom Crabtree <tc...>
Subject: [obol] Re: grosfinch
Darrel,



We’ve all been there before. While leading a field trip I once identified a plastic milk jug as a Snowy Owl. At least your bird was breathing. I hope the corvid you are consuming isn’t “Northwestern Crow.”



Tom



From: <obol-bounce...> [mailto:<obol-bounce...>] On Behalf Of Darrel Faxon
Sent: Tuesday, August 25, 2020 1:56 PM
To: obol <obol...>
Subject: [obol] grosfinch



OK.

I saw the bird.

I have seen Bill's photos.

I have studied Chuck's photos.

I have read the comments.

Consequently, some thoughts are in order.

(1) Given the fact the consensus from a number of very good birders is that the bird was not a Pine Grosbeak, I concede I may have been wrong. It is not the first time it has happened, and it likely will not be the last.

(2) None of the photos by either Bill or Chuck look to either Laura or me like the bird looked in life. Whether that is an artifact of lighting, camera function or faulty imagination on my part is for others to decide.

(3) The fact that the bird was in ratty plumage did not help in the identification process.

(4) As others have pointed out, there seem to be discrepancies between the plumage of the bird as photographed and that of any of the disputed species as shown in the field guides.

(5) Under the circumstances, it might prove helpful, to some extent, to shed some species by process of elimination. Excluding Common Rosefinch, which does not need to be considered, there are six members of Fringillidae, that could be considered. Pine Grosbeak, Purple Finch, Cassin's Finch, House Finch, Red Crossbill and White-winged Crossbill. Toss the crossbills. Taking a cue from consensus, toss Pine Grosbeak. We are down to the three carpodacus finches.

The bird in question had a deeply forked tail. Even though Sibley does not show this mark for Pine Grosbeak, nearly all online photos of the species reveal it to be a prominent feature of that species' plumage. House Finch has a squared off tail, which is even useful in separating it from Purple Finch, which has a deeper fork. Toss House Finch. When I first saw the bird in question at my feeder, I assumed it was a Black-headed Grosbeak, because they had been regular at that same feeder right up to the day of the sighting, and this new bird was every bit as large as a Black-headed Grosbeak. In the study I did of it over the next two and a half hours, much of the time during which it was sitting in plain sight on an exposed branch of a cherry tree about thirty feet from me, I had the same impression of its size. Additionally, at one point it was in the feeder with a Pine Siskin, and the size difference was obvious. One of the photos taken by Bill Tice shows this fact. I have many Purple Finches at my feeder every day all summer long, and never once have I seen one I mistook by size for a Black-headed Grosbeak.. Based on size, toss Purple Finch. That goes for Cassin's Finch as well.

So what that that leave? I still think there were features of the bird as I saw it, that answer to PIne Grosbeak, but the photos do not back up that assessment. For one thing, the bill is simply flat out wrong for that species, and given that discrepancy, I see no point in discussing other features of the admittedly ratty plumage.. Grosfinch. pure and simple. I would like to think this sighting proved to be a learning experience for myself and others, but what any of us might have learned seems to me be as much in question as the identity of the bird.

Thank you to all of you, who responded to my posts in regard to it, both on OBOL and in private. Crow doesn't taste so bad if one puts enough whipped cream on it.



Darrel


 
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