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The Bird Nuts

Confusing thrushes

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I saw these thrushes yesterday in Vermont (not on a mountain).  It seemed like there were two of them and they kept popping out of the woods and flying back in again, so I don't know if what I photographed are two different birds or not (although the last bird looks more like a Veery to me; it might be a different bird than the first three).  Anyway, as I walked closer two Veeries flew out of the same area, so I was a bit confused.  Are these just Veeries and the lighting or camera made their backs look less reddish?

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I think the first three are Gray-cheeked/Bicknell’s. I would differentiate from berry by the darker spotting extending further down the breast and black uppper and the tip of lower mandible. Not a swainsons because no strong eyering. And it doesn’t appear to be a hermit. The last bird is confusing, but I think it’s a Veery in weird lighting. Pale spots, large pale Bill. I have no expirence with Veery or Gray-cheeked so I’m just going of what I know from the guides. 

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I've never had a Bicknell's, so take this for what it is, but I think the eye-ring looks fairly well defined, which is apparently suggestive of Bicknell's. Then again, the differences are very subtle and someone with experience with Bicknell's would probably be far more valuable to the conversation.

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Thanks.  I've heard that they aren't distinguishable by sight alone, but I've wondered if there are subtle differences like with Alder and Willow Flycatchers that experts can pick out.  It did have a very slight reddish tint to the tail and wings.

Edited by The Bird Nuts

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@The Bird Nuts Exactly. I think there are a few field marks (including the eyering) that suggest one species over the other, but it's probably best to leave silent birds unidentified.

Also, this is kind of unrelated, but when it comes to Traill's Flycatcher, I've kind of been wondering why people on this forum are so eager to assign IDs either way when I don't know that it's a settled debate whether or not these two species can actually be reliably separated without vocalization. 

Clearly, there are some general field marks that either species tends to have, but even banders struggle to identify birds in the hand without a vocalization. If most banders can't or don't feel comfortable doing it with the bird in the hand, why on earth are we doing it on an online forum from a few crappy photos? I'm legitimately curious to others' thoughts, and I'm open to being wrong here.

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Just now, Benjamin said:

@The Bird Nuts Exactly. I think there are a few field marks (including the eyering) that suggest one species over the other, but it's probably best to leave silent birds unidentified.

Also, this is kind of unrelated, but when it comes to Traill's Flycatcher, I've kind of been wondering why people on this forum are so eager to assign IDs either way when I don't know that it's a settled debate whether or not these two species can actually be reliably separated without vocalization. 

Clearly, there are some general field marks that either species tends to have, but even banders struggle to identify birds in the hand without a vocalization. If most banders can't or don't feel comfortable doing it with the bird in the hand, why on earth are we doing it on an online forum from a few crappy photos? I'm legitimately curious to others' thoughts, and I'm open to being wrong here.

Out of likes!  I am guilty of saying things like "Leaning Willow" but, yeah, we probably shouldn't be saying things like that because it gives the impression that they can be reliably identified by sight alone.

I have reported this thrush as a Gray-cheeked/Bicknell's.

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Correct to leave as Gray-cheeked/Bicknell's. There are subtle differences that are very hard to distinguish in the field... even when in hand there is overlap in measurements and we have to leave as Gray-cheeked/Bicknell's... so, I question all IDs without a vocalization. Also 4 is definite Veery.

 

Edited by birdbrain22
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