Nov 01 2010

Quiz: Not a Thrush?

Published by at 7:18 am under Migration,Quiz,Songbirds

Yesterday I was happy to see a flock of these birds on the exposed, dry mud at Shenango River Lake.  I know their identity but they’re tricky, so here’s a quiz. 

One quick glance tells you this bird is not a sparrow because his beak is too thin. 

Is he a thrush?  He has a striped breast, short neck, thrush-like stance, almost-thrush-sized bill, and he walks a lot. 

A longer look reveals many Not Thrush things about him. 

  • He’s a little smaller than a Swainson’s thrush.  This is hard to determine because he is rarely near anything that gives him scale.
  • He is only found in open tundra-like landscape, never in the forest.
  • He has wing bars.  Our eastern thrushes don’t.
  • His outer tail edges are white.  (You can see this when he flies.)
  • When he walks he darts and jabs, unlike the walk-and-pause of thrushes.
  • He pumps his tail and almost wags.  This is not the slow raise-and-lower pumping of the hermit thrush.  
  • In flight he’s bouncier than a goldfinch.
  • And like a goldfinch he always calls when he flies.  His call is a dead giveaway.  He says his name.

Final hint:  This bird is a treat to see because he neither breeds nor winters in Pennsylvania.

What do you think?  Leave a comment with your answer.

(photo by Steve Gosser)

6 responses so far

6 Responses to “Quiz: Not a Thrush?”

  1. kellyon 01 Nov 2010 at 10:27 am

    an american pipit? haven’t seen one yet, but i am keeping my eyes out. i hear that they like to skulk around in newly tilled fields in the fall so that’s where i’ll be looking.

  2. Dotty Hoepneron 01 Nov 2010 at 10:44 am

    I looked in my Peterson Guide and also Cornell’s All About Birds for its voice and have come to the conclusion that its an American Pipit.

  3. Kate St. Johnon 01 Nov 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Yes, American Pipits! Read about them on Cornell’s All About Birds ( or get a worldwide view of pipits on Wikipedia (

  4. Steve Gosseron 01 Nov 2010 at 12:35 pm

    I got that picture last winter up at the Amish farms of Lawrence County. That was the first and only time I had ever seen one that wasn’t on the ground. I remember when I saw my very first one, I was baffled for awhile trying to figure out what it was.

  5. faith cornellon 01 Nov 2010 at 2:01 pm

    Thank you all your bird watchers/lovers/protectors!!! I so enjoy all this interesting “stuff”. Never heard of this bird, never saw this bird; hope before my time is up I see one.

  6. Markon 01 Nov 2010 at 8:17 pm

    American pipits, sigh, I have seen and heard them only two times.

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