Category Archives: Quiz

Which Ones Are Cranes?

When people see a bird that impresses them they often tell me about it.  Sometimes they say, "I saw a crane" and I wonder... was it a crane or something else?   So I've made this conundrum into a quiz.

Which of these are cranes?  All of them?  Some of them?  Only one of them?  And which one is non-native?

(The answers are in the comments.)








(photos #1, #2 and #3 by Steve Gosser, photo #4 from Wikimedia Commons)

p.s. As usual I'll wait to release comments from moderation so that early responders don't give away the answer.


Quiz: What Plant?

I discussed epiphytes a couple of days ago because I wanted to use this beautiful photo as a quiz. 

Though this looks like an artistic squiggle it's actually a close-up of a plant. 

Here are some hints to its identity:

  • It's an epiphyte.
  • It's native to the southeastern U.S. where the climate is warm with high humidity.
  • It has tiny inconspicuous flowers.  (As many times as I've seen this plant I've never noticed any flowers.)
  • Its leaves are alternate, thin, heavily scaled and curved.  These are its leaves. 
  • The leaves appear to form long chains.
  • Big hint: It's commonly found hanging from southern live oaks and bald cypress trees.

Can you guess what it is?

Leave a comment with your answer.

(photo by Ernest V. More in the public domain on Wikimedia Commons)


There's a leopard in this tree.

Do you see it?

If you're stumped here's a digital closeup, but where is that in the tree?


I wouldn't have been able to find the leopard without the annotated photo (see below).   

I'm glad there are no leopards in Pennsylvania's woods!

(photo taken in Tanzania by Nevit Dilmen via Wikimedia Commons.  To find the leopard, click on the image and move your mouse over the original photo which has a yellow box around the leopard.)

Quiz: Be a Bird Sleuth

Today's blog is an opportunity to improve your bird identification skills and it's a challenge.

What bird is this?

To level the playing field, I've picked a bird I've never seen.

Let's go through the normal identification clues in order of importance.  These are the questions I ask myself when birding.  Many of them will help here.  (Yes, the order of the clues really matters.)

  1. Where on earth is this bird?  Out-of-place birds are rare.  Narrow the possibilities by knowing which birds occur where you're birding. 
  2. What habitat is the bird in?  Even on migration birds pick their preferred habitat if at all available.  Is the bird at the ocean?  a lake?  river? streamside? dense woods? open woods?  pines? oaks? a field? a swamp? a mudflat?
  3. What sound does it make?  If you can identify birds by song, this is useful in Spring through June.  (If you can identify call notes you're such an expert that you know what bird this is.)
  4. What size is it?  The size of a goose?  Larger?  The size of a crow?  robin?  sparrow?  Smaller than a sparrow?
  5. What shape is it?  This is really important!  Check its beak:  long?  short?  thick?  thin?  big and fat?  thin and short?   Check its legs:  long? short? almost non-existent?  Check its neck: long? short? very short?  Check its tail:  long? short? fancy?  Does it have ear tufts?  Does it have a crest?
  6. What is it doing?  How does it perch?  (Does it perch at all?)  How does it fly?  (short bursts, darting, hovering, soaring)  What does it eat? Food is a major clue.
  7. What color is it?  Color is actually the last clue though our brains lock onto it first.  You can actually identify a bird in the field without knowing its color.  How many of you can identify a crow by hearing it caw? ...and you don't even need to see it!


Here are the clues applied to the bird in this picture.  In some cases I'll tell you more than you could know from a random photo.

  1. Where on earth is this bird?  It was photographed in Brazil.
  2. What habitat is the bird in?  It's perched on a branch without lots of leaves.  Wild guess: This bird is in open woods.
  3. What sound does it make?  We can't tell in a photo.
  4. What size is it?  We can barely tell in a photo so I'll have to say:  This bird is the size of a starling.
  5. What shape is it?  Great question!   
    • Look at that beak: long and thick and significantly large compared to its body length. 
    • Notice the whiskers.  Most birds with whiskers catch insects in flight -- nighthawks and flycatchers, for instance.  If this bird resembles another whiskered bird, it could be a relative? 
    • Check its legs:  short.
    • Check its neck:  short.
    • Check its tail:  long!  about 1/3 of the bird's length
  6. What is it doing? 
    • How does it perch?  It typically perches with its beak tilted up.  Its stance is like a hummingbird except that its beak and body are too large.
    • How does it fly?  We can't tell in this photo.
    • What does it eat?  Whiskers indicate that it probably eats flying insects.
  7. What color is it?  Rufous and iridescent green.


This bird has a beak like a woodpecker (a distant relative) but its whiskers indicate it eats flying insects.  Those who have seen this bird in the wild have called it "a glittering hummingbird the size of a starling."

Ready for the answer?  See the link in the photo credit.

(photo by Dario Sanches via Wikimedia Commons.  Click on the photo to see the original.  Click here for the answer to this quiz.)

Red Eyes

Black-crowned Night-heron (photo by Brian Herman)
Black-crowned night-herons are usually active at night but they're so busy during the breeding season you might find one awake when the light is good.  Then you can see his colors.

Isn't his red eye awesome! 

Other birds have red eyes too.  The red-eyed vireo is obvious -- it's in his name -- but the rest require some research. 

How many red-eyed birds can you name? 

Leave a comment with your answer.

p.s.  Here's a question for the experts (I don't know the answer):  Why do they have red eyes?

(photo by Brian Herman)

Now Blooming … and a Quiz

This week in Schenley Park, the hillsides are dotted with the white plumes of False Solomon's Seal.

False Solomon's Seal is a perennial plant in the Lily family that grows in moist woods and thickets.  It goes by many names including Solomon's plume, False Spikenard, Treacleberry, Maianthemum racemosum and Smilacina racemosa.

The plant sprouts every year from creeping rhizomes so you usually find its long slightly zigzag stems in sizable clumps.  The leaves' upper surface is parallel to the stem so the plants lean to one side.  Interestingly, an entire clump tends to lean the same direction, all of them showing their leaves to the sun and their white flowers to pollinating bees and beetles.  It looks like the whole clump is doing "The Wave."

False Solomon's Seal produces red berries in the fall that are eaten by birds and rodents.  People sometimes use the plant as a laxative and deer browse it occasionally but it's not one of their favorites.  Perhaps the deer know about its laxative effects.

So this is False Solomon's Seal, but what plant is "true"... and why?  Leave a comment with your answer.

(photo from Wikipedia.  Click on the photo to see the original)

Quiz: Whose nest?

Here's a nest that was under construction in Marcy's cherry tree more than a week ago.  By now it has eggs.

Can you tell whose nest this is?  Here are some hints:

  • The female selects the site and builds the nest.
  • She uses grasses, weed stalks, and strips of cloth or string.
  • The materials are held together with wet, soft mud that she carries to the nest to cement it.  Mud is essential.
  • Working from the inside of the cup, the female molds the nest to the contours of her body.
  • As a finishing touch, she lines the inside with soft grasses.
  • She does not maintain the nest so it deteriorates with use and might even blow out of the tree.
  • It takes 5 to 7 days for her to construct the first nest of the season, a little less time for subsequent nests.
  • The female builds a new nest -- or builds on top of the old nest -- for subsequent broods. 

Whose nest is this?  Leave a comment with your answer.

(photo by Marcy Cunkelman)