Quiz: Not a Thrush?

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 thoughts on “Quiz: Not a Thrush?

  1. 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. 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. 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.

  4. 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.

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