Category Archives: Quiz

You Are What You Eat

Male northern cardinal feeds his lady, May 2018 (photo by Bob Kroeger)

23 August 2020

Many birds look ragged right now because they’re molting. July and August are the perfect time to replace worn feathers because the breeding season is over, food is plentiful and they aren’t traveling on migration. The cardinal below looks moth-eaten because he’s molting his body feathers.

Male northern cardinal molting in July (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

What a red bird eats while he’s molting affects his feathers. Red feathers get their color from carotenoids in food so a diet rich in carotenoids makes a cardinal brighter for the coming year.

Bush honeysuckle, though invasive, is a good source of carotenoids. Unfortunately it’s not as nutritious as our native berries.

Invasive bush honeysuckle (photo by Kate St. John)

This bright red cardinal is eating American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana). The redder he is, the better the ladies like him.

Northern cardinal eating American beautyberry (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

This dull colored cardinal must have missed the red berries last summer.

Dull colored male northern cardinal (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

House finches have a more obvious response to nutrition while molting. Finches without enough carotenoids produce orange feathers instead of red. In Marcy Cunkelman’s photo below there’s an orange house finch on the right, a red one on the left.

Red and orange house finches at the feeder (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

You are what you eat.

(photos by Bob Kroeger, Marcy Cunkleman, Kate St. John and from Wikimedia Commons)

Birdsong Quiz with Immediate Answers!

Yellow warbler singing (photo by Chuck Tague)

6 June 2020

During #BlackBirdersWeek author, public speaker, photographer and birder Dudley Edmonson tweeted a video birdsong quiz with immediate answers. Click on the screenshot below to listen on Twitter.

How many songs can you identify?

p.s. All five birds are from eastern North America. The yellow warbler pictured above is not on the quiz.

If you don’t hear anything when the Twitter video plays, click the speaker icon on the video at bottom right.

(yellow warbler photo by Chuck Tague, screenshot of Dudley Edmonson tweet)

Quiz: What Are These?

Quiz #1 (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Today a Quiz. Here are two super sharp photos of plants from very different families. What are they?

Quiz #1: The top photo is a focus stack of 100 images. In real life the image would be 2mm wide so I think it’s been magnified about 80 times. (This one is hard to guess. It helps to squint your eyes to make it look small.)

Quiz #2: The photo below is a focus stack of 70 macro images. What it is?

Quiz #2 (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

If you’re desperate for clues, click the links on the captions to view the photo descriptions. Here’s a clue for #2: It’s edible.

Have an idea? Leave a comment with your answer.

p.s. In case you’re curious … Focus stacking is a digital processing technique in which the photographer takes multiple images of the same object at different focal points, then digitally merges the photos to produce a completely in-focus image. The object has to hold still and so does the camera. It requires special software to merge the images.

This video shows how it works.

(photos and video from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals)

Visualize Bird Song

Screenshot from Bird Song Hero tutorial (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

Now that the birds are singing again and more singers will arrive on migration, it’s time to practice identifying songs by ear. Yes, it’s hard to do but it’s easier if you can visualize the song.

Just like a sheet of music, a spectrogram of bird song shows how the frequency (pitch) goes up and down. The black dashes graph the frequency and length of the notes. The brown wave graphs loudness in decibels.

Song sparrow spectrogram for Xeno Canto audio XC374118 (audio by Ted Floyd)

Play the matching audio to hear the graph: a song sparrow recorded by Ted Floyd, Xeno Canto XC374118.

This is just one example but you can learn to do it yourself and practice with two quizzes at Cornell Lab’s All About Birds.

  1. Learn how to read the spectrograms that visualize bird song in this video: Bird Song Hero Tutorial.
  2. Two quizzes follow the video or you can try them independently at the Bird Song Hero Challenge. TIP: Watch the sonogram as it plays! Some of them are tricky.

p.s. Did you know that birds sing harmonies we can’t hear? On the song sparrow spectrogram, above, there are tall vertical dashes during the fast part of the song. The bird is harmonizing with himself in the 12,000 HZ frequency. If you’re older than 30-something, you probably can’t hear it.

(screenshot from Bird Song Hero tutorial (Cornell Lab of Ornithology, sonogram and audio from Xeno Canto XC374118 by Ted Floyd)

p.p.s Xeno Canto calls the graphs “sonograms.” It’s an older word for spectrogram. Here’s the difference between “spectrogram” and “sonogram.”

Who’s On The Wire?

Bird on the fence in Germany (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Here’s a North American breeding bird whose field marks resemble an uncommon winter visitor to rural Pennsylvania.  But that’s not who he is.

This bird breeds in Europe, Asia, and far northern North America and spends the winter in Africa.   If he comes to Pennsylvania he causes a stir.

Here’s his range map — breeding zone in orange, wintering in dark blue.

Range map of our mystery bird (from Wikimedia Commons)

Saturday quiz: 

  • What bird is this?
  • What (uncommon) Pennsylvania bird does he resemble?
  • What field marks differ between the two of them?

(photo and range map from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals)

Who’s On The Wire?

Bird on a wire at Carrizo Plain, CA (photo from BLM via Wikimedia Commons)

Here’s a bird you won’t see in Pennsylvania.  He was photographed at Carrizo Plain National Monument, 100 miles (as the crow flies) northwest of Los Angeles, California.

Quiz:  Who is this on the wire? … Notice his long legs.

(photo by Bob Wick, BLM via Wikimedia Commons; click on the caption to see the original)

What’s a Peduncle?

Fuji apples (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Here’s a puzzle. Don’t google it.  Look at the photos to arrive at an answer.

In botany: What is a peduncle?

We encounter peduncles every day though we don’t use the word much anymore.  Since 1950 the word has fallen out of common use and because it looks like pedophile+uncle the urban dictionary lists a raunchy meaning. But that’s not what it is.

Peduncle comes from ped (Latin for foot) plus -uncle (an Old French diminutive ending) so it literally means tiny foot.

Each photo on this page has at least one visible peduncle.  Can you find it?

Black raspberries (photo by Kate St. John)
Elderberries at Jennings, 4 Aug 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)
Elderberries at Jennings, 4 Aug 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)
Fruit of the ginkgo tree (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Here’s a clue.  The number of peduncles in each photo above is:

  • Apples = 1
  • Black raspberries = 5 (three are hidden)
  • Elderberries = too many to count
  • Ginkgos = 9

Final clue: The photo below shows no fruit, but it has peduncles.

Fruit stems on a Sassafras Tree (photo by Dianne Machesney)

Still stumped?  Click here for the answer.

(photos from Kate St. John, Dianne Machesney and Wikimedia Commons. Click on the Wikimedia captions to see the originals.)

An Assortment Of Flowers

  • Biennial gaura (photo by Kate St. John)

Here’s an assortment of wildflowers found in western Pennsylvania this month.  Many are blooming. One has a fruit.

For fun, a quiz: Can you match their names to the list below?

  • Cup plant
  • Partridge pea
  • Jack in the pulpit
  • Joe pye-weed
  • Biennial gaura
  • Green-headed coneflower
  • Touch-me-not

(photos by Kate St. John)

Quiz: Identify Them in Flight

Waterbirds in flight, Florida 2013 (photo by Don Weiss)
Waterbirds in flight, Florida 2013 (photo by Don Weiss)

Can you identify these birds in flight?


  • Don Weiss took the photo at Merritt Island, Florida.
  • I see 6 species.   Do you see more?
  • The pink ones are my favorite.
  • I see wood storks.  (But I’m wrong!  They are white pelicans.)


(photo by Don Weiss)

The Answer … or at least part of the answer …

Annotated birds in flight (photo by Don Weiss)
Annotated birds in flight (photo by Don Weiss)

  1. Glossy ibis
  2. White pelican –> white tail & black doesn’t extend all the way to the body
  3. Common tern?  (Certainly a tern)
  4. Snowy egret (kc saw yellow feet)
  5. Great egret
  6. Roseate spoonbill
  7. White ibis

Any others?