Author Archives: Pierre Cenerelli

What are these young birds?


It’s been a while since I’ve posted something here, so I thought I would give you a 2 for 1!

The photo featured above was taken almost two weeks ago (in late May) at Pacific Spirit Regional Park, next to Vancouver’s University of British Columbia. Although a Pacific slope Flycatcher was signing nearby, my guess is that this might be a fresh out of the nest Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Do you agree?

I took the photo below yesterday (June 11) in North Vancouver, BC. I am fairly confident that this is a juvenile White-crowned Sparrow, but I still wanted to check with others to see if they agreed:


Grebes and loons

Since I got no takers for my Western gull mystery, I figured I would now ask if you could give me a hand with the following grebe and loon ID. Both photos were taken last month (January 2014) on the Pacific coast, near Vancouver (a few steps from here, in fact). Keep in mind both birds were very far away, the light was quite bad and I had to severely crop both photos (which explains the fact they are grainy). BTW, this is the highest resolution possible.

The first photo is of a grebe. In my book (National Geographic, 6th ed.), they say this is a “paler winter” adult. The main clue: This bird clearly has a flat crown.

The second photo is of a loon. In this case, many questions arise: Are those scales or speckles on the back? Are their any thick or thin “neck straps”? What colour is the bill? How extensive is the white area on the face? In this case, I believe we are faced with a second year bird that is just completing its transformation to full adulthood.

Grebe-Vancouver_BC-January_2014 Loon-Vancouver_BC

A West Coast gull mystery…

This time, I am really and truly stumped. This is a case of having taken three pictures and thinking nothing of them (or the species they represented) until I took a good look at them. Now someone like me, who knows what the gull situation is on the west coast (especially when you are looking at large flocks of them), should have known better. But then again, I guess this is why this website exists!

So, here goes the explanation. At first, I thought these were all Glaucus-winged Gulls, a fairly common species out here in greater Vancouver, BC. But upon closer inspection (most especially: the secondaries of all three birds are much too dark, even black), I noticed that none of these gull were pure GWGU!

I will dispose of the “easiest” of the three first: The second bird is certainly in part a GWGU. The only question remaining is what is the other half, Western or Herring Gull? We may never know, but I would welcome any educated guesses!

The first and third birds are not so easy. The first not only has nearly black secondaries, but its bill is much too small to be related in any way to a GWGU or Herring Gull. My best guess is that it is a Thayer’s Gull. The third also looks like a Thayer’s to me, although in this case, I am guessing this is an “old” second year or a “young” third year transitioning to full adulthood. Does anyone have an alternative explanation?

BTW, one final, general comment is in order: I have been told by a few people to be cautious about the black or red stains on the bills, as they are a fairly unreliable way to identify gull species.

Mystery gull no. 1

Mystery gull no. 1

Glaucus-winged Gull hybrid (perhaps with a Western or Western Gull?)

Glaucus-winged Gull hybrid (perhaps with a Western or Western Gull?)

Mystery gull no. 2

Mystery gull no. 2

What species are we…

Hello All: I went on a little outing this afternoon and took my camera with me, just in case I might see a bird or two. And I did, more than I thought! In fact, I will post another picture from this outing soon on this site.

[UPDATE: I should point out that these photos were taken on Vancouver, B.C.’s North Shore]

For now, I would like to show you this pair of ducks and ask you: Do you know what species it is? Or is it more than one species, perhaps (even thought they were clearly hanging out together)? Major clues to look at: 1) The size and colour of the bill and 2) the shape of the top of the head. My National Geographic field guide helped me sort it all out, BTW.


Now I really need some help…

This is not a test (as the old saying goes): This time around, I would really appreciate your help with the following immature/juvenile bird photos. As you can see in the photos below, one of these birds had a relatively thin, black bill and the other’s is yellowish and a bit bigger (in the field, I thought they were the same bird, oddly enough). You can obtain a larger photo by clicking on the images below.

I am guessing that the first is a warbler, maybe a Yellow-rumped Warbler and that the other is some sort of finch or sparrow (maybe a Pine Siskin?). Are there any experts in immature passerines who can help me out? Neither of these birds are lifers for me, of course, but I would love to clear up the mystery. BTW, they were taken a few days ago in Stanley Park in Vancouver, BC.

Mystery Woodpecker

So this time around, I will challenge you with a woodpecker that stumped me at first (although I had my suspicions right from the start). I took this photo on Canada’s West Coast, in Vancouver, BC’s Stanley Park. To provide a bit of context, this bird was taken on a conifer, close to a Douglas Fir grove, in the first half of August. It wasn’t making much noise except for the occasional “peeps” characteristic of many smaller woodpeckers. It measured about 20-25 cm (8-9 inches, if you are metrically challenged). After a look at my books and some careful Googling, the answer seemed obvious to me. Can you figure it out? (If you need another look, I’ve posted another picture of the same individual on my personal blog.)


Can you identify this pair of flycatchers (Tyrannidea)?(Closed)

This pair of flycatchers was taken in Vernon, BC (in the Okanagan Valley) in early August. Clues: ring around the eyes, length of wings and wing bars. If you heard their song, you would know what they are…