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hoto quizzes in Birding often are based on

a theme that links the species selected.
What is the theme here? We have three
birdsa duck and two small sparrow-like LBJs
that on first glance do not seem to have much in
common. Perhaps there is a regional theme to
this quiz. Or perhaps a theme will emerge after
we have identified the species. So lets get to it.

Quiz Bird A

narrow spots along the flanks. Mandarin Duck

hens have light nails on the bill, a narrow and
even eye-ring that forms a clean line behind the
eye, and large roundish spotting on the flanks
characters that are shown by our quiz bird.
Mandarin Ducks in their native lands are of
conservation concern because of wetland destruction and hunting pressure, but the species
was accorded Least Concern status due to its
wide range and population size (IUCN 2007).
Ironically, a substantial portion of the overall
population of Mandarin Ducks is found in

This duck, with its obvious crest, bold facial pattern, heavily spotted breast, primaries held
erect, and rather long tail, is a member of
the genus Aix. Only two species belong to
this genus, the Wood Duck of North America and the Mandarin Duck (A. galericulata) of southeastern Russia, northeastern
China, and Japan. Drakes of both species
feature spectacular basic plumages (see
Pyle 2005) and are among the most colorful waterfowl in the world. Although much
drabber than basic males, hen Wood and
Mandarin Ducks are subtly elegant. The attractive plumages of these two species have
resulted in their widespread inclusion in
Quiz Photo AJanuary.
waterfowl collections. Numerous introductions have been attempted outside their native
Britainmore than 7,000 individuals by 1988
ranges, while other individuals have escaped
(del Hoyo et al. 1992), as a result of introductions
which raises identification issues in both the Old
in the 1920s1930s (Long 1981, Lever 1987).
World and the New World.
Mandarin Ducks were introduced into Sonoma
Drake Wood and Mandarin Ducks
County, California, in 1977, and the population,
are easily distinguished from each othwhich was initially dependent on humans for
8515 Village Mill Row
er, but hens of both species are similar
food and nest boxes (Shurtleff and Savage 1996),
Bayonet Point, Florida 34667 and can easily be overlookedand
numbered 550 birds by 1987 (Lever 1987), but
how many of us look for Mandarin
these are not mentioned at all by Johnston and
Ducks when we go birding? Field
Garrett (1994). Although scattered individuals or
marks that distinguish the two species include
pairs of Mandarin Ducks are found elsewhere in
bill-nail color, extent of the white postocular
California and in Florida and other states, these
stripe, and size and shape of flank spotting. Wood
are considered to be local releases or escapees
Duck hens have bills with dark nails, a wide and
(AOU 1998). This captive Mandarin Duck was
somewhat uneven white eye patch that forms a
photographed in January 2003 at the Phoenix
teardrop shape behind the eye, and small and
Zoo by E. J. Peiker.

Bill Pranty


B I R D I N G M AY / J U N E 2 0 0 7

Quiz Bird B
Here we have a small passerine, with rather nondescript
plumage and a stout conical bill, perched on a stem eating
seeds. The bird was photographed in California. Its
plumage is rich brown above, darker on the face, and with
rufous edges to the flight feathers and uppertail coverts.
The breast and flanks are rich buffy, and the belly and undertail coverts are pale. The soft parts are blackish and the
eye appears to be small. Primary extension is short, and
the tail is of short or moderate length.
The conical bill and granivorous diet rule out small
passerines such as vireos and wood-warblers, none of
which resemble our quiz bird anyway. The plumage lacks
crown stripes, eye-rings, eye-lines, wing bars, or streaking
anywhere on the body, and so excludes all emberizids
(American sparrows and Old
World buntings) and fringillids
(winter finches). The size and
body proportions match those of
grassquits, but most grassquits
differ considerably in plumage
from the quiz bird. Female Blackfaced Grassquit is more similar to
the quiz bird, but has a pale bill,
sooty upperparts, and a pale head
and underparts. Location also
rules out any grassquit as a native
vagrant, but many species are kept
as cage birds and thus might be
found in California. Females or
immatures of certain cardinalids
(American buntings) resemble our
quiz bird but are larger, have largQuiz Photo BNovember.
er eyes, and lack the rufous edges
to the flight feathers. Additionally, the Varied Bunting has
a pale bill and the Blue Bunting (which is extralimital to
Californiaat least naturally) has a shorter, stouter bill
and lacks the pale underparts.
We have just ruled out all likely contenders for our quiz
bird without finding a match. So lets take a closer look at
it, with an eye toward something more exotic. Sharp-eyed
viewers will note the single black-and-white scaled feather
molting in on the side of the birds breast. No passerine native to North America shows this pattern of a white feather
boldly edged in black and with a concentric black semi-circle in the feathers interior. Birders armed with only a few,
mostly older field guides might be stumped by our quiz

W W W. A M E R I C A N B I R D I N G . O R G

bird, but birders with more recent guides (especially those

by National Geographic or David Sibley) should eventually find it. It is a juvenile Nutmeg Mannikin (Lonchura punctulata), a species known by a bewildering assortment of alternate English names such as Nutmeg Finch, Ricebird,
Scaly-breasted Mannikin, Scaly-breasted Munia, Spice Bird,
Spice Finch, and especially Spotted Munia. Nutmeg Mannikins are native to India, Nepal, China, and Southeast Asia
to the East Indies and Philippines. (Do not confuse Old
World mannikins of the family Estrildidae with New World
manakins of the family Pipridae.) Restall (1997) recognizes
41 species of Lonchura, with those from Africa and New
Guinea referred to as mannikins, those from Indo-Asia
known as munias, two Afro-Indian species called silverbills, and two Indonesian species (often placed by others in
the genus Padda) known as sparrows. Only adult Nutmeg
Mannikins display the bold blackand-white scaled pattern on the
breast and flanks that our quiz bird
is just starting to molt into.
The Nutmeg Mannikin is an extremely variable species, comprising 13 or more subspecies (Restall
1997). The nominate subspecies,
native to the Indian subcontinent,
is the race found in North America
(Garrett 2000; personal observation) and is illustrated (with varying degrees of accuracy) in several
recent field guides. Adults are
identified from other subspecies by
the black (rather than gray) bill,
the bold black-bordered feathering
lacking any brown coloring on the
breast and flanks, and the rufous
to orangey uppertail coverts (Restall 1997, Garrett 2000).
Juvenile Nutmeg Mannikins cannot be distinguished from
juveniles of some other Lonchura speciesincluding those
that may be found in the ABA Areabased on plumage
(Restall 1997).
Populations of Nutmeg Mannikins seem to be established in weedy river bottoms and flood-control basins in
coastal California, numbering in the hundreds to thousands of individuals in the San Francisco, San Diego, and
especially Los Angeles metropolitan areas (Garrett 1995,
2000; Pranty 2006b; these populations are overlooked by
AOU 1998). However, the California Bird Records Committee has not yet voted to ratify this population. (Why



has this action not yet occurred? I return to the matter in

my concluding remarks, below.) In any event, Nutmeg
Mannikin remains non-countable from an ABA perspective. A few mannikins occur in Florida, but no population
is established there (AOU 1998; personal observation; contra Sibley 2000, 2003). Elsewhere in the New World, populations are established in Hawaii and Jamaica (AOU
1998). Several other species of Lonchura have been reported in the United States (AOU 1998), with seven species
(including Java Sparrow) from Florida (Pranty 2004), but
most of these are not known to be breeding at present or
have been extirpated. This Nutmeg Mannikin was photographed in November 1999
in Orange County, California,
by Kimball L. Garrett.

Quiz Bird C
We have another small passerine perched on a stem, facing
somewhat away from us. This
bird too was photographed in
California. With its conical bill
and streaked upperparts, it
looks very much like a sparrow.
And with its large, flattened
head and short tail, our quiz
bird most closely resembles an Quiz Photo CNovember.
Ammodramus sparrow, especially a Grasshopper Sparrow.
Since our view of the quiz bird is incomplete, lets also
consider Bobolink as a contender, although our bird
seems too small, based on the size of the leaves and stem
it is perched on. The crown of the quiz bird is dark, the
lores and eyebrow are creamy, there is no obvious eyering, and the dark cheek contrasts with the paler nape. Because of the viewing angle, we cannot see if a median
crown stripe or malar streaks are present. The dark eye
seems large, the bill is dusky-pinkish, and the legs and feet
are dull pink. The feathers on the upperparts are simply
patterned: dark with bold pale edges. The wings show little or no primary extension, so were looking at a species
that would seem to be largely non-migratory. The underpartswhat we can see of them anywayappear to be
whitish and plain or perhaps have very faint streaking.
The short primary extension on our quiz bird allows us
to immediately rule out Bobolink, which has a long primary extension to allow for its extraordinary 20,000-kilo-


meter annual migrations. Other features that rule out

Bobolink include its larger size, bold black crown with a
pale median stripe, streaking along the flanks, and a more
complicated patterning on the upperparts. So we are looking at a Grasshopper Sparrow, right? Um... No, we are not.
Our quiz bird differs from a Grasshopper Sparrow in
several respects. The narrow but conspicuous white eyering of the Grasshopper Sparrow is lacking, the creamy
eyebrow is too bold, the cheek patch is too dark, the bill
shows some pink, and the patterning on the upperparts is
too simple. If we were looking at this bird in the field, we
would see that its large head
and short tail give it a frontheavy, dumpy appearance, that
its crown lacks a bold median
stripe except on the forecrown,
that its rectrices are rather
broad and blunt rather than
spiky, andespeciallythat
its long undertail coverts nearly
obscure the undertail. If the
bird became agitated, it might
often flick open its tail in the
manner of a Blue Grosbeak. So
what is this bird? For most of
the reasons just stated, our quiz
bird is not any other Ammodramus, nor any other American
sparrownor, for that matter,
any other native passerine.
Again turning to our National Geographic or Sibley field
guide, we eventually find our quiz bird, right next to Nutmeg Mannikin. It is an Orange Bishop (Euplectes franciscanus, a.k.a. Northern Red Bishop) in female plumage,
which means that it is a basic-plumage male, a female, or
an immature. The nine species of bishops and eight species
of widowbirds that make up the genus Euplectes are members of the weaver family (Ploceidae). All species in the
genus are native to sub-Saharan Africa, and many species
are found in aviculture. Weavers are named for their elaborate, suspended nests built of plant fibers woven together.
Males in alternate plumage are spectacular birds, with male
widowbirds growing dramatic tail feathers that in some
species are three to four times their body length. Male bishops lack these breeding adornments but molt into bright
plumages, usually red, orange, or yellow bodies often with
black faces or masks. Alternate-plumage male Orange Bishops are very similar to Red Bishops (E. orix; a.k.a. Southern

B I R D I N G M AY / J U N E 2 0 0 7

Red Bishop, not included in any North American field

guide) except that the chin and throat of Orange Bishops
are orange whereas they are black in Red Bishops. Bishops
in female plumage, however, can be distinguished in the
field only with extensive experience with all species, especially with vocalizations (Craig 1992). Measurement data
allow in-hand identification of the genus but are of limited
field utility (Craig 1992). The bills of female-plumage Orange Bishops are usually wholly pink, but the bill in our
quiz bird appears dusky.
About 500 Orange Bishops, first discovered breeding in
1991, are found in weedy river bottoms and flood-control
basins in southern California, especially in Los Angeles
and Orange Counties, often occurring sympatrically with
Nutmeg Mannikins (Johnston and Garrett 1994; Garrett
1995, 1998). The population seems to have decreased in
the past several years (K. L. Garrett, personal comment). A
small breeding population of perhaps 15 Orange Bishops
occupies similar habitat at Phoenix, Arizona (Gatz 2001,
Pranty 2006a). Elsewhere in the New World, Orange Bishop populations are present in Bermuda, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico (AOU 1998), and Yellow-crowned Bishops (E. afer)
are found in Hawaii, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico (Downer
and Sutton 1990, AOU 1998; personal observation). Other species of Euplectes have been found in the ABA Area
four others have been reported in Florida (Pranty 2004)
but there are few or no breeding observations. This Orange
Bishop was photographed in November 1999 in Los Angeles County, California, by Kimball L. Garrett.

So there is a theme to this quiz after all: non-countable

exotics lurking among native species and deceiving birders who might rush to an identification before considering
all options, including some plumagesor even some
speciesnot found in their field guides. The theme of exotic birds is often (but decreasingly?) frowned upon by
some ABA members, and usually is accompanied by the
asking of the following two questions: (1) Why should we
pay attention to exotics that we cannot count on our lists?
(2) Why should we care about exotics at all?after all,
they dont belong here.
The first question, that of ignoring exotics that arent
countable, answers itself: How can we know when (or
if) an exotic bird meets criteria for establishment (and
therefore becomes countable) if we do not study it? Obviously, we cannot know. Studying an exotic bird can be

W W W. A M E R I C A N B I R D I N G . O R G

as simple as point-count surveys or roost counts conducted over a period of several months or a year or twojust
the type of project that birders are so often enthused
about. But compared to their enthusiasm for chasing and
counting countable exotics, birders seem to be particularly non-enthused about surveying exotic birds, for some
reason or reasons unfathomable to me.
The second question, concerning why we should care at
all about exotics, was most recently asked in Birding in a
letter by Jim Sipiora in the December 2003 issue, p. 572.
Ironically, in stating that We do not know the long-term
consequences of introducing non-native species on ones
that are native to this continent, Sipiora gives one of the
primary reasons why studying exotics is so importantbecause we do not know what impact (if any) exotics are having on native species or ecosystems, on agriculture or animal husbandry, or on human health or commerce. Our
need to learn more about exotic birds in the ABA Area is
magnified by two facts: Exotics seem to be here for the long
term, and the populations of many exotics are increasing
(at the same time, interestingly enough, when other exotics
are decreasing in range and numbers). Even that august
body known as the Committee on Classification and
Nomenclature of the American Ornithologists Union
(AOU 1998:xiii) has urged ornithologists and birders to
pay close attention to species introduced in their areas and
to document constancy of occurrence and changes in population size. Introduced species often are neglected, although they provide opportunity for fascinating research.
Birders in southern Florida observe certain traditions:
searching for 20 species of warblers in Everglades National
Park during a single day to start off the year list; chasing the
latest zena Western Spindalis to stray from the Bahamas;
observing a truly amazing variety of exotics (more than 135
species have been reported in Miami-Dade County; Pranty
2006c), including birds such as Woolly-necked Stork, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, and Superb Starling, to name but a
few; andfor a very few birdersrailing against members
of the Florida Ornithological Society Records Committee
and ABA Checklist Committee for not adding the Common
Myna to the state and national lists. (To maintain civility
we wont discuss these same birders opinions of records
committee votes of Red-legged Honeycreepers in Florida...)
To be sure, populations of the Common Myna in Florida likely number in the thousands, are expanding in range
and probably also in numbers, and apparently have been
established for years. But these birders do not seem to understand that records committees maintain the status quo



until a publication recommends a

change. This conservative approach requires a sense of due process in ornithology, wherein a jury (records
committee) examines evidence provided by others (a publication by birders
or ornithologists) and passes judgment
(e.g., on whether or not a population is
established). And considering that
most ornithologists are either studying
species of conservation concern (thats
where much of the research money is)
or studying bird relationships in the
lab using DNA techniques, it is increasingly up to birders to monitor
populations of exotic birds, to compile
data, and to publish results. Then, and
only then, can members of a bird
records committee vote to add an exotic species to a state, provincial, or continental list.
Yes, the birding community still contains a few lovable old dinosaurs from
the California 1970s, whose lists still
obey the injunction regarding NIBs
(no introduced birds). But our interest
in and knowledge of exotic birds has expanded massively in the decades since,
and much of this knowledge has been
gathered in southern California by Kimball L. Garrett and collaborators. As
proof of a surging interest in exotics,
one merely has to trace the inclusion of
full accounts of, say, psittacids in North
American field guides: from 4 species in
Peterson (1980) to 16 in Sibley (2000,
2003). And it is not just parrots in California or Florida that have caught our
fancy: Theres an amazingly diverse
menagerie of exotics from around the
globe inhabitingor infesting, depending on your point of viewsome of the
ABA Area. Things like Mute Swans in
the Chesapeake Bay, Himalayan Snowcocks in Nevada, Sacred Ibises and Purple Swamphens in the Everglades, Spotted Doves in Los Angeles, Peach-faced
Lovebirds in Phoenix, Monk Parakeets


in Chicago and the Northeast, Great

Tits in the Great Lakes region, Redvented Bulbuls in Houston, Common
and Hill Mynas in Miami, Eurasian Tree
Sparrows in the Midwest, and Nutmeg
Mannikins and Orange Bishops in
southern California. Not all of these
species deserve to be ratified as established and countable, of course, but
they all do deserve to have their populations monitored periodically by birders.
Theres a final point to consider
about exotic birdsnamely, that some
of them are among the most beautiful,
charismatic, and spectacular species to
be found in the ABA Area. Birders who
ignore these species simply because
they dont belong here are denied
countless pleasures of observation and
discovery. And didnt we become birders because we enjoy looking at birds?

I thank Kimball L. Garrett for providing information and references, and for
reviewing an earlier draft of this article.

Literature Cited
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del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott, and J. Sargatal, eds.
1992. Handbook of Birds of the World. Volume 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions,
Craig, A.J.F.K. 1992. The identication of Euplectes bishops in non-breeding plumage.
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Downer, A., and R. Sutton. 1990. Birds of Jamaica. Cambridge University Press.
Garrett, K.L. 1995. A closer look. Western Tanager 62(3):45.
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Garrett, K.L. 2000. The juvenile Nutmeg Man-

nikin: Identication of a little brown bird.

Western Birds 31:130131.
Gatz, T.A. 2001. Orange Bishops breeding in
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IUCN [International Union for Conservation of
Nature and Natural Resources]. 2007. IUCN
Red List of Threatened Species <>. Website visited 21 Jan 2007.
Johnston, R.F., and K.L. Garrett. 1994. Population trends of introduced birds in western
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Long, J.L. 1981. Introduced Birds of the World.
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Peterson, R.T. 1980. A Field Guide to the Birds,
4th edition. Houghton-Miin, Boston.
Pranty, B. 2004. Floridas exotic avifauna: A
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North America. National Geographic Society, Washington.
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