ID ENTIFY YOURSELF
AlvAro JArAmillo Scaup
There are lots of bird identification problems in North Amer- ica, but some of them are in a special category. These are birds that are relatively common and widespread and are often
found alongside their closest look-alike. Among this group are
the yellowlegs, downy and hairy woodpeckers, white egrets,
willow and alder flycatcher—and greater and lesser scaup.
There are a bunch of others, but these are the imperative
challenges, because they’re the ones you’ll likely face again
and again. You are not all that likely to have to distinguish a
sharp-tailed sandpiper from Asia from a pectoral sandpiper,
because the sharp-tailed is extremely rare in North America.
The number of times you will be called on to identify a European Arctic loon or a loggerhead kingbird from the Caribbean—well, you may never have to know these things.
But hairy versus downy, greater versus lesser yellowlegs—
these come up again and again. As the Sills’ humorous book A
Field Guide to Little-Known and Seldom-Seen Birds of North
America suggests, it really does seem like there is a “middle
yellowlegs” and a “slightly lesser yellowlegs” out there,
because it certainly isn’t as simple as the guides make this
identification out to be.