30 July 2009

Western Spindalis - the dirt

Edit: This was originally posted 7/29/09 at 8:45 pm, your RSS feed isn't messed up, we're just shuffling blog settings!

Common Name - Western Spindalis
Scientific Name - Spindalis zena
Age: adult
Sex: male and female
Date Observed: July 28, 2009

Time Of Day: Noon
Duration Of Observation: 45 minutes
Sky Conditions: Bright and clear
Exact Location: Everglades National Park

Habitat: Pine flatwoods with mixed palmetto understory.
Distance From Bird: 5 meters at closest, 20 on average
Optical Equipment: 8x42 and 10x42 binoculars

Relationship of Sun/Observer/Bird: Initial observations ranged from optimal (sun at our backs while watching the birds) to poorly silhouetted.

Others Who Saw Bird: MWY
Others Who Independently IDed Bird: MWY
Anyone Known To Disagree: -

Vocalizations: Male was silent at first observation, plaintively cheeped a high, thin note - was responded to by female in similar fashion. When the pair flew off together, both chirped the single notes. After ~20 mins of observation, the male perched in the pines and sang a high, thin series of "weeky weeky" squeaking into buzzy notes (the squeaking was reminiscent of Black & White Warbler). He preened and sang intermittently for about 5 minutes.

Male - Initial impression was bold dark/white contrast on wing, reminiscent of male Rose-breasted Grosbeak. The head was a stark black & white pattern (white supercilium and malar) above a sunset "v" on the breast that extended to the nape, with white belly and pale vent contrasting with a dark tail. Overall impression was a somewhat stocky bird (grosbeak or towhee in size/posture - barely larger than nearby warblers though), with a slim beak.
Female - Overall a nondescript brown bird of similar size and shape of the male. Pale belly and vent contrasted with darker tail.

Species Eliminated And Why: Black-headed Grosbeak - beak was too slim, facial patterns wrong. Bananaquit - size, posture, beak and behavior didn't fit.

Previous Experience With This Species: None

Previous Experience With Similar Species: Black-headed Grosbeak - Matthew and I have lived in their range for several years, seeing all ages and plumages several times per year. Bananaquit - I spent a week with them in Grand Cayman.

ID'd Before Consulting Guides: Yes

What Influenced Your Decision: Absolute conspicuous coloration of the male, unmistakable recognition from memorizing the field guide (for Matthew, anyway). The female was guilty by association - vocalization, size and behavior.

Materials Submitted: link to seetrail's Western Spindalis album

Observer Name: Trudell & York

1 comment:

  1. Awesome report on the Spindalis, congrats on all your lifers while down in S. Florida. Thanks for alerting local birders about such a cool bird.

    Nature is Awesome
    Angel & Mariel