Subject: Audubon handbook IDs
Date: Sep 7 18:56:51 1994
From: Dennis Paulson - dpaulson at

I agree with Alvaro Jaramillo's judgments on the identifications of the
photos in the Audubon handbooks, with just a few caveats/additions. What a
great job you did, Alvaro! By the way, how many people use these books,

EASTERN HANDBOOK, p. 40, Herring Gull (3) is paler than most first-year
California Gulls, perhaps the interior Larus californicus albertaensis is
paler than L. c. californicus, as is the case in adults. Also, is it my
imagination or does that bird show a slightly paler eye? If so, it's not a
California. But I guess it must be; Herrings don't normally show that much
pink in the bill until their backs are gray. BTW, both Herring and
Ring-billed are printed too dark in my copy.

p. 68, Great Cormorant (1) is I believe a Double-crested, from the pale
bill, orangish throat pouch with typical D-c configuration, and lack of
dark-capped, white-throated effect typical of imm. Great.

p. 284, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher. Al will probably have discovered by now
that bird (2) is actually labelled as an Acadian--a very confusing aspect
of these books was to treat similar species in this manner.

There is of course a lot more that can be said about these books besides
species identification, e.g. the "winter" Red-throated Loon (p. 73) is an
immature, the female Barrow's Goldeneye (p. 84) is a western bird, as they
don't have an all-orange bill in the East. The Bell's Vireo (p. 476) is
surely a western bird too, misleading to easterners in its dullness. And
isn't it lovely that the "winter" female Oldsquaw (p. 87) has downy young
at that time of year! I didn't pursue this line of questioning throughout
the book, but a particularly bad error that I noticed is under Tree Swallow
(p. 263), where it shows a first-year female and misleads the reader into
thinking all females are dull. Rampant sexism again by a live white male

WESTERN HANDBOOK, p. 20, Glaucous-winged Gull (3) is far too dark to be
useful, perhaps a G-w X Western hybrid. Again, the adult gulls in my copy
are printed much too dark; the California (p.27) is darker than many of our
NW Western Gulls, the Ring-billed and Herring are dark enough to be
Californias. Terribly misleading if they are all printed that way.

Brandt's Cormorant (p. 73) (1) has an amazingly long tail for this species,
but I guess the head feathering and puffy crown make it a Brandt's, all

Semipalmated Sandpiper (p. 168) (1) is a Western Sandpiper, for the reasons
given in my shorebird book (oops, now you have to buy a copy).

This is exhausting, like encountering all the birds of North America on a
field trip and trying to identify them. Would this be a birder's version of
heaven or hell?

If you could forward this to BIRDCHAT for me, Dan, I'd appreciate it. Thanks.

Dennis Paulson
University of Puget Sound
Tacoma, WA