Project Chekov: Flycatchers and Friends

Today’s post required some assistance from Facebook (shudder).  I was struggling terribly with trying to identify the featured bird shown below.

The problem wasn’t so much the category because the crest and general shape is easily identifiable as a Flycatcher, but there are a number of different types of Flycatchers with subtle nuances.  Every reference book on my shelf was rifled through at least twice trying to narrow it down – even went so far as to go through every page of the Stokes book while traveling up to the Quad Cities to see if I was overlooking some other bird.  When that failed to produce a good match, I went and spent a couple of hours on Google Images to see if there happened to be a hit there – NO LUCK.

The problem isn’t so much the shape.  Based on the smaller stature and the bill, it is pretty easy to ID it as an Eastern Phoebe.  That is assuming you do not focus much on the coloring.  That is the tricky part.  Eastern Phoebes have an all whitish breast.  This one got darker on the bottom.  In fact, it looked the complete opposite of the Black Phoebe which has already made a debut on the blog (link here).  Although there is not a good breast shot on that post, they are black on top and then turn to white half way down.  So that was completely out for this particular bird.  It looked so cute, I could hardly go any further without getting a good classification on it, so I employed my wife to submit a picture on an Illinois Birding Facebook page.  It didn’t take long for some feedback to start rolling in.  One of Linda’s friend’s husband agreed with me that it was an Eastern Phoebe.  So that part was pretty much settled, but was still curious on the coloring.  Here’s another shot … he’s a cutie.

Hit the jump learn about the likely answer to the coloring issue

Continue reading Project Chekov: Flycatchers and Friends