So… My initial ID of this bird on Friday as a Long-tailed Jaeger, with closest views at 300 yards, was based on the pale face; cold, unstreaked breast; nearly black-and-white barring on the tail and flanks; rounded central retrices; bill 1/3 to 1/2 black at the tip.

Then I got closer. When I sat down with photographs from the boat trip yesterday, I started focusing on micro-details. I zoomed in on the shape of the nail on the upper mandible and focused on that rather than the overall amount of black on the bill, and it looked like the nail was less than half the length of the bill; I saw buff tips on the primary tips, and recalled from reading that this is a mark for Parasitic. I also saw white on the tips of the central tail feathers (good for Long-tailed), and the photos seem to confirm that the tail feathers are rounded, not pointed. I took into account the jizz of the bird, which does not have a buoyant flight as "they" say Long-tailed should. And in the course of all this, I started ignoring the overall appearance of the bird. Maybe I should have stayed at 300 yards…

Interesting to note is this web page, which has a photo of a very similar bird, followed by a host of comments that were fairly split between Long-tailed and Parasitic. The discussion was ended when Klaus Olsen (co-author of the "Skuas and Jaegers" book) called it a "rather typical Long-tailed. I think the problem is, that many tries to identify the bird based on sole characters - in field ID as many characters as possible should fit each other."

Link to that discussion here:

Fun fun fun!

Kristi Mayo
Kearney MO (Clay Co)
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