Photo Quiz 6: Where Am I? Edition

By Hugh Powell
January 22, 2010
Researcher Martjan LammertinkResearcher Martjan Lammerink. Photo by Hugh Powell.
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In our last photo quiz just before the holidays, you all pretty seamlessly picked out both kinds of wigeons in the picture—nice work and a good example of the value of a long clear look at a bird. If only all sightings were the equivalent of a full-frame shot of birds frozen in motion!

This first quiz of the new year is a little grainy but it still shows you everything you need to make a fairly quick and confident identification. That’s why I’m going one step further and asking you to do a bit more detective work.

I took this photo on day two of my blissful holiday vacation. By knowing the names of the two organisms in the frame, you should be able to deduce where I spent my December vacation. Maybe not with GPS accuracy, but you can come up with a reasonably specific placename. I just love that about birding.

And for beginning birders, this is still a pretty good exercise for your field guide. This is another one of those odd-shaped birds that doesn’t look quite like its more widespread relatives. And it’s a great way to practice using the first two keys to identification, Size & Shape and Color Pattern. (Our free Inside Birding video series helps you practice this, too.)

So drop us a comment and let us know: What bird is this? What about it makes you say that? And where did I go over the holidays? Thanks for playing!

Like these photo quizzes? Check out Quiz 1, Quiz 2, Quiz 3, Quiz 4, and Quiz 5.


  • herniaharrier

    Saguaro National Monument, Arizona! It’s a Crested Caracara sitting on a Saguaro Cactus.

  • Crested Caracara on a Saguaro Cactus, so its most likely Southeastern Arizona or somewhere in Northern Mexico. We had a vagrant Caracara here in Idaho between Christmas and New Years!

  • Hugh

    Excellent guesses, both of you – but now I have to admit that the location part of this quiz is a little trickier than it seems. And that’s because the plant ID is a little harder than it seems. Is that enough of a hint? At any rate, great detective work so far!

    Don’t forget to tell us a little about how you know it’s a caracara. That’s one of the weirdest hawks in North America-so what do you use to recognize it?

  • Clearly a Crested Caracara perched on a Cardon cactus in Baja, Mexico; a common enough, but delightful sight. Hope you enjoyed your Baja vacation. Did you make it to Mulege?

  • Carara ID is fairly easy. We have both Crested and Yello-headed occurring in overlapping ranges in Costa Rica. The Crested has the large black cap, flatish head, strongly contrasting body colors, large beak. Perches upright.

    Cardon cactuses grow with upright arms that grow very long/tall. Much larger than their northern cousins the Suguaro.

    We live directly above the Tarcoles River in Costa Rica where both species occur. We have also spent many months traveling through Baja, Mexico!

  • Liz Hornbreaker

    I don’t know about the cactus (or the location), but it’s definitely a Crested Caracara. I recognize it through the combination of dark crest and white neck, and the heavy bill plus the sense that something is “weird” about the face. The facial skin changes color, but at a glance you can tell that there’s something unusual about the coloring on the bird’s head.

    I spotted a caracara as a beginning birder while driving on the highway in south Texas, and these impressions helped me instantly identify it as “that weird raptor from my Sibley’s guide.”

  • It is a Caracara, somewhere in Arizona or Sonora desert.