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Old Wednesday 20th July 2005, 04:40   #1
Terry O'Nolley
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Question Can flight characteristics help ID this blue bird?

I was at a new local patch yesterday and was amazed by all of the activity there.

I saw a bird fly past me that was a very bright blue color. It wan't the irridescent blue of Grackles or Starlings - it was the bright blue of a Blue Jay but this bird was sparrow-sized at the largest.

It's wings beat very fast and continuously and it flew in an undulating manner.
When I used to think of undulating flight, I thought of the type of undulation where each wingbeat, or perhaps 2 wingbeats, produce the up arc and the bird coasted for the down arc. Well this bird beat its wings very rapidly and continuously as it undulated up and down.

Its wings were moving too fast for me to tell anything at all about their coloring. They looked like a grey blur and I saw it mainly from slightly above and to the side. It was flying very low over an open field from one tree line to the next and passed within 20 feet of me at the closest point. It landed on an exposed branch on a tall tree but flew off before I could get close enough for a look.

The only mainly blue birds in this area that are that size are Indigo and Lazuli Buntings and Cerulean and Black-throated Blue Warblers and its size was small so I am leaning towards a warbler.

I am certainly not going to tick a bird based on this, but, to better prepare me for what to look for next time, can the bird I saw be narrowed down by the flight characteristics I detailed?
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Old Wednesday 20th July 2005, 08:15   #2
Progne Subis
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Hmmm... quite curious. I know of many sparrow-sized birds that have undulating flight but none with flight characteristics quite like how you have explained. Do you live in a mountainous area, perhaps consider a Mountain Bluebird.
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Old Wednesday 20th July 2005, 08:21   #3
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Just to be pedantic, Maryland has neither Lazuli Buntings nor Mountain Bluebirds. Both species have a western distribution.

"Very bright blue" says Indigo Bunting to me.

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Old Wednesday 20th July 2005, 12:48   #4
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I would guess that the bird was either an male Indigo Bunting or an Eastern Bluebird. The bunting would be of the small sparrow size and the bluebird would be of the size of a large sparrow.
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Old Wednesday 20th July 2005, 19:12   #5
Terry O'Nolley
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blackstart
Just to be pedantic, Maryland has neither Lazuli Buntings....
You are correct. I misinterpreted the map that Peterson provided (didn't provide) - they listed the Lazuli Bunting directly below the Indigo bunting but neglected to provide a map for the Lazuli so I thought both bird's ranges were covered by the Indigo's map. When I checked my Sibley, I saw the map.

And I appreciate corrections! You may have saved me many frustrating moments in the future trying to tell whether the female bunting I was observing was an Indigo or a Lazuli
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Old Wednesday 20th July 2005, 19:18   #6
Terry O'Nolley
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Progne Subis
Hmmm... quite curious. I know of many sparrow-sized birds that have undulating flight but none with flight characteristics quite like how you have explained. Do you live in a mountainous area, perhaps consider a Mountain Bluebird.
This wasn't in a mountainous area - relatively flat with some low hills. Semi-rural with scattered pockets of trees and open fields and agricultural land.

I didn't mean to suggest that the flight was a really jerky, wildly rolling sort of undulation. I would estimate that the peak-peak length of an undulation was about 20 feet and during one undulation he probably beat his wings ~20 times.

Does that sound anything like a Bunting's flight?
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Old Wednesday 20th July 2005, 19:20   #7
Terry O'Nolley
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Lade
I would guess that the bird was either an male Indigo Bunting or an Eastern Bluebird. The bunting would be of the small sparrow size and the bluebird would be of the size of a large sparrow.
The overall consensus is leaning towards Indigo Bunting. I am fairly familiar with Eastern Bluebirds and this just didn't make me think of that.

I'll bone up on the IB before I head over there again. If I can get a good ID it will be a lifer for me :)
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Old Wednesday 20th July 2005, 19:58   #8
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Gosh, what was I thinking, thanks for doing the "research" Blackstart.
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Old Wednesday 20th July 2005, 20:36   #9
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The problem is that "Blue" has so many colors within it.

As you might guess from the name, Indigo Buntings are, well, indigo, a dark purplish blue with a sheen to it, don't look anything like Blue Jay blue in my opinion, and I would have trouble confusing the two colors.

Black-throated Blue Warbler is a dark blue bird with a lot of black to them, again, I sure don't think Blue Jay blue when I think one.

Eastern Bluebird isn't that far away from Blue Jay blue, but that red belly is pretty hard to miss.

A male Cerulean would be closest in coloration to a Blue Jay, not just the blue but the white belly and bits of black as well -- not to mention being smaller than a sparrow.

Consider it a good excuse to study up on all four species. When you get a good look at any of them in a binoculars, I think you will see that sorting out those four isn't difficult. Good luck!
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Old Thursday 21st July 2005, 16:44   #10
Terry O'Nolley
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thayeri
A male Cerulean would be closest in coloration to a Blue Jay, not just the blue but the white belly and bits of black as well -- not to mention being smaller than a sparrow.
Did the flight characteristics I recounted jibe with the flight of a Cerulean Warbler? I'll dig into my Peterson Warblers book and see if they talk about it there. Thanks for your reply!
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