Thursday, October 08, 2009

Vested interest

Flycatcher Tutorial
Attention, class! Please study the three photos below, all taken by Central Park photographer David Speiser
[Yes he had an Olive-sided after all!]

Eastern Wood-pewee - 9/16/08

Olive-sided Flycatcher [Maine]

Eastern Phoebe [in Central Park today]

Which one has the darkest breast?

Earlier today I reported that an Olive-sided Flycatcher was seen in the park today and I wrote: It's the only flycatcher that seems to be wearing a dark "vest".

An e-mail from Jack Meyer, one of our park's best birders, arrived a few hours later with the word Correction in the subject line. He wrote:

Marie, The Olive-sided is not the only flycatcher that wears a vest. The Eastern Wood-Pewee also is vested. Jack

I usually defer to Jack Meyer, who is not only a much better birder than I am, but also something of a scholar on the subject. But this time I must rise to my own defense:

Jack! I did modify the word vest with the adjective dark. Though all three of these flycatchers have plumage that resembles a vest,[well, at least two of them have definite vests] most people agree that the Olive-sided's vest is the only one that may be described as dark.

PS Jack also sent the following thoughts about flycatchers
In the words of the inimitable Pete Dunne (Essential Field Guide Companion) "Dingy gray upperparts and extremely blurry streaked sides give the bird an open vested appearance. Pewees button the top button of their vests."

Dunne also describes Olive-sided as "a small town politician in an old dark suit that doesn't fit anymore." [Marie's emphasis]

Both quotes from p 392 of the Essential Field Guide Companion. Incidentally, that's a book every serious birder should own. Much more useful than another pictorial field guide.

PPS from Marie
In his famous field guide, Sibley describes the Olive-sided Flycatcher as having "an obvious dark 'vest'" Meanwhile he describes the pewee's vest as "dusky". So dusk precedes dark, doesn't it? More light at dusk. As for the phoebe, its vest is barely perceptible. Sibley simply says "smudge on sides of breast" Could this be the "pictorial field guide" Jack is referring to above?

What do you think?