Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wednesday Search Challenge (4/9/14): What kind of bird is that?

It's spring in Palo Alto, finally, after a long delayed arrival of the rains.  The start of the year has started late, so everything is a bit delayed.  The flowers are slow in arriving, and look to be a bit shorter and a bit fewer this year. 

But just recently one of my favorite springtime events took place to set everything aright. 

I stepped outside and heard a very high pitched, slight, piping sound coming from a large number of birds.  I have a large bush that's full of berries, and in the bush I saw lots of movement.  A flock of my favorite birds had returned to have a breakfast en masse.  They seem to sweep through twice a year, once in spring, and once in the fall, as they migrate from place to place, always pausing where there's food.  

I tried taking a picture, but my lens wasn't long enough and they're pretty fast.  Luckily, my good friend (and superb photographer) Bill Walker was able to take this wonderful photo. 

Credit:  Bill Walker. Link to his site.

These truly are my favorite birds, although some farmers might think otherwise.  There's something about their sleek appearance and very social behavior that make them seem especially interesting.  

Although I know what kind of bird this is, I thought on the occasion of their annual migration, they would make for an curious Search Challenge.  

Obviously, you could just do an image search and find this picture on Bill's site, and then you'd have the answer.  But let's see if we can solve this WITHOUT search-by-image.  (There's method in my madness--suppose I'd taken the photo and not posted it onto the net, in that case, search-by-image often doesn't work.  We need to develop this "regular search" skill for birds as well.)  

1.  What kind of birds are these?  (Common name and Latin names, please.  No fair using Search-By-Image this time!)  
2.  In his masterwork on the illustrations of American birds, the great artist and ornithologist John James Audubon gave this bird a common name that is no longer used.  What is the common name that he used for this bird? 
3.  Speaking of that book--I'd really like to see an actual copy of the masterwork.  Where's the closest copy to me (in California)?  (For extra credit:  Is there a copy I could actually touch and turn the pages with my own (gloved) hands?) 

Let us know how you found the answers.  I'll tell you what I know on Friday. 

Search on! 


  1. Love this challenge of taking away a go-to tool to hone or learn other skills.

    Began with a search for [ california migratory bird list ] and got nowhere fast.

    Without flipping back to your post I tried [ california migratory bird crest yellow ] from what I remembered. Hit upon the Cedar Waxwing Bird on Wikipedia. I thought I would be on a good path because they had the Audubon image, but it was low-res and couldn't make out what he had labeled it.

    Image Search [ "cedar waxwing" "john james audubon" ] and use the Search Tools for Large size pictures. The first result told me his illustration was from "The Birds of America" 1840.

    Search Google Books for [ "john james audubon" ] limiting it to free ebooks using the search tools. Found that there were different volumes.
    [ "john james audubon" cedar ] to find reference cedar-bird.
    Book search [ "John James Audubon" cedar-bird ] and find The Birds of America Volume 4 and on page 169 Cedar Waxwing

    Used the drop down menu on the left side of the page on Google Books to use GET THIS BOOK IN PRINT > FIND IN A LIBRARY

    Working Worldcat was daunting to maneuver to find an original edition of this particular volume. I'm guessing you wanted as old as possible since you said (gloved). I'm thinking we'll see lots of different answers on this because of so many editions.
    [ mountain view zip ] and selected 94040.

    1. Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)

    2. Cedar-bird

    3. 5400 miles away at Danish Union Catalogue and Danish National Bibliography .

  2. Was going to do a search by image until we read that we shouldn't do this. So Anne and I started by searching for "northern California migratory bird yellow belly yellow tail tip" and the search result page had an image that looked exactly like the image in your post. We clicked on the image and it brought us to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology All About Birds site -
    This site gave us the name of the bird - cedar waxwing and the Latin name: Bombycilla cedrorum
    Searching in google books using the search terms "birds of america audubon "cedar waxwing" found the answer in a book about the writing of Birds of America. The answer was in Under a Wild Sky: John James Audubon and the Making of The Birds of America in Chapter 11. It was called the cedar bird and gives a description of how Audubon felt about the bird (he thought it was gluttonous because they'd eat so many berries that they couldn't fly!). He tried to nurse some injured cedar birds back to health only to have them eat themselves to death on apples according to this book.
    Using WorldCat (every librarians friend!) we did an advanced search for Birds of America by John James Audubon with a publication date of 1827 - 1838 (got this info from Wikipedia article on Audubon and then going to article on the book) and first found book closest to us here in Morristown, NJ only to have Anne remind me we needed the closest copy to Dan. Anne knew the zip code for Palo Alto so we plugged that in and found out there is a copy of the original at Stamford. Think that one would be the closest to Dan.
    Did a final search on cedar bird to see if it was called the cedar waxwing and found verification in several sources including reading vol IV of Birds of America which contains the entry on cedar birds or cedar wax-wing birds. Found this on Google Books as well.
    Total time for search and writing post a little over 30 mins. Most of that was the writing!

  3. Good day, Dr. Russell, fellow SearchResearchers


    [Bird identification][Bird identification California]

    What Bird I filled the search questions and found possible answer: "Brown Shrike." Later found this is not the answer.

    [brown California bird yellow tipped tail farmers dislike]

    What Bird possible answers site gave 36 options when used Ctr -F Tipped. Looked images of site for those that look similar.

    Bohemian Waxwing.
    Cedar Waxwing.
    Dusky Warbler.
    Brown Shrike.

    Tried same query in Google Images and found one similar to the one you posted.

    [Cedar Waxwing]

    Cedar Waxwing sound, video, history

    [John James Audubon American birds] in web and in Books

    Audubon's Birds of America Online There Browse Plate Names, Cedar.

    At the end, for verification searched the link you provided with the name of the bird.
    Bill Walker site map with Cedar bird.


    1. What kind of birds are these? (Common name and Latin names, please. No fair using Search-By-Image this time!)
    A: Names: Cedar Waxwing , Ampelis Americano, Picotera, Chinito (Spanish) ,Jaseur d' Amérique (French). The name "waxwing" comes from the waxy red secretions found on the tips of the secondaries of some birds. source:

    Latin name: Bombycilla cedrorum

    2. In his masterwork on the illustrations of American birds, the great artist and ornithologist John James Audubon gave this bird a common name that is no longer used. What is the common name that he used for this bird?

    A. Fruit-devourers.

    Cedar Bird Name, The Darlington Digital Library, University of Pittsburgh.

    Site also mentions people can buy print reproductions from its double elephant folio edition of the Birds of America.

    3. Speaking of that book--I'd really like to see an actual copy of the masterwork. Where's the closest copy to me (in California)? (For extra credit: Is there a copy I could actually touch and turn the pages with my own (gloved) hands?)

    A. For this answer searched the Book title in Google Books. Then Get this book in print (find in a Library) Added Google Coordinates.

    Possible sites I think Stanford University Library has one.

    Special collection, request at service desk, Stanford

    Extra:Auduborn website

    This was very fun and educational. Thanks Dr. Russell!

  4. After reading Fred's response I did another search and found out that the Univ. of Pittsburgh has the complete set of the work in their Darlington Library. Not sure if you can actually touch it but they claim on their site that it is one of only 120 complete sets that are left.
    See that Ramon also got Stanford.

  5. And final response! If you sign up with the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences you may be allowed to turn the pages (but you must be wearing white gloves). Got this result by using these search terms "original version of audubon's birds of america gloved" and got this result -

    1. Debbie & Anne - the link is a great find - interesting detail and leads…
      unfortunately the video link didn't seem active, but thanks to your "prod", found this from Cornell… worth the watch just to see the Great Auk alone! - also has a number of folio related tidbits.
      used: [audubon page turning havell folio video]
      rare books library at Cornell University

  6. used [palo alto berry eating migratory bird] to identify, but remembered seeing these "bohemians" a while back… (3 types: cedar (B. cedrorum), boho, (B. garrulus) & Japanese, (B. japonica))… the waxwings seem to know how to have a good time (drunk on fermented fruit)… not just at spring break time.
    cedar bird or Southern Waxwing, Canada Robin, Cedar Bird, Cherry Bird, or Recellet
    from Wiki: Its fondness for the small cones of the Eastern Redcedar (a kind of juniper) gave this bird its common name. They eat berries whole. They sometimes fly over water to catch insects

    a little background on the folio -
    double elephant
    gloves aside, the technicalities of prints/editions
    Robert Havell edition
    if you want to see the original watercolors - no touchey!, but a different experience… -
    $85 is a deal
    # 6

  7. 1. What kind of birds are these? (Common name and Latin names, please. No fair using Search-By-Image this time!)
    Search “bird with yellow tipped tail”
    First image result shows same bird. Go to website:
    Name: Cedar Waxwing
    Latin Name: Bombycilla Cedrodrum (found on references on same page)
    2. In his masterwork on the illustrations of American birds, the great artist and ornithologist John James Audubon gave this bird a common name that is no longer used. What is the common name that he used for this bird?
    Search “audubon cedar waxwing”
    Get found alternate names: Southern Waxwing, Canada Robin, Cedar Bird, Cherry Bird, or Recellet
    went to google books, searched for “birds of America”
    found: Birds of America, Volume 1
    looking through contents the family of the Cedar Waxwing (bombycillidae) wasn’t listed so searched
    ["birds of america" bombycillidae] in google books, got Birds of America, Volume 4
    Page 169 is Cedar Waxwing or Cedar-Bird as John James Audubon called it.
    3. Speaking of that book--I'd really like to see an actual copy of the masterwork. Where's the closest copy to me (in California)? (For extra credit: Is there a copy I could actually touch and turn the pages with my own (gloved) hands?)
    Go to Birds of America wiki page, public exhibition section:
    The California Academy of Sciences displays pages from its four-volume set of Birds of America in the Academy Library, and selects pages which correlate to current exhibits in both the library and museum.
    Visiting the website you can visit their tab for researchers and go into their library collection. Searching for “Audubon birds of America” brings up their *five* volumes, available in the “Main Library Rare Books”. Collection books are available for researchers with a legitimate research interest, by appointment only.

  8. Identifying these birds is easy- Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) visit my backyard in South Dakota every year.

    Audubon called these beautiful birds Cedar-Birds.

    You did not state if you wanted an original copy or a newer one. Copies are available at several libraries including the San Francisco Public Library. Google Books and WorldCat.

  9. Fun facts: Cedar waxwings die a drunkard’s death. After overindulging in berries, flocks of cedar waxwings flew drunkenly to their doom. That's the conclusion of a new report in the Journal of Ornithology.
    Cedar waxwings have evolved to live on a diet that averages 84 per cent fruit. But those evolutionary innovations backfired on several occasions between 2005 and 2007 when flocks of them died after crashing into windows and fences in broad daylight in the Los Angeles area. Residents puzzled by the deaths sent the bodies to the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory in San Bernardino. Necropsies performed at the lab showed the birds had been healthy when they gorged on berries from the Brazilian pepper tree, then died from ruptured livers or other traumas caused by the collisions.
    Strong circumstantial evidence for ethanol toxicosis in Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum)

    Other cool facts:

    In the Netherlands they are called cederpestvogel. The name "pestvogel" dates back to the Middle Ages, when it was thought that these birds brought with them the deadly plague and spread this epidemic disease.

    1. I just found out that an original copy of one of the rarest and most expensive books in the world: “The Birds of America” by John James Audubon is on display in the Netherlands at the Teylers Museum in Haarlem. The museum bought the first edition book when it came out for 2243 guilders and has owned it since. - See more at:

  10. searched "bird with bright yellow tip on tail" and the images came up positive for cedar waxwing - bombycilla cedrorum. a google book search of "audubon cedar waxwing" under Audubon's Birds showed the page of his illustration where he called the birds "chatterers".

    the trickiest part for me was navigating the worldcat site where the editions are very confusing. i worked side-by-side with wikipedia about showings from libraries and museums and found the first edition 4 volume set at "California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, CA 94118 United States"

  11. I started with a search on “palo alto birds migration berries” which turned up a page on a few types of birds that are nuisances at airports during migration. I tried searching on a few of the types mentioned, including “sparrows palo alto migration berries” which, brought up a database on birds of northern California Although the “sparrows” was incorrect, the page included a picture of a Cedar Waxwing : . Which looks similar to the photo given. I then did a search on “Cedar Waxwing” and found the Audubon Society page which confirms their migratory patterns and states that they enjoy berries. It also gives the scientific name of Bombycilla Cedrorum.
    To find the name James Audubon gave them, I found the wikipedia page for the Birds of America and linked to the digital, searchable version of the book at the U of Pittsburg: It gives the name “cedar bird” and “ Bombycilla Carolinensis”;idno=31735056284882;seq=0253.

    To find the copy of the book closest to you (using Google headquarters zipcode 94043) I did a search for the book through worldcat.

    You didn’t specify which edition, but there is an 1831 edition of Ornithological Biography and an 1871 printing of The Birds of America in the Stanford Rare Books Collection (2nd floor, Green Library) about 7 miles away.

  12. I recognized the birds immediately as a “waxwing” but I did have to check because the coloring was slightly different than I’ve seen. Bohemian waxwings visit us every year by the hundreds because we have fruit bearing shrubs and trees that they feed on (cotoneasters, mountain ash, honeysuckle etc.). It is incredible to hear this many birds and a few do get intoxicated which causing one or two fatal crashes into the windows. But your birds aren’t ‘Bohemians’. To find that I used Enature advanced search and the third result was Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) with audio.

    Choosing Fusion Tables to search public data of [California song birds] I found results of several “”public data” links available of song birds. Not knowing what I would find I was pleased to find David Leahy's Birds of Northern California very detailed available for creating/merging tables/maps/charts. Excellent photos of the Cedar Waxwings.
    Here’s another song bird database out of Seattle.
    Bird Web These supplement this search but wouldn’t be used unless you could merge it with say a table with physical descriptions.
    Book search by author JJ Audubon turns up [ The birds of America] and searching it we find the specific Volume 4 referring to Cedar Waxwings, {The Birds of America- from drawings made in the United States ..., Volumes 3-4} & which I uploaded & you can find a copy here.
    On page 170 we find the quote “After this the Cedars supply a new and favourite food I think the name of *Fruit devourers* would be more applicable to these birds than that of *Chatterers* which they bear among naturalists.”

    Now I headed over to World Cat to find a copy closest to Googleplex zipcode 94043 which is Stanford University Library 94305
    But this book from 1870 doesn’t have drawings so you will want another book by JJ Audubon as well. You would want Birds of America : the complete collection of 435 illustrations from the most famous bird book in the world. We find at World Cat the closest copy is Los Angeles County Arboretum 91007 some 300 miles away so you will need an interlibrary loan.

    1. David Leahy's database has a bug right now so if you haven't seen his images use the sitemap here and click on Cedar Waxwing. You should see the images okay.

    2. This database for birds may be handy since it's a worldwide.

    3. interesting side observation - the third image on the Leahy site is taken at the Stanford Dish and the CWs are in an oak tree
      maybe they aren't fans of eucalyptus… wait, guess that's not the case -
      flowering eucalyptus tree,Berkeley Aquatic Park
      Stanford Dish 2008-12-20

      etsy art
      SF Bay area CWs
      the bay
      east bay, Photo taken on 02/18/14,

  13. Dan, just for future reference - not sure how well it would mount to your phone's camera…
    longer lens
    both Canon
    where are those waxwings now?
    a little Hitchcockian -
    …how many in a bush?
    as a comparison

  14. perhaps the next time you are in Ann Arbor - since you have contacts there -
    UofM PictureIt Rare Book Reader, nice online resource - 8 volumes, 435 images… could chew hours here… the skeuomorph use is a little distracting… calling Jony
    p.s. - check the Black Vulture/Carrion Crow… about 6 pages in on the first volume after the first plate - (Raven) ties into the Roadshow comments about how birders don't want their prints too gruesome… or realistic… they like these:
    altered/augmented reality

  15. … couldn't leave IUBloomington out of the mix… the Lilly is a jewel.
    Lilly Library
    worth reading: ☟
    at the Lilly, “Bien edition” - interesting history - IU English Prof., CHRISTOPH IRMSCHER
    his page/book: Louis Agassiz:
    Creator of American Science

    IU profile

    Dan, a side birder question: are you seeing this "invasive species" there… yet? just showed up in my neighborhood this spring…
    Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
    also from Drexel
    didn't know Drexel had such a resource

  16. [brown bird black mask yellow].
    Cedar Waxwing

  17. I looked in my Peterson's Guide to Birds and found a bird that looked similar to yours - Cedar Waxwing. An image search by that name confirmed it from multiple sources. I then searched Cedar Waxwing John James Audubon Birds of North America and found images of his illustrations. One named it the Cedar Bird, so I am assuming that this was his other name for it. Latin name - Bombycilla cedrorum. I then searched OCLC Worldcat for the Audubon book and found that there is a copy at Stanford University in their Rare Books collection.

  18. It appears to be a Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum). I identified it from Peterson's Field Guide of Western Birds via it's crest, black mask, yellow belly, white undertail and red tips on its secondary wings. They are members of the passerine family of birds.

    I think the book you're talking about may be Birds of America by John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E. It is an 1840 "First Octavo Edition" of his complete seven volume text. He might have called it the Cedar Bird. I used conventional research, Google search and Wikipedia to find out more. It took me about 15 minutes.

    If you know Sheikh Saud Al-Thani of Qatar, you may be able to get his permission to let you turn it's pages since he purchased a copy of The Birds of America at a Christie's auction for $8.8 million. Thanks to Wikipedia, I also found the following info:

    "In December 2010, The Economist magazine estimated that, adjusted for inflation, five of the ten highest prices ever paid for printed books were paid for copies of Birds of America. Of the 119 copies known to survive, only eleven are held in private collections. In December 2005 an unbound copy, the Providence Athenaeum Set, sold, again at Christie's (New York), for $5.6 million.

    On 6 December 2010, a complete copy of the first edition was sold in London at Southby's for £7,321,250 (approximately $11.5 million) during the sale of Magnificent Books, Manuscripts and Drawings from the Collection of Frederick, Second Lord Hesketh. The winning bid was a record auction price for a printed book and was placed by London-based art dealer Michael Tollemache, who outbid three others during the auction. According to the provenance details reported by the auction house, the copy's original owner was Henry Witham of Durham, listed as subscriber 11 in Audubon's Ornithological Biography; the first volume of the set bears a presentation inscription from Witham's wife, dated 24 June 1831. Lord Hesketh had bought the copy from a descendant of Witham at a Christie's auction on 3 July 1951, paying £7,000.
    On 20 January 2012 a complete copy of the first edition was sold, by heirs of the Fourth Duke of Portland, at Christie's auction house in Manhattan, for $7.9 million. The buyer was identified only as 'an American collector who bid by phone.' The sale brought to 120 the number of copies known to have survived – 107 in institution collections and 13 in private hands."

    Your friends photo of the waxwings is one of the best I've seen in this search.

    /ed tomchin

  19. 1.Searched for [migratory bird california yellow belly] and found
    Scrolled down and found picture of cedar waxwing.
    2. Tried [cedar waxwing "formerly known as"] and found its original scientific classification was Ampelidae - it is now bombycilla cedorum. Then I reread the question (!) and searched for [cedar waxwing audubon "former name"] which took me to and the name Cedar-bird or Cedar Bird. I checked this by searching for ["cedar bird" audubon] to get to
    That was fun. Trickiest part for me was deciding how to describe the bird in terms of colour or body parts.
    Pam, Wellington NZ