Name the bird, locate the lizard, and correctly identify the bear, and earn bragging rights in the wild world of animal identification challenges on Twitter. Fail, and find out why from the experts. It’s a fun way to learn about the natural world from behind a computer, and we’ve rounded up some of our favorites so you can keep playing.
Tricky Bird ID is a bird identification challenge run by Jason Ward (@JasonWardNY), the National Audubon Society’s Community Relations and Outreach Coordinator and host of the Birds of North America web series. Tricky Bird Identification began to break down the basics of bird identification. In an ideal week, post a photo of a bird on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET. He tries to use photos where the birds are hiding, or in motion, to make the experience more realistic, Ward says. “Birds don’t usually perch on a beautiful, well-lit, beautiful branch in the open,” he says.
People can Tweet your guesses for the next 30 minutes before you start to retweet some of the winning responses. When you tweet the big reveal, you often explain the identification in more depth to help people identify the backyard and neighborhood birds on their own. “My overall mission with all this bird-centric craze is to try and introduce nature and wildlife into underserved and underrepresented communities – kids who look like me,” says Ward, who is African American. “We are trying to create and inspire the next generation of colored bird watchers, who are going to outnumber us.”
This quiz is more like a scavenger hunt. On Fridays around 9 a.m. PT, Seattle-based naturalist and writer Kelly Brenner (@MetroFieldGuide) posts clues about a creature ID and also sometimes gifs of Tom Hiddleston as Loki. (This is an observation, not a complaint). Brenner’s tests tend to focus around plants or animals that are under-appreciated and under-noticed. “My only rule is that it must be in a city,” says Brenner.
People investigate the clues and send a direct message to Brenner when they think he has solved the riddle. Around 2PM PT, she reveals the answer. “Once the time is up, I talk about each track and I like to link to an article or a scientific article,” she says. While Brenner keeps track of regular competitors on a leaderboard, even bad guessers get some of it. “A lot of people who play, they go the wrong way, so they will learn something else about it that was not related.”
Here are your 4 #StreetCreatures clues that will reveal the next # 2019MMM fighter.
Vibris Herschel Intensive crest Domoic acid toxicosis
DO NOT RESPOND
Tell me your guess and I will tell you if you are correct. You have two tries.
You have until 2:30 PST when I reveal to you. pic.twitter.com/T3UQGuJfYM
– Kelly Brenner (@MetroFieldGuide) February 8, 2019
Earyn McGee (@Afro_Herper) is a Ph.D. student at the University of Arizona who studies lizards in arid environments, and whether drought and climate change could ruin their food sources. She is also studying how to leverage social media so more African American women have careers in land and water management.
Those two interests come together in #FindThatLizard, a two-day challenge that begins Tuesdays at 12 PM MT when McGee posts a photo of a lizard with a different hashtag: #GuessThatLizard. Based on a snapshot and some details, people have to guess the name of the lizard in the photo. That is the lizard that people will have to detect hiding in the next The challenge of the day: #FindThatLizard.
The fun starts at 5PM MT on Wednesdays with #FindThatLizard when McGee posts a picture of what, at first glance, is a natural scene without lizards. But thanks to the suggestions of the day before, your followers know where to look. People who think they have seen the lizard (or lizards) respond with a third hashtag, #FoundThatLizard. That’s also the hashtag McGee uses when he posts the answer later that night. The winner, she says, boasts of having rights. But McGee gets something out of that too. “I have people telling me that they put it in their classrooms for their students and that they play the game with their family,” she says. “It’s really comforting to me that this thing that I really enjoy doing in real life is something that I can bring to people who might not have had that opportunity otherwise.”
Inspired by other animal identification hashtags, ecologist Michelle LaRue started Puma or Not in 2015. She worked with a nonprofit called The Cougar Network, which had a large database of photos of possible cougar sightings. “I thought it would be a fun game, hopefully educational, and it would give me the opportunity to do scientific communication about cougars, predators and what the Cougar Network does,” LaRue says in a direct message on Twitter.
The challenge starts at 11:30 a.m. CT most Fridays, and LaRue keeps tweeting the same photo for two hours before she reveals whether the photo was actually a cougar or not. There really is no winner in the game, unless you count the graduate student who is analyzing the responses to over 100 photos for their master’s degree.
Kaeli Swift (@corvidresearch) A postdoctoral scientist at Denali National Park, knows that it can be difficult for the general public to identify birds in the corvid family, such as crows and ravens. She’d seen LaRue’s Cougar or Not game, and one day, she just clicked, “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh,’ raven or not. ‘Rhyme! Of course, this has to be a game.” she says “It was a combination of this need that I saw and my love of rhymes and puns.”
Now, every Wednesday, Swift posts a photo at 11:30 am, and her followers have to guess if she is a crow or not. “A raven is any bird with the word raven in its recognized common name in English,” Swift says. That could include American crows or Mariana crows, for example. There are many options. So part of the reward for the challenge is learning the basic birding skill to recognize these birds. “But it also became a way of teaching people about the global biodiversity of this family and this genus of birds,” Swift says.
Danielle Rivet (@ grizzlygirl87), a PhD candidate at the University of Saskatchewan, posts an ambiguous photo of the bear on Twitter on Tuesdays around noon CT with the hashtag #KnockKnockWhosBear. Her followers respond with assumptions about the bear’s species and the reasons for the assumption, and after an hour she gives them a clue by tweeting the bear’s location. Three hours later, he publishes the identification along with the characteristics he used to identify the species.
The challenge started because Rivet spends a lot of time looking at photos of bears from his work with a camera trap database in Wapusk National Park in Canada. The camera trap is set up to monitor polar bears, but black bears and grizzly bears also glide into the frame. And they can be difficult to distinguish. “Even for someone who has worked with bears for a long time, it can be difficult to determine what species you are looking at,” Rivet says. The edge in an email
So, he decided to take the challenge to his Twitter followers to help them learn how to identify bears. Rivet says it’s not just an academic exercise – for people working or traveling through bear country, there’s a practical purpose too. “It’s important to know what species are around, how to identify them, and how to handle an encounter with that animal,” she says. “Plus, bear photos are so much fun to look at!”