A blog mainly about birds and birding, to supplement my website www.gobirding.eu. I shall add new posts on an ad hoc basis as and when I have something I think is worth sharing, whether that’s an interesting bird, something I’ve learned, perhaps about identification, or something that’s aroused my curiosity. Often there will be questions, some of which you might be able to answer... please use the comments!
Monday, 4 June 2012
Now, is it me, or does this look rather like a Spanish Wagtail iberiae? Are there Spanish Wagtails breeding in Sicily? I saw iberiae in Portugal a few years ago and I think most of them had a narrower supercilium in front of the eye, but variable. Or is it an intergrade/hybrid (with Blue-headed?)? Or can Ashy-headed Wagtail look like this? What would you think it was if you saw it in England?
Here's another. This one was in the same area and looked more like Blue-headed, showing both a pale supercilium and pale in the middle of the ear-coverts. But the tone of grey on the head - that didn't look like Blue-headed.
So help me out - what are we dealing with here?
- The head shape was wrong, looking too rounded for much of the time and lacking the peak that is associated with pure Ferruginous Ducks. My own views confirmed that this was the case - although on occasion it could look quite peaked, most of the time it looked very round. But was this really wrong for females? Certainly a male looking like this would and should arouse suspicion, but I wasn't quite convinced it was wrong for a female. However I wasn't experienced enough with females to be sure.
- The bill shape was considered not quite right. Personally I thought it looked ok: although at some angles it sometimes looked a bit dubious I couldn't see anything hugely concerning in the bill shape.
- The white on the belly had been observed to be too indistinctly-bordered for a pure Ferruginous Duck. I got a couple of brief views of its belly and to be honest I didn't think it was too indistinct. Sure it wasn't as neat and tidy as it can be on a male, but it wasn't bad.
- The rounded head shape shown by the Norfolk Broads bird was perfectly normal for female Ferruginous Duck. Just like the Norfolk bird, the females I observed in Sicily changed their head shape according to posture, sometimes looking peaked but most of the time looking rounded. I could see no difference in head shape between the Norfolk bird and the birds in Sicily.
- The apparent bill shape varied too. Some birds, some of the time, seemed to have much less impressive bill shapes than the Norfolk bird. Of course this has more to do with angle to the observer than anything else, but there did seem to be a little variation in the bill shape - some females seemed to have fractionally shorter and more concave bills than expected.
- Females seen in flight and rearing up clearly showed variation in the belly pattern. Some were less well-defined than the Norfolk bird. One bird was much less so, although I did wonder if the poor definition on that bird wasn't caused by dirt rather than actual plumage pattern.
- The head can look rounded on males too, though with prolonged viewing it always reverted to the classic peaked shape.
- The contrast between the breast and the flanks varies according to angle to the light. The same bird can change from having no discernible contrast whatsoever between the colour of the breast and the colour of the flanks to having such a strong contrast that it made me think for a moment that I must have found a hybrid. I knew this was the case on some of the British birds I've observed but it was reassuring to see that it was also the case on genuine wild birds in Sicily.