A blog mainly about birds and birding, to supplement my website 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!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Just a Pied Fly?

No, I'm not talking about the Yorkshire "Atlas Flycatcher" whose DNA surprised everyone, this is about a female flycatcher I saw in Sicily recently.

First impressions were a grey bird with a prominent pale collar and an obvious pale rump.  I knew Pied Flycatcher could show a pale rump but I'd never seen it so obvious on a Pied, and I don't recall seeing Pied with such a pale collar before either.  This bird had a white patch at the base of the primaries, bigger than on many Pied Flycatchers, and my suspicions turned to Collared Flycatcher.  I couldn't recall the finer details of what to look for in tail and tertial pattern so took some photos and hoped I'd be proved right when I got home.  I had a nagging doubt - I'd seen Pied Flycatcher with this much white on the primary bases and ideally I'd hoped to see more on a Collared.

Well I'm back home now and I think my doubts were well-founded. Here's why I now think it was a Pied Flycatcher, not my first female Collared...

  • White at the base of the primaries not extensive enough - not reaching beyond the primary coverts
  • White on the outer tail feather broadest at the base (where it extends on to the inner web) and fizzling out at the tip - should be the other way round on Collared apparently
  • Although it gave the impression of having quite cold grey upperparts I think that impression was influenced by the grey nape and rump - the mantle and scapulars look quite warm brown in the photos
  • I don't think the upper tail-coverts don't look dark enough for Collared
  • Tertial fringes possibly not narrow enough for Collared?

Pied Flycatcher, Riserva Naturale Orientate Biviere di Gela, 28th April 2012

Now some questions:

  1. Are the contrastingly warm gingery ear-coverts significant for its identification?
  2. How normal is it for Pied Flycatcher to show such an obvious pale greyish collar and pale rump?
  3. Do you agree it's just a Pied Flycatcher?
  4. What do female Pied x Collared hybrids look like?

And now just for fun, here are a couple of straightforward vagrant male Collared Flycatchers from my archives:

Collared Flycatcher, Holme, 8th May 2011

Collared Flycatcher, Southwell, 2nd May 2009

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