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!

Monday, 4 June 2012

Confusing Yellow Wagtails - part 1

I was hoping to score some nice Ashy-headed Wagtails in Sicily, and so I did.  Only at one site I visited though - the wetlands at Granelli.  Only managed to get one distant shot of a 'textbook' Ashy-headed though:

Ashy-headed Wagtail, Granelli, 1st May 2012

One bird was much closer, and as it was singing its heart out and clearly holding territory it should have been Ashy-headed... but what about that supercilium?

flava Wagtail holding territory, Granelli, 3rd May 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.

flava Wagtail, Granelli, 28th April 2012

Both of these birds have some green on the sides of the crown.  What does that indicate?  I've seen it on Blue-headed Wagtails previously but never quite figured out if it's an age-related thing or something else.  I wouldn't have any trouble seeing the second bird above as a first-summer - when I first glimpsed it I thought it was a female.  But the strikingly colourful first bird - can that be immature?

So help me out - what are we dealing with here?

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