Collared Flycatcher Part 1

Great ID Challenge!

Not sure that the British list has an acceptable 1st autumn Collared Flycatcher, Enter: todays bird at Spurn. Readers will hopefully  understand the enormity and potential complexity of such a claim.  With wing length only in range of Collared and too long for any Pied; a Collared type tail pattern and primary pattern it mostly seems to fit the bill. There are one or two characters which we are unsure of, so a little work and investigation needed. A certain learning experience for all!

For now a photo of the bird in the field. Full details to follow here. On behalf of Spurn Bird Observatory we would be very keen to hear from anyone who has first hand ringing experience of 1st autumn Collared Flycatchers and of in-hand photos of same.

18 thoughts on “Collared Flycatcher Part 1

  1. Peter J Morgan

    Suggest one of the people you may wish to contact is Ben SheldonDep.Of Zoology, Univ. of Oxford. who worked on Pied and collared in sweden and on hybrids.Good luck.

  2. thedrunkbirder

    Ooh, I don’t envy you with this little conundrum. Good luck with it as it will be very interesting to read the conclusions in future challenges.

  3. Vincent van der Spek

    Hi there,

    In Meijendel (near the Hague), the Netherlands we trapped one in 2007. The wing patch was very large, much larger than the one on this bird, though this is also sex-related (ours was a male). I don’t think the mark on the primaries gets close enough to the wing-edge, to be hounest, and the bird looks quite brownish, too (instead of greyish). My guess is that it isn’t a Collared, though the juv. we trapped is one of three juvs. I’ve ever seen (seen quite some females, though).

    To see the pics of our bird:


  4. Magnus Hellström

    Hi Martin. Further useful comments could probably be recieved from Krister Mild (Stockholm) and perhaps also Thomas Pärt (Swedish University of Agriculture). Both have worked many years with these species. In my eyes the bird look promising, being a first-autumn with large primary patch reaching rather far out in the distal part of the hand. Perhaps a little bit warmer brown than average (or at least typically), but hard to judge, and probably not very important. Look forward to see in-hand photos. Did you hear any calls?

  5. Alan Bull

    Hi Martin,
    On Fair Isle in 1999, we had a similar problem. A Ficedula flycatcher was trapped and measured up to be a Collared, however, the one ‘Collared’ feature that this bird lacked was the typical pattern on the nape feathering (the collar!). Unfortunately, this was the only feature that the bird lacked (all measurements and other features of Collared were present). Therefore we did not submit the record to BBRC.

    It was a long-winged Ficedula in the hand, a cold brown colour with a paler, greyer rump. The tail pattern was bang on for Collared, the nape had a suggestion of a ‘collar’, but as mentioned above did not fit exactly the criteria for a typical Collared. The primary patch began on the 4th primary (good for Collared) and the length of this patch was equal to the length of the longest primary coverts (Mild 1994). The 2nd primary fell between the 4th and 5th in length.

    The bird was not seen in the field for long, but when it was, the impression was of a long-winged, rather large ficedula with a prominent primary patch and cold rump.

    We did write it up in Birding World (13;1) as an ‘interesting’ flycatcher. I do have the photos (although on print) should you wish to view them, but they are no different to those in Birding World. Hope this is all of some help.

    Good luck!

    Alan Bull

    1. Martin Garner

      Hi Alan

      I looked up that very bird! Great account and clearly educational if frustrating. There was another written up in Birding World (9 no.3) at St Abb’s Borders…which I don’t have. but am trying to see a copy of.

      more on this subject coming me thinks!


    1. Martin Garner

      Hi Willem

      One was trapped yesterday (31 August) at Spurn with white to p4 though wing of only 78 (thanks to Adam Hutt). Otherwise like the Portland bird a typical Pied Fly – might try post some pics of it later


  6. mick fiszer

    I had the opportunity to watch Collard Flycatchers in the Miombo woodlands of Zambia, the most important thing was the call, which I transcribed in my notes a”cheeep” allmost identical to that of a day old chick. Once learned you would always be able to track down and find a Collard Flycatcher.

  7. Miguel Demeulemeester

    In Belgium, a first winter Collared was trapped in the ’90s near the coast. I don’t have details on it. But I do remember the pattern of the feathers in the neck/collar were examined and of course wing-lenght and the extension of the primary patch all fitted well for Collared.
    I have pictures of the bird, but I don’t know if they are ‘digital’ somewhere (they are not from my hand or camera).

  8. Sebastian Klein

    Hi Martin
    Definately an interesting bird. If I had to guess I would probably think Pied as it seems a bit brownish and the primary patch seems to be on the small side for Collared. An even more Collared-like bird was on the island of Mandø in the Danish Waddensea on 2nd. October 2008. That bird looked greyer than the Spurn-bird with a larger primary patch. The call did reveal the bird to be a Pied Fylcatcher. See photos here:
    and here:

    All the best

    Sebastian Klein

  9. Jochen Dierschke

    I agree with Sebastian – the bird has not the right feel for Collared, looks too brownish and the primary patch certainly could be more convincing, although it does not exclude Collared.

    In September 2008 there was a more convincing 1st-winter male on Helgoland. Pictures are printed in the last Helgoland bird report and can be seen online at:

    cheers, Jochen

  10. Nick Moran

    Hi Martin

    Mark Grantham (now of BirdGuides) caught an ‘interesting’ Ficedula flycatcher at Waxham autumn 2008 (I think) – I’m not sure that one was ever IDed to species but Mark will have the biometrics; email me if you want his contact details.

    I can’t add anything myself – Pied from Semi-collared has been the only problem I’ve had in recent years:


  11. Martin Garner

    Hi Andy

    I think this is probably a Pied- but the photo doesn’t really resolve clearly enough to see key details. It looks rather greyish washed above (real life or artifact?) and tertials look like first winter. It lacks the broad full length pale ‘skirt’ across greater coverts of some Collared. The white at primary bases look interesting but seems blurred and looks like not as long as primary converts.

    you on Shetland this year?

    Best Martin


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