Afrotropical Pratincole Mystery

K20, Eilat, April 2, 2012

P.S. Thanks to all those who had a go here. Hopefully this explains some things…

Last minute birding dot com. Yes we were squeezing every last ounce out of our time this spring. Southern Israel experienced on of its best spring in 20 years. Flip it was good! Last day, car filled with packed luggage, wonder host Itai Shanni drove myself and Birdwatching Mag. beat writer, Neil Glenn, around the lagoons. Point blank Greater Sand Plovers, wacky flava wagtails, Red-necked Phalarope flock on the ground, Purple Heron flock in flight, more and more and more. The Itai picked up a pratincole.

It was against the light so we maneuvered round. We could only see its head and underparts. Tail and wing tips obscured by mud bank. In a nutshell looked dark above- really dark. Too dark and wrong kinda shade for Collared. We wondered about Black-winged Pratincole (had already seen 2). Then I saw briefest view of underwing- reddish. Oh dear- could it be the uber rare Oriental. Suddenly it flew. Long outer tail fathers in flight and little too broad white on trailing edge of secondaries said not. I followed it still bothered. It just seemed toooo dark above. Anyhow, a plane would be leaving and we had to run.

Fast forward to me finally catching up with photos. A strange thing caught my eye. The bird had an obvious long dark ‘gape line’. I had recently been reading a Dutch Birding paper by Lars S and Gerald D, so dug it out. Oh dear the bird’s characters suggested Afro-tropical Collared Pratincole. No Western Palearctic records!

you can read the Dutch Birding Paper (2 papers- its the 2nd one)

Here: Dutch Birding Pratincoles

K20 Collared Pratincole. April 1st 2012. Really dark above (hard to capture as light behind bird. Prominent dark ‘gape lines’ and darker crown contrasting with paler ear coverts/ cheeks etc.

Collared Pratincole in flight, K20, Eilat, Israel. 2nd April 2012. Longer outer tail feathers and obvious white trialing edge amoung other things clinch it. But as it flew off I still wondered: why so dark above?

Well I don’t know anything about them, or even if you can ‘do’ vagrants. As usual I have learnt lots looking into it.

Then to add intrigue to the story I emailed the guys with my Afrotropical thoughts and ace birder Yoav Perlman emailed back. He had also seen a couple of birds that bothered him, one month later at Yotvata (just north of Eilat). He was sure they were Black-winged Pratincoles at distance. Here’s one of his birds:


Collared Pratincole, Yotvata, 1st May 2012. Really dark above, little contrast with very black-looking primaries, seem ‘face contrast’ as the K20 bird, slightly less on the dark gape line and leggy.

This exceptional spring did we record the first Afrotropical Collared Pratincoles for Israel/ Western Palearctic, or does variation in Collared Prats just make it too tricky?

Hey whatever, don’t they look good? Hoping for little more light on the subject for DB papers’ authors.

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