Pratincoles Mystery. Now 3 Birds.

in Southern Israel

Bird One

Collared Pratincole with intriguing characters. K20, Eilat, April 2nd 2012

The fuller story, lots more photos and link to main ID article are here. In a nutshell the bird in the photo below was seen on my last day in Israel at the end of the Eilat Bird Festival this spring. It’s particularly dark-looking upperparts, amoung other things, suggest it might be an Oriental Pratincole. Views of the tail and hind wing in flight eliminated that possibility and it was left as a Collared Pratincole- albeit with some head scratching!

A subsequent review of my photos compared with 2 articles in Dutch Birding on Pratincole ID by Gerald Driessens and Lars Svensson, raised awareness that its contrasty head pattern (dark crown, paler cheeks), long lack ‘gape’ line, and those notably dark upperparts seemed to fit  the Afrotropical forms (3 subspecies) of Collared Pratincole better than the nominate Eurasian form.

Subsequent to this, Yoav Perlman had 2 birds, one of which was photographed at Yotvata (not far north of K20) in 1st May which had some similar confusing characters.

Ideally then let’s get Gerald Driessens, author of the paper on Afrotropical Collared Pratincoles to comment on the Eilat and also Yotvata birds.

Here’s his helpful response:

Intriguing record Martin!
 At first glance, I thought “hmm, this is going to be another Oriental”, immediately followed by other opinions when scrolling down to the flight picture.
As you mentioned in your mail, indeed, there’s quite a lot suggesting Afrotropical Collared. Not only the darker colour, but also the more capped effect, warmer colour, strong gape line, the lack of a white border inside the dark throat surround… The flight picture suggests the same.
 The problem is that lookalikes exist in the race pratincola, although this is a particularly well- marked individual.
One thing that puzzles me, is the jizz of this bird, I have never encountered in pictures or life, a bird giving this Oriental feeling with short, peaked head and (as far as the photo’s show) a rather upright stance.
 As well as Afrotropical being somewhat intermediate between pratincola and maldivarum, it is also at least possible that a somewhat different looking population exists somewhere in Asia…
I remember observations of a flock of breeding ‘Orientals’ showing quite long tail streamers…
In the Stockholm museum, there is also an Oriental showing tail streamers outside the range of Oriental (or at least, outside what we call ‘the range’ :-)
 A pity that this is another record of birds in the migration season. Where do these birds fly to…?
With what we know now, your bird could be an Afrotropical. But what is an Afrotropical Collared doing in Israel in April…?
I will certainly keep this record for comparison with other birds. I am even rethinking ID opinions I gave on a claimed Oriental, which was only photographed in flight.
Intriguing…
I think the other two records  in Yotvata on May 1st and K20 on May …describe the same type of pratincole. These are also females because of the greyish-brown lores and the narrow throat surround.
 Regards, Gerald

So there it is. Not fully resolved. Bird showing somewhat intermediate characters between Collared and Oriental Pratincole, ‘to be explored further’  - particularly in Israel. Hope I get another shot at them. Either:

1) Just normal variation within (nominate) Collared Pratincoles

2) They are Afrotropical Collared Pratincoles

3) the possibility of a hitherto undescribed population/ taxon breeding in Asia.

Have to admit the last one intrigues me the most!

Bird Two

Here’s Yoav’s bird again. Just a normal Collared Pratincole? What do you think? A 3rd bird has added to the intrigue. Scroll down…

Collared Pratincole with intriguing characters, Yotvata, Israel, 1st May 2012 . Yoav Perlman

Bird Three

Barak Granit take up the story:

On the 19th May, Eyal Shochat and myself observed and photographed an interesting Pratincole at K.20, Eilat. In short, the short tail made us suspect an Oriental Pratincole, but after we saw the white/whitish trailing edge we left it as “weirdly short-tailed” Collared Pratincole. Later on we uploaded the photos and some points for discussion in the israbirding forum. After better examination and thorough reading, I came to a ‘possible solution’  which is discussed in more detail.

Photos and more discussion can be viewed on the Israbirding Forum.

Photos of this bird all below taken by Eyal Shochat at K20, Eilat on 19th May 2012. Long legs, rather short tails (for Collared) and upright stance add to the ‘jizz’ of these interesting birds.

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Bird 3: Collared Practincole with intriguing characters at K20, Eilat, 19th May 2012 by Eyal Shochat