Aging Black and White Flycatchers

Not straightforward!

Aging of those black and white flycatchers is key first step in identification but it’s not always easy. Following on from the ‘Flamborough Flycatcher’, Paul Baxter sent me images of a bird which, indeed would easily be clocked as a 2cy (first summer) male Pied Flycatcher. However, it had been ringed. On being retrapped was found to be a 3rd cy bird (2nd summer).

More recently an apparent adult female Collared Flycatcher, the first for Ireland on Tory Island, has proved tricky to age (and even sex) correctly. More on that on the Surfbirds Forum.

So here’s the Scottish bird and the story:

3rd cal year (2nd summer) male Pied Flycatcher, Deeside, Scotland, May 2012. Harry Scott

Paul Baxter writes:

Hiya Martin,

 How’s tricks? Thought the following might be of some interest to you – I’ve been following the ‘flamborough flycatcher’ debate (from afar..).  It seems to me that one thing that birders seem to take for granted is that any male Pied Flycatcher in the spring showing any contrast in plumage (i.e. black v brown) is a first-summer bird.

 The following images are of a known aged bird that just arrived here, in mid-Deeside (Pied Fly is a very rare breeder up here, not annual). I watched this bird in the field and looked at its age, particularly in light of events down the road. There is much contrast in this bird, both in wing feathers and body plumage.  Intriguingly, it was wearing a ring! It was trapped a few days later (the bird was holding territory) by Harry Scott (I had to go to work – errggh!) and has proven to be a nestling, ringed in a next box about five miles away from where it is now – in 2010.  So this is a bird in its third calendar year.  It’s great when a definite age is known. I wonder how many would have called this a first-summer in the field.

 I think that fact that these winter in the tropics, the brown feathers are actually faded first adult type from last autumn during its complete winter moult.  They then have a partial summer moult (hence the reason for the newer black feathers) – as these contrast with the older worn/bleached adult feathers, we end up with a contrast like shown in this bird. Keep up the good work with the blog – I enjoy it –  and congrats on your hit rate

Good birding, Paul

2 thoughts on “Aging Black and White Flycatchers

  1. Pingback: The Daventry Pied Flycatcher Revisited |

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