Its Mum was Chinese
Following the finding of a part of the corpse of the Pond Heron in Kent from earlier this year- testing the mitochondrial DNA has confirmed that the bird’s mother was a Chinese Pond Heron. As Martin Collinson commented on twitter: “Only mtDNA – COI gene of Hythe heron was 100% identical to Chinese Pond Heron, i.e. it’s mum was Chinese Pond Heron. Dad not done yet”
On this Birdforum post Ian Roberts who was at the forefront on reporting the bird’s presence also posted the photos of the remains. The feathers should be useful to compare with developing ageing criteria as well (see below).
Isotope analyse has been planned but is an uncertain field for getting clear result if you cannot find parts grown in different places which demonstrate the bird has moved from one place (i.e. east Asia) to another (west Europe).
It was an identification challenge we followed closely on here, contributing some thoughts, pretty convinced from early on that it showed Chinese Pond Heron characters. Here was the last post with what we were learning:
ID and likely aging
On Identification – ‘new feature’
Maybe this will help. ‘New feature’ over-eggs it- but seems to have merit in the ID process. The Kent pond heron unsurprisingly at this time of year is moulting into a more definitive summer plumage. The fascinating journey with this bird is that there was time when attempting non breeding pond herons was a hiding to nothing. Studying, questioning, exploring a bird like this can teach a great deal. One feature that final dispels any lingering uncertainty in me is an aspect of the head pattern which is emerging on the Kent bird – more obviously on the right than left side. It’s clearly present- normal for Chinese Pond Heron (try searching through images of summer plumage Chinese Pond Herons and the other species- it soon becomes very obvious). You can just about squeeze some pattern of streaking occasionally present in the same area on another pond heron sp. which kinda mirrors it. However the ‘new breeding colours’ will also be emerging and are not maroon!
On aging. What can be said?
The Kent bird is not an adult.
You will see from previous posts we have wrestled and journey with the birds’ ID and aging. Having had longer look with fantastic input from Ian Lewington, Kester Wilson, Paul Leader, Grahame Walbridge and Paul Holt, it’s a little more clear.
Adults have mostly/ all white wing tips and broad rounded tips to the primary feathers at this time of year. “Adults lack the dark primary shafts which are really obvious in my juveniles – and the Kent bird. The Kent is certainly not an adult (if that has been suggested). ” (Paul Leader)
A first winter?
The shape of the primary tips arguably favours a 1st winter bird. The heavily pigmented dark outer primaries and primary tips appears to be rather tapered and worn, the shape looks typical of 2cy, compared to the broader more rounded tips of an adult. Notice how just as in Paul Leaders photos of ‘wings in the hand’ from Mai Po, Hong Kong, the inner primaries are less tapered in shape than the outer one and less damaged at tip compared with outer ones. “Looking at the flight shots of the Kent bird the primary tips do appear to be a better match for 2cy.” (Paul Holt)
The Unresolved Question
Brown pattering in upperwing
Brown pattering in upperwing of the Kent is considered to be too much for any adults, but is it too little for a first winter bird?
Both Paul Leader and Paul Holt, expressed the view they thought the brown streaking to some degree in the uppering coverts, especially lesser coverts should be more obvious in the Kent bird, were it a first winter (2cy). Compare Paul Leader’s in hand wing shots with open wing/flight shots of the Kent bird to see what is meant. For me (MG) personally, and I may well be proven wrong- the wing tip shape is good for first winter, and the pigment may be at the light end- it’s not far off Paul Leaders photos taken 5 months earlier… Maybe further research will establish that the 2cy bird in Fe/March can look like this. Another valid view being explored I that it is a 2nd winter (3cy) bird. More research needed!
Brown fringing to tail feathers
Some 1st winters have brown fringing to tail feathers. The tail on the Kent bird appears to be all white. Whether all 1st winters have brown tail tips, or not or fading occurs needs more research.
and above all- enjoy the bird !
And in honouring the dudes- thanks to these guys who have added so much on this: Oscar Campbell, Paul Rowe, Phil Palmer, Ian Lewington, Grahame Walbridge, Paul Holt, Paul Leader, Kester Wilson, Dave Gandy, Paul Apps, Dave Allen, James Lowen, Ian Roberts, Brett Richards, David Walker, David Carr, Thomas Sacher, Martin Goodey.