with Pied Flycatcher
by Dani Lopez Velasco
During the last few years, a team of keen Spanish birders has visited the idyllic island of Cabrera, a small islet off Mayorca, in search of rarities. The weather conditions and landscape –as well as the “common” birds – are pretty different to those in most rarity hotspots in western Europe (but I guess similar to Linosa), and birding under blue and sunny skies amidst large falls of migrants is the norm here.
Based on the results of past ringing campaigns, where a number of firsts for Spain have been caught, including sugh megas as Ruppell’s Warbler or Semicollared Flycatcher, we decided to give a first try some springs ago, which ended up in Juan Sagardia, one of our team, finding another first for Spain, a stunning Cretzschmars Bunting. Following that, we´ve made several more 3 day trips, in late April and mid October, producing large numbers of common migrants (and Balearic Warbler is one of the most common birds in the island!), as well as plenty of good rarities including Eastern Olivaceous Warbler (first for Spain) and Hume´s Leaf Warbler (3rd for Spain), Little Bunting, Collared and R-b Flycathers, lots of Y-b Warblers, etc…
We´ve come again this year, and on the first morning two days ago, a large fall of ficedula flycatchers took place. Amongst them, a classic female Collared Flycatcher – a rarity here and one of the first females to be identified in the field in Spain- was found and, most interesting, a male showing features of a hybrid Collared x Pied. Separating a hybrid from a male Iberian Pied – iberiae hereafter – and Atlas Flycatcher – speculigera hereafter- can be challenging or, in certain individuals, especially 2cy, almost impossible based on field marks, although the sound recordings of this individual, with a call very similar to that of a Collared, together with a couple of plumage features, point towards the bird being a hybrid.
Interesting features of this bird include an all black tail (with an all black T6), hint of a near-complete neck collar (especially obvious in certain angles)- although note that some male iberiae and speculigera can show similar neck collars-, a relatively large white forehead patch and jet-black upperparts.
All these features can be shown by both a hybrid and a pure speculigera/iberiae, although, given that the bird seems to be an adult, then the white primary patch is clearly smaller than on the most typical adult speculigera /iberiae (and the white forehead patch is also smaller than on a classic speculigera).
To compare: iberiae Pied Flycatcher
above: First summer male iberiae Pied Flycatcher
below apparent hybrid Collared X Pied Flycatcher
Call is therefore essential to reach a positive ID, and the plaintive, straight, thin whistle, very similar to Collared, and unlike the typical contact call of Pied, should rule out speculigera and iberiae, thus indicating hybrid origin. A very interesting and educative flycatcher for sure!
I´d like to thank Jose Luis Copete, Andrea Corso, Brian Small, Magnus Hellstrom and Guillermo Rodriguez for their comments on this and other ficedula flycatchers.