Balearic Woodchat Shrike – badius

A New Feature?

by Martin Garner

I was very pleased to catch up with the Balearic Woodchat Shrike at Wykeham, North Yorkshire earlier this week. As ever when vagrants get studied closely it raised a question for me. Is there another feature of badius not yet described?

Here’s the boy. Balearic Woodchat Shrike was, at one stage considered possibly not identifiable with certainty by BBRC. A thorough review by Brian Small and Grahame Walbridge (read the paper: Balearic Woodchat Shrike paper ) found and affirmed key characters. Some are visible here on this 1st summer male like the rather thick, slightly bulbous bill, the lack of white at the base of the primaries and possibly pertinent the narrow black band on the forehead (though bearing in mind this will get broader in adult plumage. But there is another feature…

2cy male Balearic Woodchat Shrike, Wykeham. North Yorkshire, May 2015. Nick Addey

2cy male Balearic Woodchat Shrike, Wykeham. North Yorkshire, May 2015. Nick Addey

The TAIL

Critical in separating Eastern Woodchat Shrike (niloticus) from nominate senator is the amount of white in the tail. (Read the paper Eastern Woodchat Shrike paper)

What if the same applies to badius versus senator? I found no reference to this in a quick search of the key literature.

The Wykeham bird appears to have moulted most of its tail (apart from possibly the outermost t6) to black adult type feathers and yet it also appears to lack the prominent white at the base of some of the outer tail feathers. The outermost tail feathers t6 is obscured and may be a juvenile feather, but I would have expected to see at least some white obvious at the bases of say t5 and t4 if the pattern had been the same as nominate senator (BWP says bases of t2-t5 are white with almost half the feather on t4 being white and much of base of t5 also white). Instead the tail looks essentially all dark.

2cy male Balearic Woodchat Shrike, Wykeham. North Yorkshire, May 2015. Nick Addey

2cy male Balearic Woodchat Shrike, Wykeham. North Yorkshire, May 2015. Nick Addey

2cy male Balearic Woodchat Shrike, Wykeham. North Yorkshire, May 2015. Brett Richards

2cy male Balearic Woodchat Shrike, Wykeham. North Yorkshire, May 2015. Brett Richards

The tail looks black and does not appear to be a retained juvenile tail- apart from perhaps the outermost feather t6?  But then in flight you can see the more extensive grey over the uppertail coverts with small white rump patch and all dark-looking tail (T6 is mostly hidden under t5).

2cy male Balearic Woodchat Shrike, Wykeham. North Yorkshire, May 2015. Dave Aitken

2cy male Balearic Woodchat Shrike, Wykeham. North Yorkshire, May 2015. Dave Aitken

Ideally I would need to review specimens and see more inflight spread tails of various Woodchat taxa. What do you think? Go ahead have your say...

Compare with this bird recently on the Isles of Scilly-  a male nominate senator taken by Martin Goodey.

2cy male nominate Woodchat Shrike, Scilly, May 2015. Martin Goodey

2cy male nominate Woodchat Shrike, Scilly, May 2015. Martin Goodey

2cy male nominate Woodchat Shrike, Scilly, May 2015. Martin Goodey

2cy male nominate Woodchat Shrike, Scilly, May 2015. Martin Goodey

Eastern Woodchat- niloticus

and to complete the set- the even more extensive white at the base of the tail feathers found in niloticus– very rare in NW Europe with no British records… yet!

Notice also the BIG white area over rump and uppertial coverts of niloticus.

male Eastern Woodchat Shrike (niloticus), Eilat, March 2012. Martin Garner

male Eastern Woodchat Shrike (niloticus), Eilat, March 2012. Martin Garner

tail of male Eastern Woodchat Shrike (niloticus), Eilat, March 2012. Martin Garner

tail of male Eastern Woodchat Shrike (niloticus), Eilat, March 2012. Martin Garner

4 thoughts on “Balearic Woodchat Shrike – badius

  1. Eduardo amengual

    I’ve ringed a good number of badius in the Balearics and they certainly show the darkest tails of all the Woodchat ssps. T6 shows extensive white, T5 usually shows a bit of basal white and the rest of the rectrices are basically all dark. Don`t know if this applies to all badius but at least the ones I’ve checked the tail pattern showed this mostly dark design.
    Cheers,
    Eduardo Amengual

    Reply
  2. linosabirding

    Hello Martin
    sure there is kind of a cline of white on the tail of Lanius senator ssp. with birds from west to east showing more and more white… the badius taxon (to me eye a VERY good candidate for a near future split!) show the darkest of all tail… however, notice that white on the tail is hard to be used as clinching and reliable ID character, even in niloticus as it is very variable… for ex MANY Italian senator have almost as much white at the base as niloticus !
    White on the wing and bill structure is way better ID character for all of them ! (moult pattern as well!) …a good reading for Lanius in WP (as all other bird taxa) are the publication on taxonomy made by Charles Vaurie, easely find on the web !

    Reply
    1. Harry

      Hi Andrea,
      I agree that badius is distinct in all plumages, and also breeds sympatrically with senator in Italy (or so I recall you saying before), but seem to remember that the (limited?) DNA work done on the taxon suggests very low divergence from senator? Still, there’s more to be done, no doubt, and maybe we haven’t heard the last on that matter yet.

      Reply
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