Collared Flycatcher – first ever in this plumage in Britain

Sumburgh Head, Shetland 21st September 2015

They continue to surprise us. Of all the birds a new plumage for Britain in a species fraught with agonies over identification and hybrids wasn’t quite expected. With some good fortune all kinds of detail were captured on this stunning autumn male Collared Flycatcher- the first in this plumage type in Britain.

Roger Riddington



At first light on Monday 21st September, there were no migrants at all at Sumburgh Head – or at least not that I could see – and I went to work soon after. At coffee time, Pete Ellis walked round the lighthouse area and found quite a different story: three or four Yellow-browed Warblers (the vanguard of a large arrival – Fair Isle logged 53 that day and there were probably similar numbers in southern tip of Shetland) and two flycatchers:

One Red-breasted Flycatcher and something more intriguing.

Pete phoned me at about 12.15 and he was clearly excited; I can’t remember exactly what he said but something along the lines of ‘there’s an amazing looking flycatcher up here, I think it could be an adult male Collared…’. I jumped in the van and was soon up there to join him, George Petrie and Martin Heubeck watching this stunning little bird. The rain and dull light wasn’t good for photography but we soon had a few record shots of the wing markings and other features.

Like most people, I hadn’t got much idea of what to expect when I first took the call, but found a basically female-like bird, with obvious grey rump and nape shawl and acres of white in the wing. From what literature was easily available, it seemed that Pete was right: everything seemed to fit adult male Collared pretty much spot on, and the news was released 15 or 20 mins later.

Later, back at home with 500+ mostly rubbish photos and a greater range of literature to wade through, the difficulties of black-and-white flycatcher ID became more apparent – but it still looked like an adult male Collared. It’s the first British record for this plumage as far as I’m aware. In terms of ageing, note the black remiges, coverts and tail, the tertial pattern (with a narrow, even fringe around the tip, not a marked step at the shaft) and also the amount of white beyond the primary coverts in the closed wing. In combination, the amount of white in the primaries, tail, median and greater coverts, and forehead helps to rule out Semi-collared and Atlas.

Here’s some pics: (all photos Roger Riddington)




Autumn Adult male in the Netherlands in October 2010.

Hi Martin

This is the adult male Collared Flycatcher I found from my daughters bedroom window in October 10th 2010.

Thought you might like these pics
Arnold Meijer

This appears to be the first adult male in autumn in ‘NW Europe’ – away from the strictly N/S Scandinavian flyway.

BLUE ROBIN Withalsvliegenvanger Katwijk 101010 Arnold Meijer 287C1611BLUE ROBIN Withalsvliegenvanger Katwijk 101010 Arnold Meijer 287C1534

2 thoughts on “Collared Flycatcher – first ever in this plumage in Britain

  1. Pingback: The FIRST Collared Flycatcher… | Birding Frontiers

  2. Pingback: Collared Flycatcher in NE England? | Birding Frontiers

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