Category Archives: 21) Crows to Orioles

Abyssinian Roller VIDEO

First for Europe

Thanks to those especially Dominic Mitchell and Rich Bonser who indicated that the bird on Canaries  is not a first for the WP. There are several other Western Palearctic records from North Africa. So this species at cursory look seem to make occasional movements beyond the Sahel. Check out the superb video by Juan below

Juan Sagardia


Abyssinian Roller on the Canaries

First for Spain and Europe

Juan Sagardia sent these superb photos yesterday with this comment:


Coracias abyssinicus in Fuerteventura

A specimen discovered in the Barranco de la Torre in Antigua on the island of Fuerteventura by Alain Pataud on June 92014.
It may be the first event of this sort to Europe.
We talked with zoos and none has ever had this species.
In the same place there was also a possible Phylloscopus orientalis. See what you think.
I have attached photos of the two species of yesterday (13th June 2014).
Best regards
More info on Rare Birds in Spain

!cid_36099868-A373-4AD0-8F05-09ECDEBA8BF4 !cid_D2C62EC4-79CC-4939-AEAE-20BD61D701A0 !cid_574E7A9F-F9B1-45D8-94B0-ED2B352AA4A0

and an apparent  Balkan Warbler (aka Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler). Waiting to find out if it called….

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all photos above by Juan Sagardia

Eastern Jackdaws

The Intergrade Issue

Alan Tilmouth

1 = spermologus 2 = monedula 3 = soemmerringii

A = Turrium   B= Polish Intergrade

Whilst Martin has covered the three Jackdaw races (spermologus, monedula and soemmerringii) in his previous blog posts probably the biggest barrier to getting a ‘Russian’ Jackdaw or soemmerringii accepted in Britain is what is happening in the areas or intergrade zones where these different races meet.

As Matthew Silk acknowledged in his summary of the possible ‘Russian’ Jackdaw visiting his garden, soemmerringii “is considered a very rare winter visitor in the Netherlands so is likely to occur in Britain albeit not very often.”

There are two key areas of racial integration amongst Jackdaws, first up, from Southern Denmark south to the Alps, monedula overlap with eastern populations of spermologus. The resulting offspring of mixed race pairings here have been referred to as turrium. The French paper linked to in Martin’s original post had this to say about turrium:


“turrium has an appearance intermediate between it and monedula.

The variability of these populations is considerable, and therefore the identification of turrium is only possible in direct comparison with typical individuals (of spermologus or monedula).

Slightly lighter than spermologus and darker than monedula; often similar to that of individuals in populations of southern Western Jackdaw.

Even in fresh plumage, turrium seem a bit darker than monedula, but still clearly contrasting with black throat and upper parts (unlike the typical spermologus).

The collar is variable but usually indistinct the lower neck is a slightly lighter gray than the neck with ill-defined grayish spots and faint contrast with the rest of the plumage.

Do not underestimate the degree of variability of this intermediate population, which in any way, presents an average plumage sharper and more contrasted than Western Jackdaw, but too dull (especially in the lower parts) for a typical Scandinavian Jackdaws.”


The second key area is in areas south of the Scandinavian Peninsula such as Poland where western soemmerringii are thought to integrate with monedula. The French paper commented thus on these ‘Polish Jackdaws’:

“The Polish intergrade is very variable; in general, it is clearer and more contrasting than the breeding populations in Western Europe (turrium included) and is similar to a version of dull soemmerringii.

The colors of these parties are more or less intermediate between those of Scandinavian and eastern birds, however, generally it lacks the nuance that gives a pale purple lavender at the nape of soemmerringii.

Normally soemmerringii is blackish, not contrasting markedly with the upper throat dark or black This criterion is variable and some individuals may resemble’ turrium’Jackdaws they differ, however, by the neck much paler and the white marks at the base of the neck.

Given the influence of the subspecies soemmerringii, the collar is white, but irregular,( smaller and less distinct than in Eastern Jackdaws. Generally, the lower edge of the neck is pale gray, as in monedula.

Ruud Altenburg has kindly provided some images of Jackdaws from Cubna, central Poland in February that aptly displays some of the individual variations.

Compare these with some of the individuals that have been seen here in Britain this winter:

Killingworth, Northumberland, Jack Bucknall

Bishop Burn, Cumbria, Tristan Reid

Bothal Pond, Northumberland, Alan Tilmouth

One of the key features that has struck me about many of the individuals reported as a race other than spermologus here in Britain & Ireland is the shade of the underparts. Often they appear darker than monedula though perhaps not as dark/black as spermologus. I think this often leads some observers to dismiss some of these individuals as variation within our own population. My feeling is that the lack of  any significant number of individuals showing the prominent white collars or neck patches from April through summer may rule this out. The shorter distances required to move from the ranges of  turrium and ‘Polish Jackdaws’ (as compared to soemmerringii) combined with the underpart colour midway between races begs the question as to how many of these individuals originate from these populations.

I’ve also noticed that the timing is interesting with many of these ‘Eastern-type’ Jackdaws showing up from December onwards with a peak in February/March. There could be two factors at play here; weather related movements from the continent perhaps pushing birds further west in bad winters and the tendency for juveniles to move further than adults that only subsequently get detected as they begin to wear in late winter causing the collars and neck patches to become more prominent.

Partly as a result of the recent attention Jackdaw races have been receiving Birdguides have now added ‘Nordic’ Jackdaw as a ‘species’ option in the Iris Gallery and it would be good to get as many images from different locations as possible entered there that can be used for comparison.

Alan Tilmouth, March 2011

3 Jackdaws types

with weird Latin names

While in N. Ireland last weekend I got chance good looks and photos of Western Jackdaws- ssp. spermologus– the resident Jackdaws of Britain and Ireland. Best starting point for me has always been to ‘learn the local birds’ to know them well, that way ‘odd’ or interesting individuals are more easily discerned and its my way of being better informed to pick out a young Daurian Jackdaw!

Meanwhile Ian Smith sent me photos of 1st winter Nordic type Jackdaw from Spurn and Dan Brown of a bird in Cumbria which said “maybe I am a visiting Russian Jackdaw or what an intergrade looks like”. All grist to the…etc etc

adult spermologus Jackdaws. Millisle, N Ireland, 12th Feb 2011. Different angles and lighting can affect appearance. Check out the iridescent blues on right hand (head -on) bird in last shot.

Same adult spermologus Jackdaw in above 2 shots- watch out for relying on photos only- the apparent pale collar above is an artefact of angle and lighting.

1st winter Nordic Jackdaw ssp monedula, Spurn, 17th October 2010, Ian Smith.

hindneck/nape patch bit paler and more contrasting than on the N Irish spermologus above and with little white patch at front of collar. aged by brownish tones to wings with some moult contrast and especially that darker iris- scary!

Just as a reminder and comparison, I think this is a good candidate from Sussex in Feb. 2007  of Russian Jackdaw ssp. soemmerrengii .


Dan Brown sent me these images from Cumbria with following comments (Dan- don’t let Alex Lees see you are looking at these, you might lose your honorary ‘mohican’- c.f. this months end section of Birdwatch mag.)

“Hi Martin,

Hope all’s well. Thought you might be interested in the attached. I found it feeding with 52 Jacks in Cumbria yesterday and managed one poor shot before it was flushed by a Peregrine but luckily refound it today. It is such a striking bird and different in so many ways to spermologus. The main differences are apparent from the images but the overall feel of the bird was markedly different as well. It appeared slightly larger, but particularly more butch. The trousers seemed larger in volume and more ragged, much like a rook, the bill even seemed slightly heavier. The gloss on the secondaries also appeared far more marked than on accompanying birds although this may just be a factor of angle, light and greater concentration on one individual. All this combined with the beautifully contrasting plumage made me think it may be a soemmerringii or intergrade rather than a monedula. The underparts were certainly consistently dark.”

Russian Jackdaws in Britain?

ssp soemmerringii

Been interested in these for a while having found the first ‘Nordic Jackdaws’ in N. Ireland over a decade ago. Rewind? A brutally simpified over view:

3 Jackdaw subspecies in Europe:

ssp. spermologus. This is the one that lives and breeds in Britain. Found: western half of the Netherlands and Belgium, Britain, France, the Iberian peninsula and Italy.
ssp. monedula. (‘Nordic Jackdaw’), breeds in south-eastern Norway, southern Sweden and northern and eastern Denmark
ssp. soemmerringii. (‘Russian Jackdaw’) nearest breed S Finland but huge range extending east to Lake Baikal, Siberia, and north-western Mongolia, south to Turkey, and Israel and the Himalayas. P.S Jackies in Turkey look different to me. Maybe pontocaspius. More on that again.

Matthew Silk sent these interesting images and a summary of his thoughts on the bird so far. It looks like an adult and think it seems a genuine candidate. Rudy Offereins who has championed the occurrence and ID of these things perhaps more than anyone notes that: more than 100 soemmerringii may winter annually in north-eastern France with 11 ringing recoveries in France of Jackdaws originally ringed from within soemmerringii breeding range. To me that makes ’em likely to occur in England- and southern England at that.

RUSSIAN JACKDAW, Corvus monedula soemmerringii, in SUSSEX?

Matthew Silk

Martin kindly allowed me to post these photographs of a Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) showing characteristics of the subspecies C. m. soemmerringii that was present in a mid-Sussex garden in February 2007. Comments on its identification would be very welcome.

Clearly this individual belongs to one of the non-British races (monedula or soemmerringii). However, I have some experience with typical monedula jackdaws as they can be found in very small numbers most winters feeding with large corvid flocks in nearby fields, and this bird seemed different to those. The distinctive neck collar itself is within the range of monedula although it is extensive and very pale (despite the overcast/dull conditions these photographs were taken in) with a relatively distinct boundary, especially in the photos where the neck is less stretched. The collar also extended all of the way round the neck, although it was less distinct on the very back of the neck; a typical monedula should only show diffuse spots when viewed from directly behind. So whilst the neck collar indicates an eastern origin for this individual, collars looking like this do not rule out some more eastern monedula. The colour of the nape patch of itself is much more suggestive of soemmerringii, being pale (compare it to the local birds in one of the photographs) and having a distinct purple hue, in the field. Both of these features point strongly towards soemmerringii. The key feature shown by this bird which seems to suggest this bird is soemeringii rather than monedula is the colour of underparts (and the rest of the body). These were comparably dark to the local birds it was feeding with, whilst in monedula they typically do not contrast that greatly with the colour of the nape, and should appear much lighter than in spermologus. Another feature which was noted was a subtly different structure and jizz. Whilst the reading I’ve done does not suggest this to be a useful feature, this bird could almost be picked out on this alone when arriving in the garden to feed. I would be interested to know if measurements varied clinally along with plumage. Basically this bird seems to be a good candidate to be a “Russian Jackdaw” (ssp. soemeringii) but is it impossible to rule out intergrades with monedula or even perhaps an extreme monedula from the eastern part of that subspecies range?  Whilst ssp. soemmerringii is not officially on the British list, it is considered a very rare winter visitor in the Netherlands so is likely to occur in Britain albeit not very often.

Some useful websites:…nt_art51_1.htm

ssp. soemmerringii:

nominate monedula