Category Archives: 23) Finches

Arctic Redpoll and Mealy Redpoll

Change the ID Culture

Martin Garner

red15

I am working on redpolls ID stuff, which is probably a bad idea to confess for host of reasons!

Here I want to have a look at more tricky Arctic Redpolls versus Mealy Redpolls.

It’s a classic conundrum.

I would argue we are starting, often on the wrong foot. Immediately.

Base line stuff:

The difference between many Arctic and Mealy Redpolls can be VERY subtle (more than is conveyed or believed?)

There are some overlapping characters (which is not the same as ‘intermediate’ individuals)

Starting Differently. More Art than Science.

When you watch lots of redpolls I think it gets easier. Reason? The brain is a marvellous vivid computer. What starts by looking the same ‘all gulls look the same’, after much exploring, study and watching of the nuances, subtleties, jizzy features, begin to come to the fore and the scary canvass of ‘look the same’  ades.

If you start with relax- take in overall jizz and try NOT to rush into one feature’s silver bullets’ that are supposed to nail it.  They don’t always work anyway.

Once you settle in then check the small features. Jizz first details seconds

Streaky

Most Arctic redpoll are streaky. Really. They are. Which is annoying as they are supposed to nice a plain and white in redpoll folk lore. It’s often subtly different kind of streaking, but they are often streaky, even some adult males. Streaky is OK

Example

So here’s an example for  fun- don’t’ get bogged down. I watched this one for ages. Roughly using that process at the time I thought it was an Arctic Redpoll. After churning it over, I still do. I have chosen this one as it’s about THE MOST streaky Arctic type I could find. Still the process of jizz, feel and familiarity (watching lost and lots of redpolls, both Mealy and Arctic where most fell into one box or another- IN THAT CONTEXT– this bird looked like it was a member of the Arctic pack and not the Mealy pack. I can’t convey that in photos like these.

Have a look, see what you think. I have chosen he photos that make it look more Arctic-like- indeed as I remember it the field. I have other pics which if presented alone might never be claimed as an Arctic. Art before Science. Avoid silver bullets.

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Arctic onered14

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red 6 Yes I have a  thickish central undertail covert. You jealous?

Mealy Redpoll

 

To compare a couple of Mealy Redpolls in same area that I wold not quibble over:

Mealy Redpoll b

Mealy two

 

Arctic Redpolls in-the-hand

To compare. Here’s some trapped birds. These are all Arctic Redpolls a few day later, mid March 2013 in Varanger, Arctic Norway.

 

arctic redpoll 3arctic streakyArctic streaky onearctic red 4

 

So whats this one?

What would you do wit this based not he images and no art before science? No field watching?

Be warned- it’s a bit streaky too.

 

arctic in f 3arctic in f 1arctic in f 5

 

Easier but streaky

And this is the wrong starting point- males- mostly adults look more like this.  We will mis-identify most Arctic Redpolls rif the only acceptable birds look like the ones in the photos below. Some are adult males.

arctic male ad male arctic

 

and finally one of my all-time favourites. Not sen many like this one

Arctic Redpoll gets Punked

May 2012 with Tormod. This adult male with zero streaking, just grey and white and crazy triangulated head with pink flushed body. Could be an advert for some toiletry product.

Arctic Redpoll Skallelv TAmundsen Biotope

 

 

 

 

 

Arctic or Mealy Redpoll?

or summat?

Like a moth to a flame. The flights are booked and we will be in Haranguer, Arctic Norway in mid March. SOON!. Me and Mrs G and another stage on our journey partnering with and championing the glorious arctic with our friends from Biotope.

There are also one or two new Challenge Series books in the pipeline. No promises, but let’s see what’s possible. Certainly here is one of the top-of-the-list subjects.

So what species is this? Arctic or Mealy?  Photographed in the Pasvik Forst in March 2013. Easy! 😉

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Northern Bullfinch

Wing bars in Males

Martin G.

Help requested- see below :)

male Northern Bullfinch, near Pasvik River on Norway/ Russian birder, March 2013. Birds in this area gave several call types including trumpeting but wing bar broad grey 'saw toothed' and flat topped. This one also has some pink feathering in the grey upperparts-  perhaps diagnostic of Northern- but I shouldn't be telling you that- so keep it to yourself- saving for next book. Martin Garner

male Northern Bullfinch, near Pasvik River on Norway/ Russian birder, March 2013. Birds in this area gave several call types including trumpeting but wing bar broad grey ‘saw toothed’ and flat topped. This one also has some pink feathering in the grey upperparts- perhaps diagnostic of Northern- but I shouldn’t be telling you that- so keep it to yourself- saving for next book. Martin Garner

I have mentioned this one briefly before but I thought I’d pitch again…

I am currently writing on the subject of Northern Bullfinch ID (nominate pyrrhula) versus the continental europoea and British pileata taxa. I found the male featured below along with 2 other Northern Bullfinches at Whitby, North Yorkshire in late October 2004 (the last big invasion year). Not the first or only Northern Bullfinches I have seen. But not seen another quite like it…

male Northern Bullfinch, Whitby, North Yorkshire October 2004. Martin Garner

male Northern Bullfinch, Whitby, North Yorkshire October 2004. Martin Garner

 

A big fat, chunky bad ass. Pink and pale grey. Beauty. Feeding at point-blank tame range right next to a footpath.

The curious feature I am asking about and trying to make sense of is the white wing bar. You can clearly see instead of having a flat upper edge to the white tips of the curved, then are curved with ‘U’ shaped edge and white bleeding up the outer webs of the feather. It becomes more pronounced on the inner  greater coverts which are slightly obscured by overhanging grey scapular feathers.

 

male Northern Bullfinch, Whitby, North Yorkshire October 2004. Martin Garner

male Northern Bullfinch, Whitby, North Yorkshire October 2004. Martin Garner

This pattern certainly exists in the far eastern taxon cassini (readily apparent on museum specimens). I don’t think this bird is from the core range of cassini. However I can’t easily explain where the pattern originates. Most Northerns I have seen and researched show usually broad wing bars with straight upper edge, sometimes ‘saw-toothed pattern’ but not with the white U shapes.

I wonder if this is a pattern is may be broadly related to intergradation with cassini which occurs in the Siberian population but much closer to / within the Western Palearctic?

Can anyone elaborate or share any more light?

Or indeed any more insights in those trumpeting calls or other variants in calls. I have heard trumpeting Northern near the Pasvik river on the Norwegian/Russian border give a variety of calls including ‘tooting’.

 

male Northern Bullfinch, Whitby, North Yorkshire October 2004. Martin Garner

male Northern Bullfinch, Whitby, North Yorkshire October 2004. Martin Garner

Bird Table Extraordinaire in Ontario, Canada

Ontario FeederWatch Cam

How many species can you see?

This is fun watching especially f you are a European birder. Evening Grosbeaks, Mealy and Arctic Redpolls, Pine Grosbeaks (the North American variety), Blue Jays and Grouse! Very cool if you’re curled up of an evening.

Well Done Cornell!l Live stream go >>>HERE<<<

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 17.28.17 Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 17.05.04Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 16.59.24 208d1d95-b84e-489c-b885-896c4ff42e40_2400

To see the recordings and live stream go   >>>HERE<<<

 

Identification of African Chaffinch

African Chaffinch – jewel of North African birds. Here the Identification is looked at with a focus on the diagnostic tail pattern (males and females) and the observation of north bound African Chaffinches in Chaffinch flocks in the spring).

Andrea Corso

Upperparts of 3 African Chaffinch africana males from Morocco (3 left hand skins) and 3 spodyogenys males from Tunisia (3 right hand skins) ; note that africana is more extensively and strikingly bright green on mantle and on rump. Also, the grey colour is more intensely bluish tinged and deeper in africana compared to the paler silvery-azure grey of spodyogenys   (TRING Museum (BNHM) - A. Corso).

Upperparts of 3 African Chaffinch africana males from Morocco (3 left hand skins) and 3 spodyogenys males from Tunisia (3 right hand skins) ; note that africana is more extensively and strikingly bright green on mantle and on rump. Also, the grey colour is more intensely bluish tinged and deeper in africana compared to the paler silvery-azure grey of spodyogenys (TRING Museum (BNHM) – A. Corso).

My passion for North African fauna never ends. One of those matters I have been studying in last years is about the identification of real African Chaffinch from unusual oddly plumaged European Chaffinch. This beautiful taxon, really a jewel of the African land, is variously treated as a subspecies of Fringilla coelebs, or as a separate species Fringilla spodyogenys (Collinson, 2001).  In recent years, a wide and not yet ended debate over the occurrence of “African Chaffinch” taxa in Europe, has seen a number of papers on several bird magazines dealing with that matter and with the identification criteria (Van den Berg & The Sound Approach, 2005; Oreel, 2004; Mullarney, 2006; Jonker, et al. 2008). Some of the very last one, concluded either that the Great Britain’s records could not be accepted behind any reasonable doubt, for the possibility of aberrantly plumaged European birds (Mullarney, 2006) or as opposite that, in the Netherlands for example, the observations (or at least some of them) could be proven and accepted, mostly supported by the differences in calls recorded, considered to be typical and distinctive (Jonker, et al. 2008).

Underparts of 3 African Chaffinch africana males from Morocco (3 left hand skins) and 3 spodyogenys males from Tunisia (3 right hand skins) ; note that africana show also on underparts more sutured and intense colours (TRING Museum (BNHM) - A. Corso).

Underparts of 3 African Chaffinch africana males from Morocco (3 left hand skins) and 3 spodyogenys males from Tunisia (3 right hand skins) ; note that africana show also on underparts more sutured and intense colours (TRING Museum (BNHM) – A. Corso).

1.Typical outer tail pattern of “African Chaffinch” showing extensive white on T6-T4 with an almost entirely white feather but for a narrow and long black to blackish tongue along outer edge. (Adult male africana from Morocco, TRING Museum (BNHM)- A. Corso).

1. Typical outer tail pattern of “African Chaffinch” showing extensive white on T6-T4 with an almost entirely white feather but for a narrow and long black to blackish tongue along outer edge. (Adult male africana from Morocco, TRING Museum (BNHM)- A. Corso).

A paper by van den Berg & the Sound Approach (2005), has a photo gallery of both the ssp. africana from Morocco and Northern Tunisia and the ssp. spodiogenys from Central and South Tunisia, with description of their identification. However, I am surprised that none of those extensive articles deal with the tail pattern. I am visiting regularly Tunisia (once-twice a year) since 1999 as well as Morocco since 2004 and therefore I have the opportunity to study closely and extensively both nominate spodiogenys and the western taxon africana. Since my first observations, I was struck by the unique appearance of the tail, indeed I noticed that the tail pattern it’s a very helpful and typical character always successfully used, once seen well, to identify all the “Chaffinches” seen in North Africa.

2.Typical outer tail pattern of “African Chaffinch” showing extensive white on T6-T4 with an almost entirely white feather but for a narrow and long black to blackish tongue along outer edge. (Adult male spodyogenys from Tunisia, TRING Museum (BNHM)- A. Corso).

2. Typical outer tail pattern of “African Chaffinch” showing extensive white on T6-T4 with an almost entirely white feather but for a narrow and long black to blackish tongue along outer edge. (Adult male spodyogenys from Tunisia, TRING Museum (BNHM)- A. Corso).

Field observations have been later confirmed and corroborated by skins studies, in several European museums (Roma, Wien, Milano, Torino, Palermo, Catania, Malmo etc.) but mainly in the British Museum, at Tring where several tens skins were studied in detail (2008-2010). As shown and well-illustrated by the photos here reported, both male and female “African Chaffinch” show a much wider white area on the three outer most rectrices (tail feathers T6-T4 or R6-R4 according to authors), while “European Chaffinch” always show darker T6-4, with visibly limited white portion on T6-5 and a fully dark T4 or just tipped white.

3.Closed tail of an adult male spodyogenys from Tunisia to show how it could appear almost wholly white (TRING Museum (BNHM) - A. Corso).

3. Closed tail of an adult male spodyogenys from Tunisia to show how it could appear almost wholly white (TRING Museum (BNHM) – A. Corso).

4.Second calendar year (2nd CY) female spodyogenys from Tunisia; note that in female and chiefly in juvenile the outer tail feathers are less extensively white, chiefly on T4 but still much more than in any European Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs ssp.   (TRING Museum (BNHM) - A. Corso).

4. Second calendar year (2nd CY) female spodyogenys from Tunisia; note that in female and chiefly in juvenile the outer tail feathers are less extensively white, chiefly on T4 but still much more than in any European Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs ssp. (TRING Museum (BNHM) – A. Corso).

This difference in pattern is also visible in the field, mainly when the birds take flight, with African showing an almost half white tail and European showing just a white sided tail. I always found this distinctive difference very useful in the field, in mixed flocks seen in winter in Tunisia.

5.Typical tail of European Chaffinch adult showing the patter of T6-T4; note that the white areas are much smaller and limited compared to African Chaffinch, chiefly on T4 where most of the time only a small apical white tip is visible. On T5 also, the white area is visibly and invariably smaller than in any (including female and juv.) African Chaffinch. The closed tail or open when the bird take flight appears not “half-white” as in African but only white-sided.  (Adult male from England, TRING Museum (BNHM) - A. Corso).

5. Typical tail of European Chaffinch adult showing the patter of T6-T4; note that the white areas are much smaller and limited compared to African Chaffinch, chiefly on T4 where most of the time only a small apical white tip is visible. On T5 also, the white area is visibly and invariably smaller than in any (including female and juv.) African Chaffinch. The closed tail or open when the bird take flight appears not “half-white” as in African but only white-sided. (Adult male from England, TRING Museum (BNHM) – A. Corso).

Also the call, is indeed a very helpful and distinctive character as reported in literature. In regard to concerns over the liklihood of occurrence in Europe, I would like to report some interesting observations done in Tunisia: in fact, in three different occasion in February (1) and March (2), I have seen  flocks of European Chaffinch living Cap Bon and Korba going north, and into this flocks there was a male African Chaffinch, probably having joined the flock during winter season, being catch on or even having mated with a female European, therefore following the flock once leaving leading north. This is known for several species and called abmigration, easily making possible the arrival of African Chaffinches in Europe in spring. It has also been noticed in recent years that some singing males spodiogeyis and couple of females has been found on the highest forest of the island of Pantelleria, Sicilian Channel, Sicily, in April-May, probably having arrived there during winter or early Spring  (Corso, et al. 2012).

Acknowledgements

Best thanks goes of course to all the curators of the museums visited, mostly Katrina Cook and Nigel Cleere for help and assistance during my visits to the British Museum at Tring.

References

Corso, A., Penna, V., Gustin, M., Maiorano, I., & Ferrandes.P. 2012. Annotated checklist of the birds from Pantelleria Island (Sicilian Channel, Italy) : a summary pof the most relevant data, with new species for the site and for Italy. Biodiversity Journal 3 (4): 407 – 428.
   http://www.biodiversityjournal.com/pdf/3(4)_407-428.pdf
van den Berg, A B & The Sound Approach, 2005. Field identification of Maghreb chaffinches. Dutch Birding 27: 295-301.
Mullarney, K., 2006. A chaffinch resembling African Chaffinch in Ireland. Birding World 19: 109 -112.
Oreel, G.J., 2004. Origin of presumed African Chaffinch on Maasvlakte in April 2003. Dutch Birding 26: 46 – 47.
Jonker M., Winters R., Van den Berg A.B. & Ebels E. B., 2008. Atlasvinker in Eemshaven in april 1999 en op Maasvlakte in april 2003: en waarnemingen in Europa. Dutch Birding 30: 215 – 223.

Northern Bullfinch at Filey

Rare anyway. Rarer in Spring

We don’t get many ‘Northern’ nominate Bullfinches in Britain. Usually in the autumn during an invasion year. To get one in spring is even more special. This bird was only seen in flight yesterday, and heard giving the ‘trumpet call’. The call is exclusive to birds of northern/ eastern origin… isn’t it?
  

Mark Pearson describes the encounter at Filey , North Yorkshire on 17th April 2014:

“I heard it before I saw it, and to be honest thought “what the hell’s that?” before looking east and clocking it as a male Bullfinch gunning up the coast in a strong south-westerly. It called at least three times, the classic toy trumpet (apparently diagnostic) of Northern on each occasion. No luxuries of comparison of course, but it did indeed look suitably big, chunky and brutish.

Mark”

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Origins and radiation of true rosefinches (Carpodacus)

José Luis Copete
A paper recently published investigated the potential splits and the possible cryptic diversity hidden in a group with striking plumage similarities: The Carpodacus rosefinches.
Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus, Ladakh India © Carlos Naza Bocos

Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus, Ladakh India © Carlos Naza Bocos

The genus Carpodacus, or rosefinches, comprise about 25 species, 19 of which are living in the Sino-Himalayan region, where they most probably originated.

Roborovski's Rosefinch Kozlowia roborovski Qinghai China © Carlos Naza Bocos

Roborovski’s Rosefinch Kozlowia roborovski Qinghai China © Carlos Naza Bocos

A paper recently published (Tietze et al 2013 Complete phylogeny and historical biogeography of true rosefinches (Aves: Carpodacus). Zool J Linn Soc 169: 215–234) investigated the potential splits and the possible cryptic diversity hidden in a group with striking plumage similarities, especially in females and juveniles. According to their results, that genus originated in SW China and the Himalayas about 14 millions years ago, giving rise to a small clade consisting of Common Rosefinch (C. erythrinus), Scarlet Finch (Haematospiza sipahi) and the nowadays extinct Bonin Islands Grosbeak (Chaunoproctus ferreorostris) on one side, and on other side a larger clade comprising 22 species. The latter split into four major lineages when the uplift of the Himalayas. In that group, they found support for four splits already advanced by some works:

dubius from White-browed Rosefinch (Carpodacus thura), present in WC China (NE & E Qinghai, Gansu, Ningxia S to E Xizang)

formosanus from Vinaceous Rosefinch (Carpodacus vinaceus), present isolated in Taiwan

grandis from Red-mantled Rosefinch (Carpodacus rhodochlamys), present in NW & NE Afghanistan, W & NC Pakistan and W Himalayas E to N India (E to N Himachal Pradesh)

verreauxii from Spot-winged Rosefinch (Carpodacus rodopeplus), present in  S China (NE Yunnan and SW Sichuan) and NE Myanmar.

However, one of the already proposed splits, severtzovi from Great Rosefinch (Carpodacus rubicilla) was not supported and then they consider it should be still considered intraspecific.

Great Rosefinch Carpodacus rubicilla severtzovi Qinghai China © Carlos Naza Bocos

Great Rosefinch Carpodacus rubicilla severtzovi Qinghai China © Carlos Naza Bocos

Of great interest, too, is they suggest the central Asian lineage of Sinai Rosefinch (Carpodacus synoicus) deserves species rank, Carpodacus stolickae. This is indeed not only evident looking at the phylogeny, but also to the morphology. During my last visit to Tring museum last November, for the job of checking skins (ageing/sexing and subspecies differences) for the forthcoming Handbook of Western Palearctic Birds, a quick examination of the skins from the range of stolickae compared with the birds present in Jordan/Israel and other spots in Near East,  was showing how different they are in colouration and size.

Beautiful Rosefinch Carpodacus pulcherrimus davidianus Qinghai China © Carlos Naza Bocos

Beautiful Rosefinch Carpodacus pulcherrimus davidianus Qinghai China © Carlos Naza Bocos

Finally, the Pink-rumped Rosefinch (Carpodacus eos) and Beautiful Rosefinch (C. pulcherrimus) complex consists of four lineages, pulcherrimus/argyrophrys, davidianus, eos and waltoni. They propose to consider C. pulcherrimus waltoni with C. eos as C. waltoni.

Red-fronted Rosefinch Carpodacus_puniceus Qinghai China © Carlos Naza Bocos

Red-fronted Rosefinch Carpodacus puniceus Qinghai China © Carlos Naza Bocos

Given that many rosefinches occur in remote/isolated mountains, the authors didn’t obtain material from the field for logistical reasons, and had to rely on old skins which were providing only four markers for 13 out of 28 terminal taxa, so a few older nodes remain unresolved. It’s therefore of high interest to try to examine these cases with material taken in the field nowadays, since there is still the potential to find hidden diversity.

They also suggest to include Chaunoproctus, Haematospiza, Kozlowia, Pinicola subhimalacha and Uragus inside the genus Carpodacus.

Streaked Rosefinch Carpodacus_rubicilloides Ladakh India © Carlos Naza Bocos

Streaked Rosefinch Carpodacus rubicilloides Ladakh India © Carlos Naza Bocos