Category Archives: 23) Finches

Northern Bullfinch

Wing bars in Males

Martin G.

Help requested- see below ūüôā

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<<<

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

 

Identification of African Chaffinch

African Chaffinch Рjewel 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 ‚ÄúAfrican Chaffinch‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôs 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 ‚ÄúAfrican Chaffinch‚ÄĚ 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 ‚ÄúAfrican Chaffinch‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôs a very helpful and typical character always successfully used, once seen well, to identify all the ‚ÄúChaffinches‚ÄĚ seen in North Africa.

2.Typical outer tail pattern of ‚ÄúAfrican Chaffinch‚ÄĚ 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 ‚ÄúAfrican Chaffinch‚ÄĚ 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 ‚ÄúAfrican Chaffinch‚ÄĚ show a much wider white area on the three outer most rectrices (tail feathers T6-T4 or R6-R4 according to authors), while ‚ÄúEuropean Chaffinch‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äúhalf-white‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äúhalf-white‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äď 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 ‚Äď 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 Р223.

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‚Äď234) 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

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Redpoll Chatter Calls

Useful for Identification?

Redpolls are tiny beautiful finches. Much has been written about the identification conundrums of redpolls. Very little has been done on how their calls might help with identification. As a starter for 10 here are some recordings from 5 ¬†of the 6 forms (taxa) of Redpolls including Hornemann’s (very rarely recorded). Redolls have lots of call type and variants within these, so it’s a tricky subject. ¬†These are chatter type calls. And there are some appreciable differences. Have a listen and click on sonagrams for larger image. To be cont’d…!
Coues's Arctic Redpoll, May 2011. Martin Garner. This bird (prob. a young male) sat calling and singing for ages in this tree  on the Varanger peninsula in Arctic Norway. Listen to his chatter calls below.

Coues’s Arctic Redpoll, May 2011. Martin Garner. This bird (prob. a young male) sat calling and singing for ages in this tree on the Varanger peninsula in Arctic Norway. Listen to his chatter calls below.

1 male calling Coues's Arctic Redpoll Varanger May 2011 wav file

 

This male Mealy Redpoll visited the same few gardens on the Varanger peninsula as the Coues's Arctic above. With a bit of effort I got him on his own and recorded some of his chatter calls below.

This male Mealy Redpoll visited the same few gardens on the Varanger peninsula as the Coues’s Arctic above. With a bit of effort I got him on his own and recorded some of his chatter calls below.

2 male calling Mealy Redpoll Varanger May 2011

6 Mealy Redpoll Quendale 14 oct 2013

 

1st winter Hornemann's Redpoll, Norwick, Unst 4th October 2012. Well known for being confiding, when attempting to record thie one I got really close and  suddenly the bird began calling and then flew straight toward me and attempted to land on my parabolic dish. I started and the bird flew and landed on the driver's side mirror on our minibus!

1st winter Hornemann’s Redpoll, Norwick, Unst 4th October 2012. Well known for being confiding, when attempting to record thie one I got really close and suddenly the bird began calling and then flew straight toward me and attempted to land on my parabolic dish. I started and the bird flew and landed on the driver’s side mirror on our minibus!


4 d nearly all 1st winter Hornemann's Redpoll (one NW Redpoll occassional in background) Norwick, Unst late Sept 2012

4 c nearly all 1st winter Hornemann's Redpoll (one NW Redpoll occassional in background) Norwick, Unst late Sept 2012

4 b nearly all 1st winter Hornemann's Redpoll (one NW Redpoll occassional in background) Norwick, Unst late Sept 2012

4 a nearly all 1st winter Hornemann's Redpoll (one NW Redpoll occassional in background) Norwick, Unst late Sept 2012

 

North-western Redpoll (rostrata/dark islandica). This was one of up to c100 birds seen in the 'greater Norwick' area on Unst in autumn 2012. Recordings from a small flock at Norwick below.

North-western Redpoll (rostrata/dark islandica). This was one of up to c100 birds seen in the ‘greater Norwick’ area on Unst in autumn 2012. Recordings from a small flock at Norwick below.

3 c NW Redpolls Norwick Oct 2012

3 b NW Redpolls Norwick Oct 2012

3 a NW Redpolls Norwick Oct 2012

Mealy Redpoll (right) and Lesser Redpoll (left) at Uyeasound, Unst, Shetland in October 2013. This one Lesser Redpoll (scarce in Shetland) stood out on size and plumage from 5 Mealy Redpolls feeding in one of the gardens.

Mealy Redpoll (right) and Lesser Redpoll (left) at Uyeasound, Unst, Shetland in October 2013. This one Lesser Redpoll (scarce in Shetland) stood out on size and plumage from 5 Mealy Redpolls feeding in one of the gardens.

6 Mealy Redpoll Quendale 14 oct 2013

5 Lesser Redpoll Sammy's Point Spurn 3rd Nov 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hornemann’s Arctic Redpoll – maybe?

Magical Moments 2013 #13

Quendale poll oct 2013

What: an Arctic Redpoll Carduelis hornemanni that might have been a Hornemann’s or Icelandic Arctic or Coues’s Arctic …

Who: Paul Harvey, Roger Riddington and Richard Schofield

Where: Quendale Mill, South Mainland, Shetland

When: last full day of my autumn birding session on Shetland, Sunday 13th October 2013

Why: ¬†¬†Because we don’t know what it is… exactly.¬†Quendale has served me up with 3 finds with Roger and Paul: 3¬†Olive-backed Pipits and an American ¬†Buff-bellied Pipit. So it was a case of, joined by RS on my last day on Shetland, autumn 2013 and what would we find this time? Well, at the time we thought it most likely a young Hornemann’s. But assessing size was really hard; it was on it’s own. I managed no definite sound recordings which could have been very helpful. When it flew off, other redpolls appeared and confusion set in. ¬†Why was it so buffy down the flanks? It was clearly an ‘Arctic type’, but there are 3 you see ūüėČ Coues’s, Icelandic and Hornemann’s. Lovely photos of 1st winter Hornemann’s taken by Chris van Rijswijk in this month’s Birding World resurrected my confidence that it probably was a Hornemamn’s.

But I like it as a last farewell to 2013, because it keeps me humble and exploring and asking questions- even if I get it wrong or just plain get confounded by nature sometimes.

Never lose the wonder!

It’s also GOODBYE to this face of the Birding Frontiers blog, as – all being well – a new face, with new stuff and some new team will appear very soon to launch us into 2014…

So THANK YOU for visiting and contributing. We hope you have a very happy New Year and your hopes and dreams take off 2014.

Very best wishes for 2014!

'Arctic'  Redpoll, Quendale, October 2013.

‘Arctic’ Redpoll, Quendale, October 2013.