or at least further exploration!
by Martin G.
Thanks to those who responded to the Mystery Stonechat question. It’s an intriguing bird. I picked up in flight from the car and called it as a ‘Caspian’ on account of thinking I saw white in tail and large pale rump. However on landing it was too dark overall, looking at times very European Stonechat- like and Sander Bot and I, together with Mick Cunningham quickly decided it looked better for a Siberian Stonechat ‘maurus’. The rump was big and pale and somewhat peachy but no white was visible in the tail as it flew about. I was still bothered that I thought I had glimpsed some white so persevered with photos- and sure enough: a small area of white at base of tail feathers is just visible. Certainly a good bird to work with and learn from.
all photos below are of the same bird: Beit She’an Valley, N Israel, 13th November 2013 by MG
Looking rather like a male European Stonechat. Makes you wonder if adult male Siberian Stonechat are overlooked in NW Europe – passed off as the Common cousin?
Tending to look a tad paler and ”cleaner’ at times than European Stonechat with glimpses of large all pale rump. the primary projection -while subtle – does not look long enough to me for the Caspian taxa. Longer on Northern (hemprichii) and even longer on Southern (variegatus – ex armenicus), which has been suggested as an ID for this bird.
Large plain rump and black inner underwing coverts mean it can’t be European rubicola- even when it tried to look like one.
White patches again visible at base of tail feathers from the underside- as detected by some folk. White at tail base of stonechats is easier to see on underside than upperside.
So what is it?
I think it’s an adult male, though aging can be tricky. I think it’s a Siberian Stonechat maurus and not a Southern Caspian Stonechat ‘variegatus‘ (ex armenicus). Why?
1) Too much colour below. Both Caspian Stonechats, with some variation, show the most vivid stonechat plumage. An isolated orangey ‘blood spot stands out on the breast with lots of white or pale below. This bird has orangeyness 🙂 over most of the underparts. A normal feature of some adult male Siberian ‘maurus‘ in autumn.
2) Subtle, but to me primary projection looks too short. South Caspian Stonechat should have longest primary projection and seems to usually appear longer than it does on this bird.
3) Siberian maurus passing through southern Kazakhstan apparently have some white at the base of the tail sometime to similar extent as on this individual bird. Again from limited research- I think an adult male Southern Caspian would actually have more white than is visible in these 2 photos.
This is another cusp of learning on the stonechats, so if you disagree or can add something to the discussion. Welcome!