Pure and hybrid
How are you on this tricky subject?
See full set of Grahams photo of the bird: >>>>Pewit Blogspot<<<<
Graham Catley BSc Env
Ornithological Consultant and Professional Photographer
Director, Nyctea Ltd
Extirpation refers to local (rather than global) extinction. A 40 year gap existed since the Cryptic Forest Falcon had last been seen along the Atlantic forest of Brazil. Then some good news. Ornithomedia regularly posts on the Birding Frontiers Facebook page. Here’s their report:
The Mata Atlântica or Atlantic Forest stretches along Brazil’s coast to Uruguay, reaching inland northeastern Argentina and eastern Paraguay. Formerly covering nearly 1.5 million km ², its area is more than 100,000 km ² today, only 2% remained intact!
Although still very rich, the biodiversity has suffered from such destruction, and many plant and animal species are on the brink of extinction. The good news is so rare and welcome. In the December issue 2013 Revista Brasileira de Ornitologia, we learn that José Eduardo Simon and Gustavo Rodrigues Magnago observed and recorded July 29, 2012 a Carnifex Minton ( Micrastur mintoni ) in the Reserva Natural Vale, in the Brazilian state Espírito Santo. The last observation that some raptor in the Atlantic Forest dated 1972, and some ornithologists even thought he had disappeared from this ecosystem.
Merlin has a huge breeding range accross Europe and Asia. It has several subspecies – as in many other species the W European populations being darker, and the E populations being paler and larger. pallidus (‘Steppe Merlin’) is the largest and palest of those occuring in the WP. It breeds in the steppes of N Kazakhstan and SW Siberia, and winters mainly in the Indian Subcontinent. It is a rare winter visitor to the Middle East, and therefore it should be looked for in Europe as well. In Israel it is rare indeed, with one or two wintering in some winters.
Last week I was doing a wintering raptor census in the NW Negev, in the open fields of Urim. This area is very rich in winter, with a strong C Asian steppes influence – Saker, callidus Peregrine, Sociable Lapwing, Eastern Imperial Eagle and Pallid Harrier are regular winter visitors, and this area hosts important populations of these species. As I was working a small patch of Tamarix trees that often are used as day roosts for Merlins, I noticed a brilliant male pallidus Merlin shooting out of a tree. I had quick flight views at first, but this form is so distinctive – especially in direct sunlight the upperparts are as pale as a Pallid Harrier so ID wasn’t challenging… It landed in a farther tree, and I managed to drive up to it and get a couple of crap shots in the shade before it flew out again.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to focus on the bird in flight and got nothing of it in proper light conditions. So I checked google and found these fantastic shots by Indian friends Rajesh Shah and Nirav Bhatt – I use their images here with their kind permission:
The size and structure differences from European aesalon might be difficult to judge in the field, especially in males that are anyway smaller than females. However, the pallid grey upperparts, pale head, faintly marked moustache and eyestripe, and faintly streaked upperparts make identification rather easy if seen in good light conditions. I guess that females and juveniles are much more challenging to identify – should be duller, paler and less streaked, but very hard to find convincing images.
Some more friends from the NW Negev:
by Peter Adriaens
While surveying Lesser Kestrels in Armenia on Oct 1st 2013, I noticed this male kestrel.
In the field, I saw its short P10, and immediately jumped to the conclusion that it had to be a Common Kestrel.
I quickly took one photograph and thought no more of it. There were many Lesser Kestrels around, and these were my main focus at the time.
When I looked at the photo at home, however, it became clear that a number of things are at odds with Common Kestrel, even though the wing formula and the pattern of the remiges strongly suggest this species, and are very wrong for a male Lesser Kestrel in autumn. I guess it is mainly the lack of black spots on the underparts that is outside of the variation seen in male Common Kestrel, but added to this are some more subtle differences:
- grey cheek
- lack of blackish moustache
- unmarked white ‘boomerang’ around the wrists
- not much pattern on the underwing coverts, including axillaries
- a rather rounded, bulbous head
- rather fat body and broad tail base
- very big white tips to the tail feathers
Wouter Faveyts and Andrea Corso have been very helpful in discussing this bird (on the basis of the single photograph). From our e-mail correspondence, it is clear that the bird can be aged as an adult male: all remiges are of the same generation, and the tail pattern is obviously not that of a juvenile as it does not show even a hint of barring. Birds in the autumn of their 2nd calendar year either show different generations of flight feathers (usually 9 adult primaries and 1 juvenile, outermost, after arresting their moult) or a complete set of adult primaries (with the typical, unbarred pattern). In any case, the pattern of the remiges is wrong for any Lesser Kestrel, particularly males, as they show a broad dark trailing edge to the secondaries, which this bird lacks.
Eastern Lesser Kestrels may show a bit more strongly barred remiges than western birds, but they still have the broad dark trailing edge on the secondaries, and besides, an adult male would not show such extensive Common Kestrel-like barring (nor short P10). They also tend to have darker head and body, the latter with rounded black spots – which are absent in this Armenian bird.
In conclusion, the wing formula and pattern of remiges suggest Common Kestrel, while most other characters suggest Lesser Kestrel.
The most logical conclusion, hence, is that this bird is a hybrid.
The people from the Armenian Society for the Protection of Birds, who ring chicks of Lesser Kestrels every year, have told me that they have seen a few suspected hybrids in the main colony over the years, but they have no photographs. There are only two colonies of Lesser Kestrel in Armenia, and Common Kestrels breed in at least one of them too. Though the two species are genetically distinct and have very different calls, I guess rare cases of hybridisation may occur. Hybridisation (in nature) is mentioned in Panov (1989). Hybridization is said to have occurred in Italy too, though there is no documentation of this.
Though it is unfortunate that there is only one photograph, this may be the first documentation of a hybrid kestrel.
All the fun of modern birding. Another web-based discovery. I returned from very fine couple hours of seawatching with Flamborian friends this morning. Highlights were 2 Little Auks, 1 Sooty and 2 Manx Shearwaters, 3 diver species with Black-throated Diver and 2 Great Northerns, 2 Bonxies and my favourite- a close very smart adult Pomarine Skua.
Back at home warming up with porridge, my twitter feed, featured discussion on a harrier in Cornwall. Clocked by David Campbell on this Cornish website (and in discuss with David D. L and ‘Prof W.’), he suspect it might be a North American ‘Marsh Hawk’ (Northern Harrier). I agreed- looks spot-on and I would like to see one such as this in the UK!
The bird’s finders were Bob Sharples and I. Webster. Bob (visit his website) has provided the following images:
2nd cal or older male Marsh Hawk (Northern Harrier), Cornwall, 23rd Nov. 2013 (c) www.bobsharplesphotography.co.uk, All Rights Reserved. Roughly half black and half white outer primaries (mostly black in Hen), only 5 (not 6) marked with obvious black, dark grey head with strong pattern around eye (see photos below), extensive rufous bars, spots and heart marks over underbody and underwings coverts nail it!
Bob comments on the sighting
Location of Men an Tol, Cornwall where the bird was seen: HERE
For lots more beautiful photos visit Bob Sharples web pages.
By Martin G
Tomorrow morning I head off to visit the Israel with Sunday heralding the start of the 3rd Hula Valley Bird Festival. Here’s a reblog of just one of the many highlights seen last November. What this year?
‘Evil Red Eyes’ typed into the Google search engine brings up these images. Just like the piercing ruby eyes of the Black-shouldered Kite. Those eyes, deep-set in black furrows, on the side of triangular Owl-like head, form part of the super charismatic appeal of these birds. Add an apparent Asian (not European origin) of vagrant turned breeder, arriving in the rescued Hula Valley (a whole David versus Goliath conservation story there) and you will meet this bird:
apparent Asian Black shouldered Kite- ssp. vociferus. Agamon Park, photographed during the 2nd Hula Bird Festival, November 2012. M Garner. This is the adult male from the first breeding pair in Israel (and the Western Palearctic?)
apparent Asian Black shouldered Kite- ssp. vociferus. One difference between nominate caeruleus and vociferus- well seen here, appears to be the dark shadow of grey over the secondaries. Not as black as the underside of the primaries, but the black appears to ‘bleed’ from inner primaries to adjacent secondaries and overall the grey secondaries contrast obviously with white underwing coverts. The secondaries are normally nearly white/just slightly grey in nominate birds, lacking the obvious contrast. Light plays a big role in assessing this properly. Suppose there might be other subtle differences, to be explored!
So not just a first for Israel but first for the Western Palearctic ( I think), the breeding of vociferus- Asian Black-shouldered Kite.
apparent Asian Black shouldered Kite- ssp. vociferus. Agamon Park, during the 2nd Hula Bird Festival, November 2012. M Garner.
Really benefited hanging out with learning about this stuff from the pioneers: Yoav Perlman, Nadav Israeli, Jonathan Merav and Dan Alon. More on the spread of the kites (since 2011- some 5 pairs have been found in Israel e.g. see Yoav’s blog ) and see conservation in the Hula ,where more should be written Dan’s herculean work to get this all started.
Video capturing some of the first breeding and taken during the 1st Hula Bird Festival in Nov.2012 by Mark Andrews.