Category Archives: d) Accipiters and Falcons

Northern adult female. September. Cataluña. Photo by Eio Ramon. Pp 4-5 and rr 1 have been replaced, typical moult sequence for migrant females.

Identification of northern Peregrine Falcons in the Iberian Peninsula

By Àlex Ollé and Víctor Estrada-Devesa

Across most of the Iberian Peninsula, the local breeding Peregrine ssp is brookei. In the northern third of the peninsula, birds with phenotype very close to Central European birds are found. This is an integrade zone between peregrinus and brookei (Zuberogoitia et al., 2008).

From mid September to May, the local and sedentary brookei population in Iberia is reinforced with northern birds, originating from boreal and arctic areas in north and east Fennoscandia, that migrate through or winter in Iberia. Based on information from tagged birds and ringing recoveries, it seems that northern individuals wintering in Iberia originate mainly from northern Finland, an integrade zone between peregrine and calidus. Possibly Iberia also receives birds originating from arctic Russia, where pure calidus breed. In Catalonia –NE Iberian Peninsula, the wintering population is estimated at around 50 birds (Ollé, Estrada-Devesa & Gil, 2016).

In this post, we will try to add some interesting insights on the separation of brookei from northern birds (calidus or peregrinus/calidus integrades), mostly adults, based on our local experience in winter and on migration. We also present some interesting variation within brookei.

Moult 

In adult birds, moult of flight feathers (mainly primaries) is the key feature to differentiate northern birds from local brookei. In Spain, brookei start laying eggs between late February and early March. Females start moulting earlier than males, in April-May. Males end their moult in October, a moult strategy completely different from northern birds. In September, when the first northern birds arrive back on their wintering grounds, they are in a less advanced moult stage, with only 2-4 central primaries moulted. Moult stage of Nordic birds may depend on egg-laying dates and on their breeding success, with early breeders of failed breeders arriving to Iberia with more advanced moult. Also northern birds show sexual differences in moult. In Catalonia we have noticed that females end their moult at the end of December, while latest males end their moult in April. On average, northern birds moult P10 (the last primary to be moulted) during the second half of February, though we found few individuals that were still growing P10 in April.

Northern adult female. September. Cataluña. Photo by Eio Ramon. Pp 4-5 and rr 1 have been replaced, typical moult sequence for migrant females.

1. Northern adult female. September. Cataluña. Photo by Eio Ramon. Pp 4-5 and rr 1 have been replaced, typical moult sequence for migrant females.

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Northern female, adult. January. Cataluña. Photo by Camilo Albert. This bird has old pp9-10, pp 1-2 missing, ss1-2 and other inner ss old and ss3 growing; typical molt sequence of a northern Peregrine.

2 & 3. Northern female, adult. January. Cataluña. Photos by Camilo Albert. This bird has old pp9-10, pp 1-2 missing, ss1-2 and other inner ss old and ss3 growing; typical molt sequence of a northern Peregrine.

Northern adult male. March. Cataluña. Photo by Arnau Soler. Note growing p10. Facial and body patterns typical of a northern bird.

4. Northern adult male. March. Cataluña. Photo by Arnau Soler. Note growing p10. Facial and body patterns typical of a northern bird.

Adult female brookei. May. Cataluña. Photo by Jordi Bermejo. Breeding bird with active moult. Pp4-5 already replaced, together with primary coverts, while s5 is growing.

5. Adult female brookei. May. Cataluña. Photo by Jordi Bermejo. Breeding bird with active moult. Pp4-5 already replaced, together with primary coverts, while s5 is growing.

Adult male brookei . October. Cataluña. Photo by Àlex Ollé. Typical resident brookei with p10 finalizing the early moult

6. Adult male brookei . October. Cataluña. Photo by Àlex Ollé. Typical resident brookei with p10 finalizing the early moult. Note also heavy barring on underparts, thick-based moustachial stripe and limited pale ear coverts.

Facial pattern

Moustachial stripe of northern birds is usually narrower, more pointed and more contrasting than brookei, especially at the base. Ear coverts are very white, almost up to eye level (photos 2, 3, 4, 8 and 7). Some birds can show wider and less contrasting moustachial stripe, but in no case blurred as in brookei (photo 1). The crown is normally pale grey, sometimes with a paler forehead (photos 4, 7 and 15). Conversely, brookei usually show a very wide-based moustachial stripe that links with less contrasting ear coverts, and a uniform dark crown (photos 6, 12, 13 and 16).

Body colours and patterns

Northern birds show a clear white upper breast, normally unmarked. The central breast and upper belly have irregular horizontal bars with little dark spots, that can reach down to the central belly area (photos 1, 2, 4, 13 and 7). Flanks show more regular stripes, but thinner. There is a clear sexual difference in this pattern: males have thinner and irregular markings, while females markings are wider and better pronounced. Base colour is a light and variable pale rosy tone (photos 2 and 13), especially in the central belly.

In brookei the base colour is salmon or cream, though in some individuals, mostly males, it is more restricted to the breast only (photos 6, 9 and 14). In brookei the upper breast usually has small dark spots, especially in females, that are followed by broader and regular horizontal bars, both in the central area and in the flanks (photo 6 and 9).

9. Northern male . April. Catalonia. Photo by Marcel Gil. Typical bird, with clear upper breast and central breast with thin and irregular barring. Note the rose tones to the central belly. Pointed moustachial stripe and very white cheeks.

7. Northern male . April. Catalonia. Photo by Marcel Gil. Typical bird, with clear upper breast and central breast with thin and irregular barring. Note the rose tones to the central belly. Pointed moustachial stripe and very white cheeks.

10. Northern adult female. February. Catalunia. Photo by Víctor Estrada-Devesa. This bird follows is still in active moult in late February, with r5 and p9 still growing and p10 is old. Moult ends in late March or early April. Besides that moult sequence, the bird shows a peregrinus phenotype, probably from boreal northern Fennoscandia. These birds, especially females, have dense and spotted/stripped pattern to underparts. They are separated from brookei by an active moult in winter, they are bigger and have a different head pattern.

8. Northern adult female. February. Catalunia. Photo by Víctor Estrada-Devesa. This bird follows is still in active moult in late February, with r5 and p9 still growing and p10 is old. Moult ends in late March or early April. Besides that moult sequence, the bird shows a peregrinus phenotype, probably from boreal northern Fennoscandia. These birds, especially females, have dense and spotted/stripped pattern to underparts. They are separated from brookei by an active moult in winter, they are bigger and have a different head pattern.

12. Brookei adult female. November. Catalonia. Photo by Miguel Ángel Fuentes. Typical bird, with dense and extensive barring. Upper breats with some small dark spots. Wide moustachial stripe without clear cheeks. Moult already finished.

9. Adult female brookei. November. Catalonia. Photo by Miguel Ángel Fuentes. Typical bird, with dense and extensive barring. Upper breats with some small dark spots. Wide moustachial stripe without clear cheeks. Moult already completed.

Mantle tones

As mentioned above, males are on average paler than females. Northern birds are often paler blueish above, sometimes rather bright depending on light conditions.

15. Northern adult male. March. Catalonia. Photo by Jordi Martí-Aledo. The bluish tone, almost unbarred, is a key feature of northern males. p10 is very fresh, indicating that it was recently replaced.

10. Northern adult male. March. Catalonia. Photo by Jordi Martí-Aledo. The bluish tone, almost unbarred, is a key feature of northern males. p10 is very fresh, indicating that it was recently replaced.

16. Adult brookei. Catalonia. Photo by Àlex Ollé. Dark mantle, slightly paler in the lower back, heavily barred above. Note typical head pattern.

11. Adult brookei. Catalonia. Photo by Àlex Ollé. Dark mantle, slightly paler in the lower back, heavily barred above. Note typical head pattern.

Behaviour and hunting 

Northern birds are often more human-tolerant than local brookei, sometimes even at very close distances (see attached video). 

We found that northern birds often sit on the ground, much more than local brookei, that does not often land on the ground. 

Northern birds are larger and heavier on avergae, and they prey on larger birds, including herons and ducks. Most often local brookei prey on pigeon-sized birds or smaller.

Young ‘Arctic Peregrines’

We believe that some birds wintering in Iberia are ‘Arctic Peregrines’ (calidus). They are huge! Young birds are very brown from above, and often heavily marked below.

7. Apparent northern female, 2cy. January 2016. Catalonia. Photo by Víctor Estrada-Devesa. Possibly an arctic bird, typically brown from above. It was trapped and seen again next winter (see next photo).

12. Apparent northern female, 2cy. January 2016. Catalonia. Photo by Víctor Estrada-Devesa. Possibly an arctic bird, typically brown from above. It was trapped and seen again next winter (see next photo).

8. Northern female, 2cy. November 2016. Catalunia. Photo by Joan Goy. The same bird in the above photo. Thin moustachial stripe and clear ear coverts, clear rose tone to the breast. This bird had a moult stage atypical of northern birds: p1-p9 already moulted and p10 growing. It is possible that this bird (2cy) did not breed, which may explain the early moult.

13. Northern female, 2cy. November 2016. Catalunia. Photo by Joan Goy. The same bird in the above photo. Thin moustachial stripe and clear ear coverts, clear rose tone to the breast. This bird had a moult stage atypical of northern birds: p1-p9 already moulted and p10 growing. It is possible that this bird (2cy) did not breed, which may explain the early moult. Note that young calidus often show very dark coverts, confusingly similar to Lanner and Saker.

Variation in adult brookei

Over the years we have noted some brookei that show features closer to northern birds (peregrinus / calidus). Without full study of all features including moult, they may be misidentified. More study is needed on the amount of variation in brookei.

13. Adult male brookei. February. Alicante, Spain. Photo by Jorge García. Typical brookei head pattern. Breast pattern is reminiscent of northern birds. These features are usually associated with mature birds.

14. Adult male brookei. February. Alicante, Spain. Photo by Jorge García. Typical brookei head pattern. Breast pattern is reminiscent of northern birds. These features are usually associated with mature birds.

14. Adult male brookei . May. Catalonia. Photo by Gabriel de Jesús. This breeding male could be mistaken as a northern bird if seen in winter. It has a grey crown and a pale forehead. Cheeks are White. Underparts barring is irregular, with a light cream base color to the belly rather than to the breast. Nevertheless, it has some typical iberian features: short moustachial stripe with a wide base, striped breast, and cream base color rather than rosy.

15. Adult male brookei . May. Catalonia. Photo by Gabriel de Jesús. This breeding male could be mistaken as a northern bird if seen in winter. It has a grey crown and a pale forehead. Cheeks are White. Underparts barring is irregular, with a light cream base color to the belly rather than to the breast. Nevertheless, it has some typical iberian features: short moustachial stripe with a wide base, striped breast, and cream base color rather than rosy.

 

Acknowledgments 

We thank all the photographers for allowing us to use their photos.

 References 

Ollé. À., Estrada-Devesa, V. & Gil-Velasco, M. 2016. Els falcons d’origen nòrdic Falco peregrinus peregrinus i Falco peregrinus calidus: dues formes força descconegudes a Catalunya. Butlletí del CAC 1: 11-25.

Zuberogoitia, Í., Azkona, A., Zabala, J., Astorkia, L., Castillo, I., Iraeta, A., Martínez, J.A. & Martínez, J.E. 2008. Phenotypic variations of Peregrine Falcon in subspecies distribution border. In: Sielicki, J. & Mizera, T. (Eds.). Peregrine Falcon populations –status and perspectives in the 21st century-. Pp. 295-308. European Peregrine Falcon Working Group.

 

 

 

 

Arctic Peregrines in Eastern Europe

Latvia and the (Western) Edge of the Range

peregrein calidus 5 (1 of 1)

Gaidis Grandans

Hello, Martin!

I want to know your ID thoughts about a 1cy Peregrine Falcon, photographed on 3rd October at Latvia. According to “Winter Book” it looks good for ‘Arctic Peregrine’  ssp. calidus = new subspecies for Latvia. Thanks!

Gaidis  Grandans 

Gaidis is writing from from Latvia. He’s the manager of birdinglatvia.lv – rare and interesting bird observation in Latvia. 

A reply from MG:

Well this is lovely looking Peregrine. As you say, a bird in its first year. A 1cy.

It is not as distinct as some calidus but well within the ‘wake up and look at this’ range! It shows exactly the kind of features we want to be here if looking for vagrants. Right now.

The rather browner uppers, lots of pale about the head, specifically large pale cheek, rather thin dark ‘moustache’. A pale ‘nick’ under the eye trying to cut the dark moustache off. Rather large pale supercilium- bit broken up. Then check out that underpart streaking- YES! fading to thinner in the middle. What about the vent/undertail. Barring weak and reduced. All in all rather delicious!

How to record such birds?

I have seen similar plumage in similar latitude further north. The range to the north of this bird will appear in books as the edge/ overlap zone of nominate and calidus. I suspect more calidus pass through Latvia given the geography. Some of these will be travelling MONSTER distances.  All such birds should be well documented as calidus and calidus-like records as part of the local avifauna. 

Probably overlooked,  I wonder what the real status of migrants/ vagrants passing through Latvia is?

Cheers Martin

I have lightened this first shot to show the underparts which were in shadow.

peregrein calidus 2 (1 of 1)

 

and then it lands

peregrein calidus 3 (1 of 1) peregrein calidus 4 (1 of 1) peregrein calidus 5 (1 of 1)

.peregrein calidus 1 (1 of 1)

 

Peregrine eating Kestrel

This is a smart piece of video taken in very strong winds in September at Spurn. The videographer is Dave Tucker- and this was shot with Swarovski ATX using Canon 7D attached to a Swarovski TLS APO adaptor and mounted onto the telescope. Balance Rail also used.

Peregrines take a wide variety of birds as their main food source. Kestrel however was not high on my list of species I thought they took! Great capture Dave.

 

It’s also a way of announcing the Premier of the Spurn Migration Festival video on the 25th October- more info coming soon!

 

 

 

Invasion of Red-footed Falcons in Bonkers Numbers

In Poland- and some questions…

See the video- only 15 seconds long but the numbers are incredible!

Lukasz Lawicki

 

immediate update: 9th September 2014.

New amazing news: in Poland, more than 1,500 birds (!), and further
about 500 in other Baltic countries (Latvia, Sweden, Estonia, Finland,
Germany, Denmark). Amazing! I wonder how many of them will reach to the western Europe. See on the photos from Poland HERE.

 

I am very curious if in countries in western and northern Europe in the
last week reported influx of Red-footed Falcons Falco vespertinus?

In Poland during the last week has been a very large invasion of this
species – at least 650 birds (now over 1500) were recorded, including 330 (!) birds at
one roost site near Lublin (SE Poland). See:

Of course, it is the largest ever invasion of Red-footed Falcons in
Poland (and still going!).

Perhaps it has to do with weather conditions – probably it is a result
of the high-pressure area, which in recent days pushed to Poland the
warm air from the SE Europe.

Probably most of these birds come from breeding grounds in south-eastern
part of continent (eg, from Ukraine or from a large population in
Hungary), but it is worth noting that one juvenile bird with Italian
ring (blue plastic) was photographed in NW Poland.

I would be grateful for information on whether in your country is also
now more Red-footed Falcons?

Cheers!

Lukasz

West-Pomeranian Nature Society, Poland.

 

Gyr Falcon in Lincolnshire?

Graham Catley

Grey morph Gyr Falcons can be very tricky bird to identify away from their core range. The spectre of a challenging ID and the possibility of falconer’s hybrids is ever present. This juvenile bird seen the last 2 days in N. Lincolnshire looks spectacular! Is it even the same seen at Patrington Haven in Nov, 2013? Graham Catley is keen to hear from those with a working knowledge of the subject. To be cont’d..!

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See full set of Grahams photo of the bird:    >>>>Pewit Blogspot<<<<

“Morning Martin

A few quick words!
As I was passing Read’s Island on Sunday evening (9th March) I stopped off to do a quick Avo count but all the birds in the area were airborne; a quick scan revealed the two Marsh Harriers high up amongst the mass of gulls but none seemingly affected by each others presence; after a while I dropped my gaze and on the front edge of the island was what appeared to be a buteo sized pale falcon sitting head on to me! a panic for the scope revealed two distinctly blue – grey looking legs that showed no obvious signs of entrapment, some heavy underpart streaking and a notably pale head; fell for the modern disease and reached for the camera in which time it flew off closely chased by Lesser Black backs but it returned and landed on the back of the island again head on. It looked interesting but my one fuzzy flight shot suggested its upperparts were brown toned with a contrast between forewings and flight feathers and the paler head and nape. it remained distant to 17:45 when the light was going and it flew over the back of the island and out of sight.
,,
Monday morning (10th March) I was back and initially passed over its upperparts protruding above a bank as a juv gull! Views were much better than the previous day and a series of pictures take albeit still at long range with a 500 lens and 2x converter; the upperpart colour seemed to vary but was typically a grey -brown; the legs were seen again with a scope and in photos nothing appears on them; it was mobbed by Marsh Harriers and LBB and GBB Gulls and always seemed to spook the Shelduck which it seemed to have a close eye on — I left at 11:15 but apparently it flew south early afternoon and was not seen between 15:15 and 17:15 — still not sure of the ID myself; I sent a link to Dick F. and wonder if he may actually be in Israel as its March
,,
Graham
;

Graham Catley BSc Env

Ornithological Consultant and Professional Photographer

Director, Nyctea Ltd

 

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Cryptic Forest Falcon

Once thought extirpated.

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:

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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.

Read the full story >>> HERE <<<