Wednesday, January 20, 2010

More images of the wheatear

More images of the wheatear found yesterday by Uri Makover - these are his images too.
In these images the rump pattern and wing structure are better seen.

It is worth noting that range-wise, White-crowned breeds the closest of all four 'black' whetears - perhaps only 100 KM south. We have previuos records of birds wondering away from their breeding range in winter. All three other forms (Basalt, Black and variable) are extreme vagrants in Israel, and all were recorded in winter.

Shirihai in his 'Fifty New Species' article in Sandgrouse 21 (1999) gives a brief but important summary on the ID of picata in Israeli context. It is an important reference for this matter.

This bird is not a Basalt Wheatear - Uri didn't manage to get images of the bird in flight but he noted that it did not have the pale remiges typical for lugens. Further, adult Basalt Wheatear shows fine pale tips to the primary coverts. I am not sure about the age of this bird - the remiges seen quite brownish so it might be a 2cy, but nevertheless these pale tips are not visible on this bird. Also the white lower belly is clearly demarcated from the black, while in most basalt the black merges into the white.

It is agreed by most people who sent me their views that it is not a leucura, based on structure (head, bill and primary projection).

Even though Svensson mentions that some yound white-crowns may show a complete tail band, this tail band seems too massive to fit leucopyga. Is that true? However, there are a few tiny white feathers above the eye on the right side of the head - a bit worrying....

So what about picata? I have no relevant experience, and the literature on ophistoleuca is pretty limited. However, I and can't find anything in this bird that doesn't fit picata.


  1. Hi Yoav, what was this Wheatear identified as in the end? Thanks. Steve

  2. Steve,

    Unfortunately the bird was never relocated, so all we're left is with these images. I'm afraid that it would be impossible to give a definite ID of such a rare bird based on these images, lacking many important features.
    However, the best option seems to be 'Basalt' Wheatear, based on the brown tones, whitish tips to secondaries and tertials, amount of white on belly, and wing structure.