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Old Sunday 3rd November 2013, 18:07   #1
tomjenner
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What is this pale sandy coloured warbler netted in Sudan?

I caught this bird yesterday while mist-netting weavers in Sennar, about 250km south of Khartoum in Sudan. It was in heavy moult, which has made the identification more difficult, especially as all the tail feathers were growing back, making it difficult to know if it is a long-tailed bird, like a prinia or apalis, or a short tailed bird like a cisticola.
The bird appears to have a yellow gape flange, suggesting that it is a young bird. The short tail also suggests this. However, it was also undergoing wing moult, so it could hardly be a bird that has just left the nest. I am assuming it is a first year bird undergoing a complete post-juvenile moult, which is apparently quite common in desert species due to the heavy abrasion due to dust and thorny branches.
The bird that first sprang to mind was a juvenile Red-fronted Warbler, but it seems to be more of a pale sandy coloration than photos on the internet. However it does seems to be growing dark tail feathers with white tips, and it does seem to have a slightly warmer forehead. other possibilities could be Red-pate Cisticola, Red-faced Cisticola, or even Buff-bellied Warbler. All of these species are possible at the netting location, which was in an open area with low acacia scrub beside an irrigation ditch in an agricultural region where they were mainly growing sorghum.
I have limited experience with three of these species but I have never seen a Red-fronted Warbler, nor any of them in the hand. So I am hoping someone can help. I have more photos if needed.
Any comments appreciated.

Tom
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Old Sunday 3rd November 2013, 18:14   #2
James Lowther
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i'm way out of my depth here, but any chance it is an african desert warbler??
just looks like a sylvia to me

http://blackaudibirding.blogspot.co....-27-march.html

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Old Sunday 3rd November 2013, 18:29   #3
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I'd agree, looks like a juv African Desert Warbler.
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Old Sunday 3rd November 2013, 19:11   #4
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I agree that the general coloration of this bird suggests a Desert Warbler, but the tail is not right. There is no warmth to the central tail feathers or rump. The central tail feathers, at least what can be seen of them, appear to be dark with a white tip.
This would also be quite a large range expansion for African Desert Warbler and probably a bit out of its normal habitat, at least for a juvenile. Asian Desert Warbler is seen in Sudan, but all records are from the drier areas in the north of the country, plus I would not expect to see a bird as young-looking as this on its wintering grounds, though I am only guessing this.
This bird had a wing length of 57 mm. My relatively old copy of Svensson (1992) gives 52 to 61 mm for African and 58 to 62 for Asian Desert Warbler. I have added a few extra photos in case they help.
Any additional comments welcome.

Tom
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Old Sunday 3rd November 2013, 20:14   #5
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Undertail pattern looks good for Red-fronted, although a different ssp, perhaps Valery et.al could add, being more familiar.
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Old Sunday 3rd November 2013, 21:04   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rockfowl View Post
Undertail pattern looks good for Red-fronted, although a different ssp, perhaps Valery et.al could add, being more familiar.
Shouldn't the undertail be longer and blacker, Mark?
MJB
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Old Sunday 3rd November 2013, 21:15   #7
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Hi Tom, it looks a Sylvia warbler to me. A female Menetries's is what looks best to me.

Edit: a similar looking October bird added:

http://www.israbirding.com/israelbir.../image1017.jpg

http://www.israbirding.com/israelbir.../image1015.jpg
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Old Sunday 3rd November 2013, 21:35   #8
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I agree with Motmot, the dark primaries and tail, the bill, the lack of white around the eye and the dark iris : menetries's rather than african desert Warbler for me.
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Old Monday 4th November 2013, 04:38   #9
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Menetries makes a lot of sense. This website shows birds with similar characteristics, including the warmer forehead and the open wing shot also matches my bird (http://eilatbirding.blogspot.com/201...menetries.html). Presumably it lost its tail and is not quite as young as it looks.
Thanks for all the comments.

Tom

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Old Monday 4th November 2013, 05:42   #10
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Agree on Menetries' W. Sorry for delay I was in the field. Just back now.
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