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Buzzard, Horton Plains, Sri Lanka

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Old Wednesday 4th December 2019, 08:45   #1
andyb39
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Buzzard, Horton Plains, Sri Lanka

Can anyone help with this Buzzard, seen on 1st December at Horton Plains, Sri Lanka? Images are poor as it was shot through the vehicle windscreen. Our first thought was Long-legged as it seemed quite sizeable, had a creamy head and quite rufous underparts and looked "well-trousered". However, it lacks a dark belly.

There seems to be some confusion as to what occurs here, with Steppe Buzzard (vulpinus) and Himalayan (refectus) said to occur here as well as Long-legged. I put it on an Indian ID forum but didn't get any firm conclusions.
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Old Wednesday 4th December 2019, 10:36   #2
Jean FRANCOIS
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Oriental Honey-buzzard juv. ?
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Old Thursday 5th December 2019, 00:40   #3
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Looks more like a Buteo to me
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Old Thursday 5th December 2019, 01:53   #4
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B buteo

Ssp Himalayan? But is there a way to distinguish between refectus and burmanicus? Given the phenological and morphological variability in plumage within the buteos, I find the shifting ground of the taxonomy more and more confusing!
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Old Thursday 5th December 2019, 03:57   #5
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Himalayan is classed as a full species by all four taxonomic authorities. Refectus and burmanicus are just different names for the same taxon. Refectus has been adopted by three of the four authorities, although IOC has for some reason gone back to burmanicus, despite the claim made by HBW that the naming has been resolved.

The real question is whether it's just a short-distance elevational migrant or whether it wanders more widely. I'm now going through images of all three taxa taken in Sri Lanka and India, looking for a match. I haven't found a refectus or vulpinus (do they really reach S Asia?) this creamy-headed yet.
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Old Yesterday, 01:02   #6
Deb Burhinus
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andyb39 View Post

The real question is whether it's just a short-distance elevational migrant or whether it wanders more widely. I'm now going through images of all three taxa taken in Sri Lanka and India, looking for a match. I haven't found a refectus or vulpinus (do they really reach S Asia?) this creamy-headed yet.
Several trip reports of Sri Lanka list ‘Himalayan Buzzard’ - there’s an image of what was ID’d as ‘burmanicus showing a pale head in one of them which is a dead ringer for your bird but its a pdf and I can’t get it to link

Edit; this might work
https://wingspan-bird-tours.s3.amazo...pdf?1550594150

CeylonBirdClub lists Himalayan ( ‘burmanicus’) and also LLB rufinus as migrants/vagrants. Steppe (vulpinus ) isn't on the list ( I assume its not up to date as it doesnt seem to recognise the latest species revisions re Himalayan buteos)

http://www.ceylonbirdclub.org/sri-lanka-bird-list.php

just a few random trip reports pulled off the web - there’s no doubt Himalayan Buzzard is a regular winter visitor to S.L backed up by this tour which lists Himalayan Buzzard as one of the target species on Horton Plains

https://www.experiencethewild.com.au...-Day-Sri-Lanka

Himalayan Buzzard seen 3rd January
http://srilankabirdingtripreports.co...de-Trip-Report

seen February

https://www.surfbirds.com/trip_report.php?id=1346

seen 26th November
https://www.limosaholidays.co.uk/rep...ber%202015.pdf
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Last edited by Deb Burhinus : Yesterday at 01:38. Reason: add extra link
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Old Yesterday, 01:54   #7
Jeff hopkins
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I just got back from a trip to Sri Lanka. We also had a challenging perched buteo at Horton Plains. After a lot of discussion, the conclusion was it was a Common (Steppe) Buzzard.
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Old Yesterday, 04:39   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff hopkins View Post
I just got back from a trip to Sri Lanka. We also had a challenging perched buteo at Horton Plains. After a lot of discussion, the conclusion was it was a Common (Steppe) Buzzard.
Did you photograph it?
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Old Yesterday, 15:08   #9
andyb39
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deb Burhinus View Post
Several trip reports of Sri Lanka list ‘Himalayan Buzzard’ - there’s an image of what was ID’d as ‘burmanicus showing a pale head in one of them which is a dead ringer for your bird but its a pdf and I can’t get it to link

Edit; this might work
https://wingspan-bird-tours.s3.amazo...pdf?1550594150

CeylonBirdClub lists Himalayan ( ‘burmanicus’) and also LLB rufinus as migrants/vagrants. Steppe (vulpinus ) isn't on the list ( I assume its not up to date as it doesnt seem to recognise the latest species revisions re Himalayan buteos)

http://www.ceylonbirdclub.org/sri-lanka-bird-list.php

just a few random trip reports pulled off the web - there’s no doubt Himalayan Buzzard is a regular winter visitor to S.L backed up by this tour which lists Himalayan Buzzard as one of the target species on Horton Plains

https://www.experiencethewild.com.au...-Day-Sri-Lanka

Himalayan Buzzard seen 3rd January
http://srilankabirdingtripreports.co...de-Trip-Report

seen February

https://www.surfbirds.com/trip_report.php?id=1346

seen 26th November
https://www.limosaholidays.co.uk/rep...ber%202015.pdf
Many thanks for your efforts, Deb.

I had noticed that Ceylon Bird Club only lists Himalayan. My copy of A Photographic Field Guide to the Birds of Sri Lanka (Wijeyeratne), published 2017, includes a checklist and only lists Himalayan and Long-legged. Doing a search on Macaulay, I was able to find 2 images of putative Himalayan photographed in Sri Lanka, but no images of Steppe or Long-legged taken there.

https://ebird.org/media/catalog?taxo...ayan%20Buzzard

Yes, the bird in the trip report you linked does look a bit like mine. The guy on the far right in the group photo is my driver, btw.

I also found 2 images on OBI. This one, taken by the aforementioned Wijeyeratne, is labelled burmanicus:

http://orientalbirdimages.org/birdim...ird_Family_ID=

This one was taken in Mannur (north-west), and is only labelled as Common Buzzard. It looks rather different to other birds:

http://www.orientalbirdimages.org/se..._ID=&Location=

I found one more image from Sri Lanka, this one labelled Steppe Buzzard, although it looks pretty similar to the examples of Himalayan I've seen:

https://www.classicsrilanka.com/blog...ppe-buzzard-1/

It seems to me Himalayan is pretty variable but one feature I'm noticing is a small but prominent bright yellow cere.

My guide called Long-legged at the time, and a forum member said in a personal communication that it looked a bit like LLB because of its long-necked and long-winged appearance, but I have not been able to find any evidence that LLB occurs in Sri Lanka or anywhere near it. Our bird was quite pale-headed but I think on LLB this should extend to the breast, which should contrast with a darker belly.

So overall I'm leaning towards Himalayan but with no certainty. I wish now I'd taken some more shots.
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Old Yesterday, 17:54   #10
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All five individuals with photos in this thread (did I find them all?) look like Steppe Buzzards to me. Himalayan is often reported in Sri Lanka, but I have yet to see a convincing photo. The two species are possible to identify with care, but it is best to see and photograph the bird in flight too.

I have never been to Sri Lanka and not studied the situation there thoroughly, but more in India. Steppe Buzzard occurs in winter widely in Indian subcontinent- even to the most southern areas, but is not very numerous anywhere. Himalayan occurs mostly along the Himalaya, so it seems to not to be very migratory in the Subcontinent (but the more eastern birds are long-distance migrants). This is based on many photos, field observations and skins.
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Old Yesterday, 22:34   #11
Deb Burhinus
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Originally Posted by jalid View Post
...Himalayan is often reported in Sri Lanka, but I have yet to see a convincing photo. The two species are possible to identify with care, but it is best to see and photograph the bird in flight too.
Hi Jalid

It’s very hard, is it not, to identify a putative refectus to type when it’s very difficult to find a consensus of what might be considered as ‘archetypal’ features of Himalayan Buzzard in the literature? (or indeed in photographic images perhaps because of that) - too much it seems is relying on a poorly understood phenology of buteo ssp in this area - at least with vulpinus and rufinous there’s some kind of shared understanding of ‘typical’ features that provide a useful point of departure in the process of separation of these taxa as well as a better understanding of their movements and range.

Do you have a ‘key criteria’ check list for refectus/burmanicus that separates it from Steppe or better still, photographs you can share with us that satisfies the identification of a Himalayan in your view?

(sorry Andy - hope you don’t mind me chipping in again!)
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Last edited by Deb Burhinus : Yesterday at 22:47. Reason: edit
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Old Yesterday, 22:53   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deb Burhinus View Post

(sorry Andy - hope you don’t mind me chipping in again!)
Not at all!
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Old Today, 02:43   #13
Jeff hopkins
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Originally Posted by andyb39 View Post
Did you photograph it?
I didn't, but others including the tour leaders did. I believe they contacted some other raptor experts because it took a couple days before the conclusion was given to the tour.
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Old Today, 13:58   #14
jalid
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deb Burhinus View Post
Do you have a ‘key criteria’ check list for refectus/burmanicus that separates it from Steppe or better still, photographs you can share with us that satisfies the identification of a Himalayan in your view?
This can be of some help:
http://www.caluta.liitin.net/Caluta/caluta4.html

And if you have some Android device:
https://play.google.com/store/apps/d...io.RME.a8a5ddf
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