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Chiff chaff with subtle wing bar poland, yesterday (1 Viewer)

Michał Jaro

Well-known member
Hi everyone ,
seems to be a chiff chaff, but you can see the fine wing bar ? Is this normal, somehow I had not noticed this with any chiff chaff before?
And then the voice - amid the sounds of chiff chaffs, one call was another ... Higher, rising and falling quickly.


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Alexander Stöhr

Well-known member
Hello Michal,
your bird has a potential for an Siberian Chiffchaff. As describtion of bird calls is often dificult and dependent on the observer, try some calls at xeno-canto.
Your bird is a "Chiffchaff sensu latu" imo, wingbar is unusual distinct and contrasting whitish. Good for tristris is: brownish-grey coloration with greenish wings, pure white eye-ring and smooth warm buffish tinge to ear-coverts.
If its an acceptable tristris, is at least partly dependent on the policy of the relevant rarities committee. Your bird has a faint yellow tinge to the supercilium just above the eye and a greenish/olive wash at the forehead (thats the colours I see on my screen). When they were really present on the bird one can argue that its not a pure tristris in a strict sense. But there is a recent paper in Dutch Birding, providing input that Siberian Chiffchaff can show some green in the upperparts for example: Genetic identity of grey chiffchaffs trapped in the Netherlands in autumns of 2009-11’ (Dutch Birding 34: 386-392)

Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
On these images and a lack of call, I would not pretend to be able to safely assign a race here. The bird shows a distinctly yellow supercillium in one of the images - (2?), and the utcs look to have a pale yellow wash and the upperparts look quite olive, warm brown on my screen, which, imo, would be troubling fortristis. Separating tristis (Siberian) from fulvescens (W.Siberia) (the latter may show some yellow beyond that on the bend of the wing and underwing) then separating these two from greyer more Eastern Common Chiffchaffabientinus, is fraught with difficulties but also subject to changing perceptions.

I think much sharper images in better light plus recordings of calls would be what any rarities committee would be looking for.

Also, intergrades of abientinus and tristis occur in the contact zone and they are known to hybridise.


The call described sounds more like a hueeet of a Common Chiffchaff than the monosyllabic piping call of Siberian but discriptions are always quite subjective!
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Mark Lew1s

My real name is Mark Lewis
With the description of the call alone, there is no way this can be Siberian chiffchaff. The call described sounds like the ‘sweeoo’ call of common chiffchaff.

Plumage wise, there are a few things that are not right for tristis. Overall, it looks too dark olive above, and with too much yellow in the underparts. The supercilium is not strong or broad enough, the eye-ring is too strong, and there is a lot of pale in the bill.

Mark Lew1s

My real name is Mark Lewis
The description of rising and then falling sounds much better for the sweeoo call type rather than the standard hweet. As far as I’m aware, no tristis has ever been recorded giving this call - but collybita and abietinus both can.

Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
The description of rising and then falling sounds much better for the sweeoo call type rather than the standard hweet. As far as I’m aware, no tristis has ever been recorded giving this call - but collybita and abietinus both can.

To be honest, I’m not sure what the OP is describing! Only that it doesn’t sound like the call of Siberian imo. I wouldn’t necessarily describe the hweet as standard, have heard the sweeoo call just as much as the hweet - but depending on the time of year/breeding/migration factors - and also, on rare occasions heard various confusing mixed race calls, (presumably unproven hybrids?)

This is a helpful link to identifying Chiffchaff on call


Alexander Stöhr

Well-known member
Thank you Mark and Deb for more input and Deb for the link. I think this thread here is a nice summary of the ongoing question "how good must a Siberian Chiffchaff looking and how good must the report be, to be accepted". I am still learning and allways searching for input, as Siberian Chiffchaff is actually considered a scarce autumn migrant in Germany with some winter and spring records.
For another example of "variation of the id-criterea of an acceptable tristris" see here, including the qustion, if fulvescens can be considered as "western tristris" (wasnt that the view of Lars Svensson in Identification Guide to European Passerines? It surely is the view of A. van den Berg, see here:https://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=138586 ): http://siberianchiffchaffpowickstw2014.blogspot.com/

I must admit, that I am puzzled. Some autorethies say a tristris must be pure looking and well dokumented, while others accept some variation. I hope thats understandable and explains why I am so interested in this topic.

What I am allways cautious is laying to much weight in the description of sounds. My usual advise is like here: compare the calls to samples from the xeno-canto website and then tell if they fit or not. But you are right Mark, description doesnt sound good for tristris. But this doesnt mean, the actual call wasnt (I hope this doesnt come out as an offense, Michal)


Unknown member
Please note the spelling: tristis, meaning "sad" :)
It doesn't strike me as a typical one, if I can sum up my opinion like that. It's very far from the grey, cold toned, with almost bright green flight feather edges of the ones I've seen.

Michał Jaro

Well-known member
First of all, thank you very much for your response, many explanations and examples. I've read a bit about tristis, but you've added a lot of new threads for me here. Thanks a lot.
But referring to your questions and comments:
1) I am not going to report this bird to the Commission, I had a much better looking bird (iom) and it was rejected (I add photos).
2) I listened to many recordings of ssp. Chiff chaffs - and no, I definitely did not hear the voice of tristis in the field. It was a different voice, very high. I'm giving you a recording, a very weak voice right after common chiff chaff call (listen only with headphones !!). And sonogram (i think the sonogram should go higher but i only recorded with the phone). I'm not sure if it came from this bird, there were several of them.
3) The question remains - have you seen anything like this anywhere in the photo, in the field - common chiff chaff with such a stripe on the wing?


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Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Hi Michael

Just a few thoughts (but no offence meant here!)
The second call on the file is too high and buried in ambient noise for my ears. As far as the wing bar, it looks a little odd on some of the images - I enlarged it - what do you think?

Wing bars such as that on a Siberian Chiffchaff are formed by the diffuse pale tips to the greater coverts
https://www.ayrshire-birding.org.uk/images/documents/Siberian Chiffchaff.pdf
In your bird (enlarged below) the ‘wing bar’ doesn’t seem to be in quite the right place, it looks too far down the wing but maybe I’m not looking at it right? The edges of the ‘bar’ look unnaturally straight - therefore, I want to ask if you noticed this after you looked closely at your photos or was this feature very clear like this in the field? Is this possibly artifact on the image somehow magnifying the colour contrast?

(Another couple of points worth remembering, the tips to the GC (greater coverts) can be quite worn in 1cy Common Chiffchaff if they have been retained through the post juvenile moult and can get lighter in colour as a result (see Jenni & Winkler p133) so I wonder if the photo has somehow enhanced this? Another point is that the coverts on 1cy Chiffchaff can be quite variable in colour - making it difficult to detect post juv moult limit - so it would not be unusual to see some contrasting colour tones on the greater coverts after or even before post juv moult in Common Chiffchaff.


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Stuck in Dundee.....
In Fife a few years ago we had a Chiffchaff with a bit of a wing bar that the relatively fleeting initial views led to speculation from some present that it was perhaps a Greenish Warbler. However, when longer views were had it was determined to be a Chiffchaff, rather than anything more 'exotic'.

Scroll down through post to end for more photos - https://stonefactionbirding2014.blogspot.com/2018/10/sweeoo-little-mystery-151018.html

One other thing (slightly related to the discussion) I've noticed with regards Chiffchaffs (and perhaps 'Siberian' Chiffchaffs more?) is the way that the colours/tones change a lot dependent on the ambient light/shade. We had a trio of birds in Dundee this winter. One looked very good for Siberian, while the other 2 were less 'classic' looking but it was almost impossible to determine which individual was which because the lighting conditions made such a noticeable difference to how the bird appeared at any one time. Sometimes they looked more brown, sometimes more green, sometimes more grey.

Pics here, scroll down again (these were taken with a bridge camera which does tend to strengthen the saturation a bit compared to a DSLR, mostly in sunshine, though a few later ones were once late afternoon sun had disappeared behind buildings) - https://stonefactionbirding2014.blogspot.com/2020/01/sunshine-surprises-22120.html

A few more pictures in this post taken with a DSLR, though it did start to rain within a few minutes (and security from the shopping centre were a bit 'touchy') so I didn't hang around too long.

Michał Jaro

Well-known member
Thanks for the next comments. Well, I am not saying that the bird is not a common chaff. Only this bar made me wonder. Is it an artifact? I don't think 4-5 photos on each show the same thing. I am not a supporter of interpreting various atypical features as artifacts. In the photo, apart from the bird and in it, nothing is visible that would indicate artifacts. Does the photo show high contrast? - I wouldn't say.
I also found a photo at the back - you can also see the wing bar. And I think it's on the edges of the coverts.

Are these Dundee birds certain (confirmed) Siberians??


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