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Opus, (mostly) Moroccan subspecies of Thekla's Lark (1 Viewer)

01101001

All-knowing Idiot
Opus Editor
Poland
I was wondering how far we can get with these pictures.

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Range descriptions from Galerida theklae (Thekla Lark) - Avibase or the newest Clements checklist.

erlangeriN Morocco (e to Algerian border, s to Middle Atlas)
ruficolorNE and c Morocco, coastal Algeria and n Tunisia
theresaeSW Morocco (s from Anti-Atlas Mts.) and Western Sahara
superfluaNE Morocco (w to Moulouya River) to n Algeria and Tunisia
carolinaeN Sahara (extreme e Morocco to ne Libya and extreme nw Egypt)

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Information extracted from Birds of the World by dint of Google:
Nominate race photo has whitish supercilium and eyering, dark eyestripe and moustachial and malar stripes; crown and upperparts grey-brown, heavily streaked blackish, more finely so on hindneck, rump plainer, uppertail-coverts rufous-tinged; flight-feathers dark olive-brown, narrowly edged buffish to light cinnamon; tail olive-brown to greyish centrally, remainder black, except for pale rufous outer feathers; whitish below, breast photo side and flanks strongly tinged buff, lower throat to breast and breast side with well-defined large blackish spots (usually merging to form heavy streaks); axillaries and underwing-coverts greyish; bill dark horn-brown, paler base of lower mandible; legs flesh-brown to yellowish-flesh. [...] Sexes similar. Juvenile video has shorter crest spotted upperparts, less intense chest streaking.

Races differ mainly in coloration and in intensity of streaking, also in size and bill size: erlangeri is darker than nominate, streaking above and below broadest and blackest, bill longer; ruficolor video is slightly paler than previous, feather edgings above more rufous, streaks below less intense; theresae resembles previous, but more rufous above, narrower streaks above and below; superflua is paler above, greyer or more sandy-coloured (variable), whiter below, upperparts and breast less streaked; carolinae is small and pale, light sandy to greyish with pinkish tinge above, plain or with minimal rufous streaking, mostly white below (sometimes pinkish wash), few scattered rufous-brown breast streaks, those in sandiest habitats often very pale and plain-looking (“deichleri”); praetermissa video is small and dark, heavily black-streaked above, buffish below, breast spots relatively small and indistinct; huei video is like previous but upperparts streaks heavier and blacker video; huriensis differs from previous in paler upperparts, more distinctly streaked crown, whiter throat, pinkish belly; ellioti resembles last, but upperparts paler and more sandy rufous; harrarensis is darker than previous, broader streaks above and on breast, bill smaller; mallablensis is much greyer, lacks warm tones, upperparts feathers edged whitish to greyish or cold buffish, rump and tail-coverts grey, breast with relatively heavy dark brown spots.

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1)
adult (= spring + worn plumage) erlangeri (the bill appears longish, which is supposedly a feature)

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2)
ruficolor

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3)
ruficolor

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4)
theresae/ruficolor

Photos of birds from the same area:

Photos of birds from ssp. ruficolor core range:

Photos of birds from ssp. theresae core range:

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Below is a map made by me based on the latest Clements checklist, some other sources and speculation (the borders between the countries are off, but that's not my fault), containing numbers from 1-4.

@Acrocephalus
 

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Sorry Karol, I won't be able to help with this at all, as I really don't have any idea I'm afraid to say.
 
Not clear what question you're asking. With a sedentary species (which I think Thekla lark is), an individual's race is determined (pretty much always, unless you're going to start redefining geographical boundaries) by its location. That's all there is to it.
 
The geographical boundaries are hazy (the map above being the best attempt at delineating those) and the photos were taken in such places that they could potentially be assigned to more than one area, so I wanted to make sure the pictures match the descriptions. No such problems with the Ethiopian part of Thekla's Lark range, where there is no/scant overlap between the subspecies ranges. Maybe there's a better map somewhere (in BotW proper or in a paper guide for the region?).
 
I was also secretly hoping one of them could somehow be a Crested Lark because the birds don't fit the subspecies descriptions all that much (surely not the last one, although I can't make it into a Crested Lark--I tried with the first one too).
 
The lower mandible on the first looks concave to my eyes, so I would have been putting it down as Crested, but I certainly don’t find them easy to identify.
 
Blasco Zumeta's species account says:
10th primary can be shorter or longer than pri-
mary coverts
(said to be always shorter for Crested Lark).
The bill drew my attention as well, but I have no experience with the pair.

Additionally, can we say that the bird in question (posted again below for easier access) has a weak face pattern and a longish tail (both supposedly pro-Crested Lark)? I can't exactly make out the hue on the uppertail coverts, unfortunately (my nitpicking notwithstanding).

 

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Blasco Zumeta's species account says:

(said to be always shorter for Crested Lark).
The bill drew my attention as well, but I have no experience with the pair.

Additionally, can we say that the bird in question (posted again below for easier access) has a weak face pattern and a longish tail (both supposedly pro-Crested Lark)? I can't exactly make out the hue on the uppertail coverts, unfortunately (my nitpicking notwithstanding).

I think the point is that these (at least I think so) are written from a Spanish perspective based upon the Iberian subspecies. My simple advice from many visits to Morocco is to ignore them and go back to basics of song and then look at the birds- especially the beaks. Even then some are not easy.
 
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Going back to the original posting - the range maps are difficult to interpret and miss out whole areas.

I agree with Butty's statement, they are non-migratory but at least in my experience not entirely sedentary. They will move based upon severe weather - especially snow in the mountains or drought (especially southern areas). However, I do believe that their morphological difference are due to geology, temperature and there is also (as with Desert Lark) variation due to the natal rock colouration.

In terms of range - you should think of erlangeri as the default subspecies across the majority of the country. The other subspecies fill in around the edges. I agree it would make it simpler if the physical boundaries ie the mountain ranges were used or other topographical features. However, I am not sure these boundaries are actually correct. In my opinion the coastal birds, especially in the area around Agadir to Essaouira, are not the same as around Ouarzazate to Boumalne Dades for instance.

I also am not sure about the comment regarding Ethiopia. I have never comprehended where the boundaries of the six ssp are there and I am not sure that, for example, I could pick up the differences between the Simian and Bale Mtn birds that are ascribed to different ssp.
 
Blasco Zumeta's species account says:

(said to be always shorter for Crested Lark).
The bill drew my attention as well, but I have no experience with the pair.

Additionally, can we say that the bird in question (posted again below for easier access) has a weak face pattern and a longish tail (both supposedly pro-Crested Lark)? I can't exactly make out the hue on the uppertail coverts, unfortunately (my nitpicking notwithstanding).

Yes, Thekla’s can show a P1 shorter than the greater coverts, but a maximum of 2 mm shorter. Obviously it’s hard to judge exactly what the difference is here, but it looks substantial and likely more than 2 mm.
 
Going back to the original posting - the range maps are difficult to interpret and miss out whole areas.

I agree with Butty's statement, they are non-migratory but at least in my experience not entirely sedentary. They will move based upon severe weather - especially snow in the mountains or drought (especially southern areas). However, I do believe that their morphological difference are due to geology, temperature and there is also (as with Desert Lark) variation due to the natal rock colouration.

In terms of range - you should think of erlangeri as the default subspecies across the majority of the country. The other subspecies fill in around the edges. I agree it would make it simpler if the physical boundaries ie the mountain ranges were used or other topographical features. However, I am not sure these boundaries are actually correct. In my opinion the coastal birds, especially in the area around Agadir to Essaouira, are not the same as around Ouarzazate to Boumalne Dades for instance.

I also am not sure about the comment regarding Ethiopia. I have never comprehended where the boundaries of the six ssp are there and I am not sure that, for example, I could pick up the differences between the Simian and Bale Mtn birds that are ascribed to different ssp.
Thanks a lot for your very informative comments. A big thank you to @Mark Lew1s, @Mark Harper and @Butty as well.

With regard to Ethiopia, I used this map (coupled with Clements descriptions): Thekla's Lark (Galerida theklae) :: xeno-canto. Maybe the ranges overlap somewhat more in reality, but, fortunately, two of the three photos in the Gallery were taken in Lemi (125 north of Addis Ababa; ssp. praetermissa) and Bale Mountains mentioned explicitly by Clements (400 km to the southeast of Addis Ababa; ssp. huei), respectively. Consequently, they are pretty spaced out, and the differences listed in the BotW description ('huei is like previous but upperparts streaks heavier and blacker') seem to be in place.

ssp. praetermissa

ssp. huei

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There is also one more photo from Addis, but the feathers are extremely worn (even broken in some places), so it's hard to judge anything with confidence (otherwise than by range, which can be tricky, though).

 

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