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Rare rock-thrush in Izumo, Japan ? (1 Viewer)

TakaShoda

Member
Dear all,

Last week-end, as I was birding in Izumo, on the north-western coast of Honshu (Japan), I saw what at first looked like a female Blue-rock thrush (Monticola solitarius philippensis), quite common along the sea.

But then the male came along, and despite that its silhouette and flight pattern could have been these of a regular blue-rock thrush, its vocalisation as well as its plumage were quite different.

When I realised that, I desperately tried to get a good shot, but to no avail.

I thought that it could maybe have been a White-throated rock-thrush (Monticola gularis), locally called Hime-isohiyo ヒメイソヒヨ. According to my guides, it is a rare vagrant bird, mostly observed on islands off the coast, but some local observations have also occasionally been made on the main island.

As for the male, it seems to have a reddish-brown throat and belly, and a greyish-blueish darker mantle and maybe crown. It also have a white spot (or rim) on the coverts, but too far on the edge to resemble the White-throated rock thrush's wide white covert.

As for the female, the white patch on the throat seems slightly larger than the regular local rock-thrush.

I am confused with that bird. I thought about it all, White's thrush (Zoothera aurea), or even an unlikely Orange-headed thrush (Geokichla citrina), but nothing makes much sense with these two individuals.

I don't want to get too excited, thinking that I caught a glimpse of a rare vagrant species, but I struggle with that identification.

Could anyone please give me any expert opinion ? |:S|

I apologise for the low quality of my shots. I tried to "enhance" the picture of the male to accentuate the colours.

Female 01

Female 02

Female 03

Male 01

Male enhanced

Thank you very much !
 

TakaShoda

Member
The male in the picture could potentially resemble the Eversmann's redstart (Phoenicurus erythronotus), but it is not found south of Hokkaido.

The only redstart commonly found around there would be the Daurian redstart (Phoenicurus auroreus), and like the others, they are winter visitors and would not be expected before November.

They were roughly of the same size (bigger than a restart), and the female chased the male. That's what led me to think that they were a couple.

But it might indeed be two different species.
 

TakaShoda

Member
Could the second bird be a Japanese Robin?
The Japanese robin is noticeably grey-white from the end of the breast to the belly. It is a bit smaller and more compact, and the bill is also much shorter.

It is generally quite wary, and dwells more in shady broadleaf forests. I would not expect it to show up among dwellings in a coastal town :/
 
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MacNara

Well-known member
Japan
I don't want to get too excited, thinking that I caught a glimpse of a rare vagrant species, but I struggle with that identification.

Good.

Because the first bird is a female Blue Rockthrush, and the 'male' as Andy said is a female Daurian Redstart (the white wing patch can seem to be in different places depending on pose, and your bird looks more reddish all over than normal because of your photo adjustments).

It's true that it's usually a winter bird here in Japan, but there's no reason to think of an extremely rare bird (Phoenicurus erythronotus) rather than the extremely common species which actually is found here. It may have experienced breeding failure, not had the energy reserves to get across the ocean to Russia, or something else (Izumo is pretty much as close to its summer range as it could be in Japan).

Welcome to Bird Forum. I, too, found many rare species in my early days of birding in Japan.
 

Dawsy

Well-known member
I really can't see the "male" being a Daurian redstart. The overall shape is wrong, the bill is too large and the white spot on the wing is in the wrong place no matter its pose. I'm afraid I don't have any constructive suggestions as to what it might be though.

Michael
 

TakaShoda

Member
Thank you for your reply! I am really glad to have your help, folks |=)|

If I mentioned the Eversmann's redstart, it was only because of its reddish throat (black for the male Daurian) and the white patch apparently on the rim of the primary coverts (secondaries and tertials for the Daurian). |=)| But indeed, there's no reason to believe it could be it. It was only an example.

Despite the low quality of the shots, the second bird had that brown-reddish throat, as well as grey-bluish darker coverts. Although we seem to be in the wrong, my partner and I both separately saw that through our observations with the binos prior to checking the pictures.

We are quite acquainted with the Daurian, and it did not appear to be one, neither in its appearance nor in its vocalisation. What led me to believe that it was a "male" was because the two flew as a pair for a moment, the "female" being silent and the other being quite vocal.

We are even more confused now |:D|
 
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johnallcock

Well-known member
It's a really tricky photo, but I'd be inclined to agree with Grahame that this is probably a Turdus thrush, with Brown-headed being the most likely.

TakaShoda, you mentioned that the vocalisations were different from a Blue Rock Thrush. This may help with identification. Could you describe the vocalisation?
Or have you tried listening to online recordings to see whether any of the vocalisations match your bird?

Blue Rock Thrush
https://www.xeno-canto.org/192126
White-throated Rock Thrush
https://www.xeno-canto.org/171513
Daurian Redstart
https://www.xeno-canto.org/485296
Brown-headed Thrush
https://www.xeno-canto.org/192851

The female is a female Blue Rock Thrush. The throat is a bit whiter than usual, but everything else is normal. White-throated is quite a different bird. White-throated is a forest species, very rarely seen in open habitats or the coast.
 

TakaShoda

Member
Thank you ! I am once again sorry for these terrible pictures, I could not do better.

It had indeed a much more thrush-y appearance, in terms of silhouette, posture, and size. The colours could match the Brown-headed thrush. One of my guides also shows pictures in which the white rim is clearly visible on that exact same location.

It could very well be a Brown-headed thrush, then! For some odd reason, I completely overlooked that possibility. The too short-lasted observation probably did not help us enough. Also, the south-west of Honshu is "generally" the wintering ground of the species, the "regular" breeding ground being much further north/east.

As for the vocalisation, it did not match the whistling Blue-rock's song, nor the Daurian's. It indeed had the more sonorous "punch" of the thrush's but sounded a bit more diverse — it did not seem to have the riffy pattern and regularity of the tripartite songs I have been exposed to until now. It also seemed to have had some "clickety" elements.

But after checking xeno-canto and the Tube, I'm realizing that the BHT's song is more diverse than what I first thought.

Interesting! We obviously got distracted by the immediate proximity of the two birds and their momentarily conjoined flight, and led to believe that they were a pair of the same species. That's a good birding lesson!
 
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