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Request id help Wheatear sp. Cape Kaliakra, Bulgaria, Sept 2019 (1 Viewer)

Earnest lad

Well-known member
I took some photos (poor quality sorry) of a bird I saw and assumed the bird to be a Pied Wheatear (1st Autumn). This would be a lifer for me. However I subsquently learned that Eastern Black-eared Wheatear 1st Autumn is extremely similar. For this reason there is a bit of doubt in my mind. Please can anyone advise me in this regard if possible; not just to say what species the bird is but to suggest which features are involved.
 

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andyb39

Well-known member
First of all, I'm assuming you saw this in late summer (mid-August to early September?). There are Eastern Black-eared here, but they're much less common and less conspicuous. You can see juveniles in June and July, which look very different to a 1st-autumn/winter bird. I'm not sure when they leave, but perhaps earlier than the Pied population. The two species are said to hybridise here but I'm not sure I've seen any evidence of this. When Scridifer and I visited the site in June last year, the two species seemed to be in separate zones.

It's hard to establish what 1st-autumn/winter melanoleuca looks like. There are no images on the UAE image database, suggesting either that they don't pass through in the autumn or that they're passed off as Pied when they do. I did a country-specific search on eBird for Turkey: https://ebird.org/media/catalog?taxonCode=blewhe1&mediaType=p&sort=rating_rank_desc&region=Turkey (TR)&regionCode=TR&q=Black-eared Wheatear, as I got poor results from Greece. If you scroll down to row 16 (does anyone know how to link a single image?), there's a photo of what looks like a dark-throated 1st-autumn bird - pale-throated birds seem to predominate - photographed at Pamukkale by Mario Estevens. There are two more images of the same bird in the penultimate row. Compared to your bird, it's less heavily-scaled on the upperparts and shoulder, has a less prominent supercilium, has an even orangey wash on the underparts (this is different from spring females, which are peachy-breasted but white-bellied) and seems to have a less extensive dark throat. There are pale-throated birds in row 26 (Suleyman Gun) and row 39 (Ole Friis Larsen), and another bird in row 39 (Ozgur Ekincioglu) with a strongly-defined border to the cheek and a pale throat wedge. One of your images seems to show a pale throat wedge, but it's indistinct.

You can compare these birds and yours with some Pied individuals here: https://www.smugmug.com/gallery/n-gNV5Z/i-CCBZd45. 10/78 is a washed-out individual but scaly, even on the mantle. 14/78 compares well with yours, although the dark throat is more extensive and covert fringes are white, probably because this bird is older. The bird in 37-39 is also a good match to yours if more advanced - a similar brownish wash on the breast, bold supercilium and distinct scaling on lesser and median coverts.

So to sum up, Pied would be my call.
 

RafaelMatias

Unknown member
Portugal
If you scroll down to row 16 (does anyone know how to link a single image?), there's a photo of what looks like a dark-throated 1st-autumn bird - pale-throated birds seem to predominate - photographed at Pamukkale by Mario Estevens.
Here you go: https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/1...41.1013691454.1611931864-857618666.1601010342
Just click on the image you need, then on the image individual code (bottom right corner), in this case: "Macaulay Library ML175585021"
Cheers
 

Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
Firstly, I don’t really have the adequate experience to separate these Autumn birds safely but here are some thoughts out loud to dismiss or consider:

Some of the features Andy mentions while good for Autumn Pied, don’t necessarily exclude BEW imo such as brownish wash to the breast sides with pale orange breast colour . The pale diffuse fringing to the lower edge of the extensive dark throat (reaching to upper breast) does favour Pied but both Pied and BEW can show the absence of contrast between the mantle and scaps in fresh autumn plumage (caused by wide pale fringes on the scaps and/or mantle) as in the OP. It’s not really possible to judge the true colour of the mantle in fresh autumn juveniles until wear has revealed more of the base colour of the feathers - the mantle/back does look more warmish buff than grey on these images but that is also in range for a fresh autumn Pied - some of the mantle feathers appear to be showing dark bases which also Pied.

Some adult male Pieds can look like 1st Autumn type males with extensive pale fringes to throat but here the primaries look brownish rather than jet black indicating wear (they would be fresh in adults of either sp) so this rules out adults of either sp. at least. The pale fringes to the coverts are actually more obvious on first year birds than adults and the size of the dark throat is indicative of species rather than age (Pied showing a more extensive dark throat reaching to upper breast - but variable!). Moult limits on the lesser coverts indicated by varible dark centres can also indicate age - there looks to be some retained median/lesser coverts on the OP but I am on a small screen so it’s hard to be sure. Tbh.

There seems to be a lot of overlapping features here and the images may neither give accurate colour impression or sharp enough detail of the pale fringes (which give autumn Pieds a greyish overall appearance usually) but I agree on balance, with everything taken into consideration, the features favour a 1st Autumn male Pied.

One feature that hasn’t been mentioned is the wing length - The PP of Pieds is about equal to obviously longer than the tertials, in BEW obviously shorter to slightly longer so there’s overlap in the middle - unfortunately the OP looks to be smack in the middle to me unless anyone can judge it differently.

So for reference (and again, someone with more experience may be able to interpret criteria points therein differently and apply them more effectively to the OP than I can) this is a very useful paper (other than the plates are not numbered!)

 

Earnest lad

Well-known member
When I went to Kaliakra that day, I knew it to be a renowned site for Pied Wheatear, but this was the only bird I saw. In fact it was right there at the car park, seen from the car before I even got out. And some of the pics taken are through the windscreen. I guess all other Pied/EBE Wheatears had migrated by then.
Dear Andyb
Thank you for your input. I appreciate the link to the photos . September time was when I saw this bird
It seems my bird is an autumn male. Apart from seeing the one bird I have no experience of either species except online.
The extract from one reference work attached seems to concur with your saying EBEW is less heavily scaled. And the picture on Collins seems to show this too.
The bird kindly referred to in row 16 is indeed similar although the supercilium is less strong than my bird, and not only does the article above attached refer to strong supercilium in Pied, so does the image on Collins (attached).
14/78 for Pied is a good likeness thanks.
Dear Deb Burhinus: Your likewise expert input is much appreciated. Thank you for the link to the paper. This looks good and worthy of my further in depth-study. My "bridge camera" pics are in some cases poor.
I feel youre two opinions consolidate my suspicions it is a probable Pied. But due to overlap and possible hybridization I shall not tick it off but put it down as a probable as suggested by your kind selves.
 

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wolfbirder

Well-known member
The car park at Kaliakra is exactly where the Pied's are normally found, in season.
There were severa within the car park compound when I went there back in June 2007. No other Wheatear species were seen 'in' the car park area.
 

Earnest lad

Well-known member
The car park at Kaliakra is exactly where the Pied's are normally found, in season.
There were severa within the car park compound when I went there back in June 2007. No other Wheatear species were seen 'in' the car park area.
Thank you - that additional detail is very helpful as a pointer
 

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