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Tree pipit? Dovrefjell, Kongsvoll, Norway (1 Viewer)

Alexander Stöhr

Well-known member
Thanks Roland, just had a look and the head patttern and overall look was good for me, including a well defined dak loral stripe. I missed the yellow base to the bill.

And I agree with Butty, but: many Meadow Pipits have quite broad streaks to the flanks therefore the underparts are uniformly streaked.
Some Tree Pipits have realy broad, blop-shoped (nearly rounded-long) streaks to the breast and very fine, pencil-streaks to the flanks.

This bird is within variation for both species regarding underpart streaking and I must admit its a hard bird for me, but I am in the Meadow Pipit camp. Thanks Roland!
 

majsujan

Birdblog_majsujan
Norway
Another meadow/tree pipit?
DocDuck (Ann Sætnan) suggested to look at their behaviour when they rest on the trees. They were bobbing their tail while perched on the tree. The calls also were a bit longer, ending with bzzz...
DSC_9732-Edit.jpg
 

Redmist

Well-known member
Supporter
Norway
Despite the fine flank streaks, for me this is another meadow pipit for the same reasons as your first bird (bill, claw) This one also shows the central dark breast patch which I see a lot on meadows but doesn’t show in my field guides. Great pictures by the way!
 

Mark Lew1s

My real name is Mark Lewis
I think the flank streaking feature has been a little over simplified. It’s not whether the flanks are broad, or narrow, it’s about whether there is an obvious contrast in the breadth of the streaks on the flanks compared to the breast. As both species are quite variable, this feature can be less useful on some individuals, but I’d say that on ‘typical’ tree pipits this is the most obvious means of separation.
 

Butty

Well-known member
it’s about whether there is an obvious contrast in the breadth of the streaks on the flanks compared to the breast
Exactly. There is such contrast here. So this criterion absolutely fails on this bird - as I have seen it fail in other birds in this forum.

on ‘typical’ tree pipits this is the most obvious means of separation.
So the criterion is only useful if we know (somehow?!) that a given bird is 'typical'? Hmm... 🤔
 

Alexander Stöhr

Well-known member
Yes, I agree with you Butty. Maybe its better to describe this feature in another way:
The flank streaking must be really narrow, distinct and pencil-like. And there must an obvious contrast between flanks and breast, as said by Mark. And the streaking to the breast must be broad and nearly rounded shape (the one, a Song Trush would accept).

Its easy to write all these three features when describing these two birds here.
But what would a Tree Pipit say? NO!

Or in other words:
Imagine, a Tree Pipit would be on the list considered by a rarities committee. Then the members would have a hard time assesing reports without pictures. And there would be ID papers, where this is stated: when watching and taking notes of a (suspcted) Tree Pipit, you must be ultra-critical to yourself: is the streaking to the flanks really narrow, distinct and pencil-like? Is the contrast between the flanks and the breast really distinct? What abou the shape of the breast streaking?
If the bird, you are watching looks like these birds here, then the answer is: two times no and one time yes

Leaving the subjectivy, there is one more thing to be considered:
These features are all small and there is variation in the two species. There are Meadow and Tree Pipits, that can be identified wit confidence by the streaking of the underparts, and there are birds, that cant be identified (although streaking might give an hint) with 100% confidence by these.
These two birds here are examples of those intermediate birds imo.

There were similar threads here on birdforum, where this was highlighted by other members and I looked a few Tree Pipits this spring and realised, that they were right. There is more to a Tree pipit than just colouration and its easy to fool yourself when seeing an already identified Tree pipit (by call, habitat and behavoiour). Thanks to all!
 

HH75

Well-known member
Ireland
Hi Alexander,
In Ireland, the situation is almost as you hypothesise, as, while Tree Pipit isn't on the list of species considered by the Irish Rare Birds Committee (it was, prior to 1994), it is merely a scarce visitor to our shores, never having been proven to breed or suspected of it, either. Meadow Pipit, on the other hand, despite recent declines and being Red listed, is a common bird, found in every county, and more widespread on migration. Accordingly, we have to be careful in claiming Tree Pipit here, and I can recall, in my younger days, going to Great Saltee every spring and getting excited by this or that pipit, which seemed to have fine flank streaking, which would invariably turn out to be Meadow Pipits.

I think that, while the flank differences are usually useful, this is a species pair where concentrating too much on any one feature can be a recipe for disaster, and, as I am sure you yourself would agree, using a range of features gives more confidence in the identification. The subject birds have, among other features, long hind claws, orangeish legs (pinker on Tree), longer thinner bills, no hint of the ear covert spots shown by many Trees and so on. The head pattern and bill thickness are subtle features, but they do add up to give a distinctive expression to (most?) Tree Pipits that is lacking on these birds.

Regards,
Harry
 

majsujan

Birdblog_majsujan
Norway
Thanks for the wonderful discussion in this thread, everyone.I learned quite a bit about meadow/tree pipits.
As I have realized in my very short (8 months) birding experience, the best way to identify a new species which looks very similar to another is to go birding with an experienced person. They can show the most subtle features which I would never have noticed myself even if I studied it all.

One of the easiest example of that from me is identifying a great/lesser black backed gull from distance. I tried with the bill shape and all that, I would get easily confused. Then on a birding daytrip with a group of birders in Trondheim I learned to look at the color of the feet. If it's yellow, it's LBBG.
I guess I'll have to go back to the pipit area with them to confirm that 🙂.
 

Mark Lew1s

My real name is Mark Lewis
Exactly. There is such contrast here. So this criterion absolutely fails on this bird - as I have seen it fail in other birds in this forum.


So the criterion is only useful if we know (somehow?!) that a given bird is 'typical'? Hmm... 🤔
I disagree. Yes, there is difference between the breast streaks and the flank streaks, but there is no obvious contrast between the two, where they meet. I totally agree that this feature is not always useful, but I disagree that it’s completely useless.
 

Alexander Stöhr

Well-known member
Yes, thats what I wanted to describe. The distinction between difference and contrast is subjective. And not easy to describe=you are both right.

But there is one important thing: "...but there is no obvious contrast between the two, where they meet." After looking at the pictures again, I see, what you mean. That is new to me, and thats one thing, why I am here. I learn a lot here, thank you Mark!
 

Butty

Well-known member
important thing: "...but there is no obvious contrast between the two, where they meet." After looking at the pictures again, I see, what you mean.
And I see such contrast, clearly, in these photos.
But I'm mystified by the force of (indeed, by the point of) the 'where they meet' bit. Where else would you expect to see contrast between two contrasting things so well as the region where they meet? Do you (Mark) mean there has to be a sharp division (rather than a gradation) between thick and thin? Or that the division has to be in a specific place? Or...? 🤔
 

Mark Lew1s

My real name is Mark Lewis
A 'sharp division' sums it up nicely.

Although I'd avoid saying this feature is nailed on for tree pipit, it's certainly a useful pointer, and far from useless - especially when used alongside other features.
 

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