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White Wagtail Cyprys yesterday (1 Viewer)

Aladdin

Registered User
Supporter
Thailand
Dear Members and bird watchers

Presently on Cyprus to look for birds. Yesterday I spotted one wagtail that looked very different. I see a lot of alba. But yesterday I spotted a very dark bird and I looked at the map over the different Subspecies

To me this (Second picture attached) looks like ocularis minus the black strike through the eye or the baicalensis. Or is it just my imagination that this bird is much blacker than all the other wagtails I see around here?

Kind regards and happy birding
Aladdin
 

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Alexander Stöhr

Well-known member
Hello Aladdin,
yes, your Wagtail is slightly darker and has very slightly more prominent white edges to greater coverts than an Id-book alba. Have you more pictures, where the rump can be seen? I assume from your description, that the bird actually looked darker in the field than in your slightly overexposed pictures (judged by burned out white forehead and fringes to tertials).
Regarding seperation of alba vs. yarelli , see this thread:

All arguements/features mentioned there are also true for your bird.
 

johnallcock

Well-known member
Regarding the two eastern subspecies you mention (ocularis and baicalensis), these are both pale-backed taxa, and should not appear significantly darker than nominate alba. Both have more extensive white in the greater coverts, typically more extensive than is shown in your photo. And the head pattern does not fit these taxa - ocularis should have a black eyestripe (this is present throughout the year) and baicalensis has a white chin in all plumages (the black never reaches as close to the bill as here).

I am not familiar enough with variation in nominate alba and yarrelli to comment on separation of these two.
 

Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
The extent of dusky flanks and breast sides suggest (female) yarrelli doesn’t it? Are there any known Spring vagrants to Cyprus? They readily hybridise with alba in contact zones, can that be ruled out
 

Aladdin

Registered User
Supporter
Thailand
Hello Aladdin,
yes, your Wagtail is slightly darker and has very slightly more prominent white edges to greater coverts than an Id-book alba. Have you more pictures, where the rump can be seen? I assume from your description, that the bird actually looked darker in the field than in your slightly overexposed pictures (judged by burned out white forehead and fringes to tertials).
Regarding seperation of alba vs. yarelli , see this thread:

All arguements/features mentioned there are also true for your bird.
Thank you!

I am sorry, I only have two poor pictures. And yes, a little over exposed as it was against the sun. And it was very hard to get pictures of the birds in the vegetation. Thanks for the link, I will check it out to see if I get any wiser.

Not only darker, but more black on the throat and around the neck, this was what make the bird sticking out from the other birds.

Kind regards
Aladdin
 

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Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
Not only darker, but more black on the throat and around the neck, this was what make the bird sticking out from the other birds.
The black on the throat and neck looks within variation for Alba - the main issue for me is the greyscale of the mantle and the amount of dark wash on the flanks. A picture of the rump would have been helpful but intermediate birds occur, with some alba having quite dark rumps so variation within alba/yarelli can be underestimated which makes aging and sexing quite hard at times too. ( Frequent hybridisation also complicate identification).

You may find this helpful
 

Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
Thank you!
You’re welcome - hopefully you will the article helpful, some of the images look like your bird they are certainly difficult to separate at times and the extent of variation can be great however, on range a ‘dark’ alba can not be ruled out imo 🙂
 
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Aladdin

Registered User
Supporter
Thailand
Regarding the two eastern subspecies you mention (ocularis and baicalensis), these are both pale-backed taxa, and should not appear significantly darker than nominate alba. Both have more extensive white in the greater coverts, typically more extensive than is shown in your photo. And the head pattern does not fit these taxa - ocularis should have a black eyestripe (this is present throughout the year) and baicalensis has a white chin in all plumages (the black never reaches as close to the bill as here).

I am not familiar enough with variation in nominate alba and yarrelli to comment on separation of these two.
Thank you!

As per my map the yarrelli should be black on the back, this bird was not black. The picture of the alba on my map the coverts or wingbar is very small but on my picture it is wide, as compared with the map between the Alba and the ocularis and baicalensis. This made me wonder.

Kind regards
Aladdin
 

Aladdin

Registered User
Supporter
Thailand
You’re welcome - hopefully you will the article helpful, some of the images look like your bird they are certainly difficult to separate at times and the extent of variation can be great however, on range a ‘dark’ alba can not be ruled out imo 🙂
Cheers!
And the first picture, the alba almost looks like it is moulting or like a juvenile with a very mottled plumage or how they call it.

I also searched for yarelli pictures on internet and there are pictures ranging from dark grey to almost black. But it is no guarantee that they are correctly Identified. And the overexpsoure, very hard with different light condition as well.

Your link to the PDF was very interesting and I spotted one picture and they refered to the bird as a Pied Wagtail/ yarelli and the pictures was looking to go all from grey to black. Very hard to ID this birds

Thank you again
Aladdin

 

johnallcock

Well-known member
Thank you!

As per my map the yarrelli should be black on the back, this bird was not black. The picture of the alba on my map the coverts or wingbar is very small but on my picture it is wide, as compared with the map between the Alba and the ocularis and baicalensis. This made me wonder.

Kind regards
Aladdin

I wouldn't rely too much on the exact detail of the birds in this map for ID. The pictures are rather stylised and simplistic for illustrative purposes. Most subspecies are shown only in breeding plumage (except dukhunensis, which is shown in non-breeding and is similar to alba).
There is a lot of variation within wagtail populations based on age, sex, moult stage and individual variability, as well as geographic variation between populations.
 

Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
As per my map the yarrelli should be black on the back, this bird was not black
Aladdin, female yarelli are dark grey on the back, 1w-> birds even paler - your map only shows male (it’s more a distribution map than field identification).

Your first bird shows signs of active moult. Re. moult in White Wagtails - it’s complicated trying to age them after early spring and without referring to my copy Jenni & Winkler, akair, they undergo an incomplete pre-breeding moult which leaves moult limits in adults too, so both age groups can have a varied number of retained faded brown coverts/tertials.
 

ApusApus

Well-known member
I have just had a quick scan through some of my WW photos and there is quite a variation, ranging from very "light" looking birds to some medium dark ones similar to the OP bird. However, none of my photos show the bluish tinge to the grey areas seen in the OP bird. Maybe there's a saturation issue going on here that is making the bird appear darker than it actually is?


Shane
 

Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
However, none of my photos show the bluish tinge to the grey areas seen in the OP bird. Maybe there's a saturation issue going on here that is making the bird appear darker than it actually is?
I agree there is some over saturation on the levels here, even altering the levels slightly can make a big difference - I think tone and hue are separate issues - the tone, ie dark/light and hue ie blue/grey can be changed by contrast levels and saturation levels respectively - probably the two most used post-processing image manipulation to improve quality. I am not a proficient DSLR photographer but I have seen an additional intensity anyway on some of my own images cf to ‘life’ impression without altering levels - someone with more experience would know how this might be.

However, saying that, the tone of the mantle is within range for a ’dark’ alba imo, I am just not liking the apparently dark flanks for pure alba - here’s a greyscale chart below for yarelli/alba as you can see, there is overlap between the darkest alba and the lightest yarelli - note Western populations can reach a darker greyscale than Eastern populations (the latter being the more likely in Cyprus) so that might possibly account for a darker mantled White Wagtail in the field compared to the others more commonly seen?

See migratory movements here


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I think Alex makes a very good observation on the thread he linked to in his post above when he says:

“That is the problem with darker "White Wagtails": if they are seen in "alba"-areas, they are identified as darker alba. And if they are seen in "yarelli"-areas, they are idenfied as paler yarelli. I dont know, if interbreeding (dont know if this the correct term for subspecies?) plays a part in this.”
 

pianoman

duck and diver, bobolink and weaver
For adult males at least, I always understood that an important distinguishing factor between Alba and Yarelli is that Alba has a clearly defined, reasonably sharp edge on the nape of the neck between the black hood and the paler back - and that this is the case regardless of the exact tone of the mantle. Females and juveniles still confuse the heck out of me mind you.

I think I can see that defined border on the OP, though there does seem to be some moulting going on.
 

Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
For adult males at least, I always understood that an important distinguishing factor between Alba and Yarelli is that Alba has a clearly defined, reasonably sharp edge on the nape of the neck between the black hood and the paler back
Yes, but as you say, this is only in males 🙂
 

Grahame Walbridge

Well-known member
Re age of bird (image 1) you can clearly see a beached outermost remige and 2 (or more) bleached retrices which makes it a 2cy. They are retained juvenile feathers. There is also a moult limit in the greater coverts (outers browner) but unless there 3 generations of feathers not safe to use this feature on its own.

Grahame

Edit Looking again have misinterpreted, what I thought was outermost remige seems to the largest tertial (T3) but the worn retrices should still confirm age.
 
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Aladdin

Registered User
Supporter
Thailand
I wouldn't rely too much on the exact detail of the birds in this map for ID. The pictures are rather stylised and simplistic for illustrative purposes. Most subspecies are shown only in breeding plumage (except dukhunensis, which is shown in non-breeding and is similar to alba).
There is a lot of variation within wagtail populations based on age, sex, moult stage and individual variability, as well as geographic variation between populations.
Thank you!

I saw a very strange Wagtail today. I black bib then white under the bib and then a black patch under the white throat and the black went quite far down the belly. Only got a very poor picture so it went to the garbage.

Kind regards
Aladdin
 

Aladdin

Registered User
Supporter
Thailand
I have just had a quick scan through some of my WW photos and there is quite a variation, ranging from very "light" looking birds to some medium dark ones similar to the OP bird. However, none of my photos show the bluish tinge to the grey areas seen in the OP bird. Maybe there's a saturation issue going on here that is making the bird appear darker than it actually is?


Shane
Thank you!

I attach the original DNG file. Grey around the eyes, and I cannot see any bluish, neither in this picture and the processed picture. I used 1/3 overexposure as it was against the sun.

Kind regards
Aladdin
 

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Aladdin

Registered User
Supporter
Thailand
I agree there is some over saturation on the levels here, even altering the levels slightly can make a big difference - I think tone and hue are separate issues - the tone, ie dark/light and hue ie blue/grey can be changed by contrast levels and saturation levels respectively - probably the two most used post-processing image manipulation to improve quality. I am not a proficient DSLR photographer but I have seen an additional intensity anyway on some of my own images cf to ‘life’ impression without altering levels - someone with more experience would know how this might be.

However, saying that, the tone of the mantle is within range for a ’dark’ alba imo, I am just not liking the apparently dark flanks for pure alba - here’s a greyscale chart below for yarelli/alba as you can see, there is overlap between the darkest alba and the lightest yarelli - note Western populations can reach a darker greyscale than Eastern populations (the latter being the more likely in Cyprus) so that might possibly account for a darker mantled White Wagtail in the field compared to the others more commonly seen?

See migratory movements here


View attachment 1373549

I think Alex makes a very good observation on the thread he linked to in his post above when he says:

“That is the problem with darker "White Wagtails": if they are seen in "alba"-areas, they are identified as darker alba. And if they are seen in "yarelli"-areas, they are idenfied as paler yarelli. I dont know, if interbreeding (dont know if this the correct term for subspecies?) plays a part in this.”
Thank you!

Very interesting and it seems like there is a lot of studies to do before (If it is possible) to be proficient in ID the birds. But this is also what makes it fun.

And now I see that there is the eastern and western alba on the grey scale

I looked at the link and I could not see any markings on Cyprus

Kind regards
Aladdin
 

Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
Re age of bird (image 1) you can clearly see a beached outermost remige and 2 (or more) bleached retrices which makes it a 2cy.

Grahame
Thanks Graham - that was my feeling initially then I deleted that from my earlier post - as I wanted to check J&W first before making any definitive judgment on age and compare the extent of postjuv and prebr moult in adults:

Jenni & Winkler state p. 84 - after prebr moult

‘In spring, aging is difficult and in some cases impossible. Moult limits due to the prebr moult occur in 2y and ad. During the prebr moult, more T, but fewer R and considerably fewer GC are moulted than during the postjuv moult. Therefore moult limits between juv and postjuv GC are retained in many 2y... ‘

it goes on to say .. ’only 2y showing three feather generations within GC (54.5%) are safely determinable . 2cy with only one moult limit within GC, as most adults have, are difficult to age; ... 2y which moulted all the GC (which seemed to me to be the case in the OP as I couldn’t see any 3 gen moult limits on the GC) during the postjuv moult are even more difficult to distinguish from adult.’

EDIT I
see Graham has edited his above post I quoted to now to include this point - basically rendering all the above a repeat!

‘With much experience, they may be recognised by their more heavily bleached and browner P and S‘. ( Which btw, I had noticed in the OP but was not sure if that was attributable to adult winter wear contrasting with pre-breeding moult or due to first generation wear in postjuvs.). J+W is silent on the extent of wear of the retrices in prebr ad. and 2y but we can assume the retrices will be more worn in the latter.

Hope that makes sense, (I was half way there!)
 
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