Brett Richards posted the following in the Surfbirdsnews email group and I thought I would put it on here to see if any of our readers could comment. Better yet, does anybody have any photos of this bird?
The plumage Brett describes sounds odd and not sure I've seen or heard of a 1st winter bird with black crown stripes.
I did a bit of trawling around the web and found the following web links that might be useful:Hi All. Reading in the account of the Cley White-crowned Sparrow (Birding World 21:14-18) that “Peter Pyle has confirmed that, without exception, first winter birds retain their brown and rufous crowns until the pre-breeding moult in April” rekindled my concerns over the identification of the Seaforth bird on 2 October 1995.
Obviously not an adult White-crowned Sparrow, this bird nevertheless had what I described as ‘velvety-blackish’ coronal stripes, lores and eye-stripe. It also had a warm buff supercilium, rather than the expected grey. The illustration in ‘Sibley’ of 1st winter East Taiga does perhaps show a slight buff tint to the supercilium, but it is hardly warm buff, and the dark head markings are definitely brown rather than black or blackish. I also described the central crown stripe of the Seaforth bird as buff-orange, which again didn’t seem right at the time, but would perhaps accord with the ‘rufous’ quoted above.. I made the comment in my diary that it “appeared to be an advanced first winter ….” but “I can find no reference to the supercilium being warm buff rather than grey”. I still can’t, and my concerns over this bird have been increased by Peter Pyle’s comment above.
The identity of the Seaforth bird was never questioned as far as I am aware, and it was duly accepted by BBRC with no indication that there was anything unusual about it, so I put my concerns to one side; The bill colour & underparts pattern both fitted White-crowned, and ruled out White-throated, the only real confusion species, but can White-crowned Sparrow ever really look like this, or could it have been some sort of hybrid?
John Dempsey's sketch of this bird
1st winter White-crowned with buffy supercilium
White-crowned Sparrow showing just how rufous the central crown stripe can be. and another one here. Here's another one I took of a bird hitching a ride on a boat in the Pacific
Aberrant adult White-crowned or hybrid with Golden-crowned?
Presumed White-crowned X Golden-crowned Sparrow
Mark Szantyr's photos of presumed hybrid White-throated Sparrow x Dark-eyed Junco (scroll down page)