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Thread: Putative minula or halimodendri Lesser Whitethroat, UK

  1. #1
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    Default Putative minula or halimodendri Lesser Whitethroat, UK

    Hi all,
    There has been a good arrival of eastern steppe/desert vagrants in the UK over the last week, including several reports of 'Central Asian' Lesser Whitethroats from the east coast.

    I came across one last Monday in Norfolk that was particularly striking - more so than any of the late autumn candidates I've seen previously. I've posted a series of pictures and some notes on this page.

    I'd be very grateful for any comments on this bird. In particular, I'm keen to know what the current thinking is on reliably criteria for differentiating minula from halimodendri.

    Thanks,
    James

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    It's difficult to say, but the greater coverts give an impression of a moult contrast i.e. inner greater coverts appear 2nd generation and outers appear still juvenile.

    British Lesser Whitethroats, apparently moult most if not all of their greater coverts in their post-juvenile moult.

    I'm not certain, but I think some research into moult strategies could provide some answers with this one.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Bobolink44's Avatar
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    Rapidly becoming the most linked website these days due to the arrival of all these eastern birds:
    http://www.birds.kz/Sylvia%20curruca/indexe.html

    this page talks about jizz of the minula in Cleveland:
    http://www.surfbirds.com/ID%20Articl...itethroat.html
    Last edited by Bobolink44; November 9th, 2008 at 09:08 PM.

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    Senior Member Martin Scott's Avatar
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    In December 2004 myself and Andy Robinson received word of an unusual dead bird in NW Lewis, Outer Hebrides, that had smacked into a window

    Andy and I opened the frozen package. We had hoped for a Desert Warbler from the verbal description(!), but soon it became clear it was a Lesser Whitethroat (of sorts!). A brief comparison of the available literature re wing formula and tail pattern pointed at Asiatic origins. As we were researching this bird another “Eastern” Lesser Whitethroat arrived in Aberdeen. As this bird was alive, we paid much attention to the comments about it. We exchanged information with Paul Baxter and Harry Scott and decided to ‘sit on’ our bird until some better criteria became evident. Ian Dillon kindly made detailed measurements, which confirmed the crude ones I had made earlier.

    Rather than try and pigeon whole this bird by discussing plumage tones etc we felt it is best to present the evidence– biometrics, and photos, and offer that a sample can be attained from the corpse for analysis if needed (this never happenned). I suspect DNA is the only way in the interim that records may proceed.

    From our work on this bird, it seems that much information is contradictory and that perhaps no consensus is possible without specimen analysis. We never heard back from BBRC/RIACT - whoever.............

    DESCRIPTION
    ‘Lesser Whitethroat’ measurements taken from corpse

    All measurements in mm, wing measurements taken from right wing:
    Wing length 69
    Wing point P3/4
    Emarginations 3,4,5
    P2 6/7
    Bill to skull 12.2
    Bill to feathering 9.8
    Bill depth (at nostrils) 3.0
    Bill width (at nostrils) 4.1
    Total head & bill 29.3
    Tail 57
    Tail/wing ratio 82.61
    Tarsus 19.8

    Primaries numbered decendently:
    P10 -31.3
    P9 -3.4
    P8 0
    P7 0
    P6 -0.1
    P5 -1.8
    P4 -4.0
    P3 -6.5
    P2 -7.8
    P1 -9.1
    P9-P10 -27.9
    P10-PC 4.2
    TT-wingtip 9.8



    Table 1. Description of whether the measurements taken fit with in the given range for each sub-species (from Sylvia warblers: Shirahi).


    • Curraca Margelanica Minula Althaea
    • Wing length Y Y N Y
    • Tail Y N Y Y
    • Tarsus Y Y Y Y
    • Bill (to skull) Y Y Y N
    • Bill depth Y N Y N
    • Bill width Y N Y Y
    • Tail/wing ratio Y N Y Y
    • P10 Y N Y N
    • P9 Y N N N
    • P8 Y Y Y Y
    • P7 Y Y Y Y
    • P6 Y Y Y Y
    • P5 Y N N Y
    • P4 N N Y Y
    • P3 N N Y Y
    • P2 N N Y N
    • P1 N N Y N
    • P9-P10 Y Y Y N
    • P10-PC Y Y Y Y
    • TT-wingtip N N Y Y
    • NUMBER of YES’S 15 8 18 13


    Apologies if that table comes out a bit squint. However you can see how many features fitted what sub-species/group/form etc

    MSS
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by Martin Scott; November 9th, 2008 at 09:33 PM.

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    Hi Jamesg,

    I've got a little experience of halimodendri / minula group, only one bird, the first for France (one picture in BirdingWorld and Ornithos of this bird). Surprisingly, your description and your impressions on your bird is very similar to my description of the french bird especially the structure (reminiscens of medit warbler, with long tail, short wing...), the sandy tones of upper and underparts, the jizz, the call...

    For me your bird, is a good candidate for halimodendri / minula.

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    This bird is not far removed from one seen in Wells Wood by a Norfolk Birder, a few days ago who thought it may be a garden warbler. I did suggest it was a Blyth's ? Lesser Whitethroat as one in Lowestoft a few years back looked similar. November lessers especially on the east coast may be this species. What does the panel think about that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by beltonbirder View Post
    This bird is not far removed from one seen in Wells Wood by a Norfolk Birder, a few days ago who thought it may be a garden warbler. I did suggest it was a Blyth's ? Lesser Whitethroat as one in Lowestoft a few years back looked similar. November lessers especially on the east coast may be this species. What does the panel think about that.
    Hi beltonbirder,
    I assume you mean this bird?
    http://www.birdforum.net/showthread....76#post1329176
    For me, that's definitely a Garden Warbler.

    "Blyth's" Lesser Whitethroat, the siberian form, is widely thought to be too poorly differentiated from curruca to even warrant subspecies status. That said, I'm sure this form is responsible for most of our late autumn records of "odd looking" Lesser Whitethroats - usually large, brownish birds that show little contrast between the mantle and crown.

    Thanks for all the responses on the minula/halimodendri conundrum. Clearly they are all extremely difficult to separate! I guess definitive identification will only be possible with extreme individuals from far ends of the range, given the variation in plumage characters within populations. A better understanding of vocalisations might help, as it does (maybe!) with the Chiffchaffs.

    The Kazakhstan link was particularly helpful - loads of excellent images. For me, the pics of autumn minula were most similar to the Norfolk bird - the plumage tones, carriage and structure all seem very similar. But it looks like a number of European records that resembled minula in the field actually turned out to be halimodendri on DNA or in-hand measurements, so who knows. I'm pretty confident that it was a bird from that end of the range, one way or the other.

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    Senior Member Bobolink44's Avatar
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    The first DNA confirmed bird for Britain is this one

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