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 Post subject: Pipit: Buffy
Unread postPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2007 7:53 pm 
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As per normal a Pipit has got me stuck on ID.

The pix were taken this past weekend in a reserve north of Rustenburg. Based on the points following, African Pipit was excluded as a possible ID and the field of possible candidates narrowed to Long-billed and Buffy Pipits:

1. Range
2. Large Pipit
3. Pink base to lower mandible (not yellow – so, bye-bye AP)
4. Long-tailed
5. Lightly marked breast (another reason to discard AP)
6. Apparent lack of streaking/contrast in mantle (definitely not AP)
7. Long bill

If the subject pipit had not jumped up on this “vantage point” and had displayed regular and deep tail-wagging I would have said Buffy. But it didn’t stay true to Buffy behaviour. (I also do not like the facial markings which look more like that of a LBP)

Problem with making it a Long-billed Pipit is the lack of length and curve in the hind claw. Furthermore, this bird has the knock-kneed stance usually only displayed by Buffy Pipits. Also, normally LBP is more distinctly streaked with greater contrasts on its back. As you can see this bird’s plumage is badly worn, making ID issues even more difficult.

Most of the physical traits say it should be Buffy, but it did not behave like one!

Image

Image

Image

Anyone with some helpful suggestions? I'm more confused now than when I started out writing this post...

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 Post subject: Re: Ultimate LBJ
Unread postPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2007 10:07 am 
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Johan van Rensburg wrote:
As per normal a Pipit has got me stuck on ID.


And as per normal, I doubt I can really be of any help. But I thought I'd say a thing or two that might contribute towards your ID process.

First of all, have you considered Plain-backed Pipit? If you had to ask me what the most difficult identification for me would be, I'd say seperating Buffy Pipit from Plain-backed Pipit. That has got to be my nemesis.

Now before you get onto the "base of the lower mandible" bandwagon, I'm getting increasingly doubtfull that the colour of the base to the lower mandible is really of any help when seperating these Pipits. According to the texts on these two birds the Plain-backed Pipit should have a yellowish lower mandible and pinkish brown legs while the Buffy Pipit should have a pinkish lower mandibe and yellowish brown legs.

Great, this means we don't have to subjectively look at the lower mandible and determine wether it is pinkish or yellowish (because Buffy's and Plain-backed's don't always pose side by side) but we can objectively compare the colour of the lower mandible to the colour of the legs. I mean, it stands to reason that the Plain-backed Pipit's lower mandible should be more yellow when compared to the legs or the legs should be more pink when compared to the lower mandible (and vice versa for the Buffy Pipit).

Well, as far as I'm concerned it is all hogwash because it has NEVER worked for me. In fact, your pics are pretty damn good and I really can't determine whether the lower mandible is pinkish or yellowish, neither can I detect any meaningful difference in colour between the lower mandible and the legs.

I've been in the company of top notch birders like Etienne Marais and Faansie Peacock who said as much (and who had to let a Pipit go as they simply could not reach a conclusion as to the ID). So don't worry, if we can't ID Pipits, at least we're in good company. :wink:

But back to your Pipit. It just doesn't feel like a Long-billed Pipit to me. While the Long-billed Pipit is not a streaked Pipit like the African Pipit for instance, it does show more streaking than Buffy/Plain-backed. Buffy/Plain-backed has virtually no streaking on the breast while Long-billed has distinct streaking on the breast, even if not as distinct as African Pipit. The Long-billed Pipit also shows some streaking on the crown which your bird lacks.

So I would think your bird is either a Plain-backed Pipit or a Buffy Pipit and even making such a claim is going out on a limb (just to show you how useless I really am with Pipits). In other words, it would be presumptuous of me to try and put a specific ID to this bird.

If you'd put a gun to my head and force me into making an ID I would say "ok, ok, it's a Buffy Pipit" but I'd go home and pray for forgiveness because I'm realy not sure (and of course see a counsellor because I've never had a gun to my head).

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 Post subject: Re: Ultimate LBJ
Unread postPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2007 4:22 pm 
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deefstes wrote:
First of all, have you considered Plain-backed Pipit? If you had to ask me what the most difficult identification for me would be, I'd say seperating Buffy Pipit from Plain-backed Pipit. That has got to be my nemesis.

Now before you get onto the "base of the lower mandible" bandwagon,


Exactly where you find me - on the "base of the lower mandible" bandwagon :lol: Precisely why I chucked PBP!

deefstes wrote:
I'm getting increasingly doubtfull that the colour of the base to the lower mandible is really of any help when seperating these Pipits. According to the texts on these two birds the Plain-backed Pipit should have a yellowish lower mandible and pinkish brown legs while the Buffy Pipit should have a pinkish lower mandibe and yellowish brown legs.

Great, this means we don't have to subjectively look at the lower mandible and determine wether it is pinkish or yellowish (because Buffy's and Plain-backed's don't always pose side by side) but we can objectively compare the colour of the lower mandible to the colour of the legs. I mean, it stands to reason that the Plain-backed Pipit's lower mandible should be more yellow when compared to the legs or the legs should be more pink when compared to the lower mandible (and vice versa for the Buffy Pipit).


I'll check that postulation out tonight. Is it written up in some work, maybe for more than just PBP and BP?

deefstes wrote:
Well, as far as I'm concerned it is all hogwash because it has NEVER worked for me. In fact, your pics are pretty damn good and I really can't determine whether the lower mandible is pinkish or yellowish, neither can I detect any meaningful difference in colour between the lower mandible and the legs.


On the uncompressed pix the lower mandible is definitely pinkish. As I suggested earlier, I didn't know about the theory regarding meaningful difference in colour between the lower mandible and the legs. I'll check that out too.

deefstes wrote:
I've been in the company of top notch birders like Etienne Marais and Faansie Peacock who said as much (and who had to let a Pipit go as they simply could not reach a conclusion as to the ID). So don't worry, if we can't ID Pipits, at least we're in good company. :wink:


I can not keep on letting the Pipit go - you should see the stack of Pipits in the unidentified folder! It is by far the fattest folder on the drive! Faansie has gone past 800 ticks - I am sure he has them all ticked... So probably do you. I have only two (AP and YBP) ticked. The rest have all been "let go!" What is the thing that happens to make you say: "beyond any doubt!" :roll:

deefstes wrote:
But back to your Pipit. It just doesn't feel like a Long-billed Pipit to me. While the Long-billed Pipit is not a streaked Pipit like the African Pipit for instance, it does show more streaking than Buffy/Plain-backed. Buffy/Plain-backed has virtually no streaking on the breast while Long-billed has distinct streaking on the breast, even if not as distinct as African Pipit. The Long-billed Pipit also shows some streaking on the crown which your bird lacks.

So I would think your bird is either a Plain-backed Pipit or a Buffy Pipit and even making such a claim is going out on a limb (just to show you how useless I really am with Pipits). In other words, it would be presumptuous of me to try and put a specific ID to this bird.

If you'd put a gun to my head and force me into making an ID I would say "ok, ok, it's a Buffy Pipit" but I'd go home and pray for forgiveness because I'm realy not sure (and of course see a counsellor because I've never had a gun to my head).


Cancel your appointment, deefstes, I'll never do such a thing as pulling a gun on you! Thank you very much for the feedback It is greatly appreciated. I know it takes stacks of effort and time to put together such a comprehensive reply. Kudus to you, sir! I will post again after further deliberation... probably to say it has been "let go"... At least nowadays I get the family right, hey. :lol:

Maybe there is another forumite out there that knows his PBPs from his BPs and LBPs? Please, the more confusion, the merrier! :twisted:

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Last edited by Johan van Rensburg on Wed Aug 08, 2007 4:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2007 10:40 pm 
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Image

Wonderful how a conversation (even one on the net by posting on this forum) can give clarity. deefstes caused me to look wider than just Buffy and Long-billed Pipits to include the plain-backed Pipit. In so doing I learned a bit more about the ID features of pipits while deeply delving into Faansie Peacock's PIPITS of Southern Africa. (Roberts VII does little to help in separating these difficult critters)

The table above reflects only some (not all) of the ID features one can look for. Some of the best ones, like behaviour and song, I have no record of and therefor this difficult slog is the result.

The "base-of-the-lower-mandible" bandwagon was the first thumbs-down for Plain-backed Pipit. However, two other features, tail length and the hind claw comprehensively put PBP into touch. So, back to my original two...

My table should have included another row "Colour of underparts". Apart for having distinct to poorly streaked upper parts, the Long-billed Pipit's underparts are generally much darker than that of the two other birds under consideration. In any case, LBP's breast markings is a feature not seen in the subject bird.

Once I got to this point where I was just looking for further confirmation that BP was my bird, the thumbs-ups just kept on flowing!

The Buffy Pipit is one of the largest of the 'Large pipits' group :thumbs_up: with a particularly long tail and a long neck. :thumbs_up:

In the field, the head usually appears rather small in proportion to the body and the crown is flattened . :thumbs_up: In Buffy Pipits, the face is usually quite plain, :thumbs_up: with at most a paler supercilium and sometimes a faint malar stripe. :thumbs_up: They lack the well-defined and bold facial markings of the smaller 'Large pipits'. :thumbs_up: Their stance often shows outwardly splayed at the knees. :thumbs_up: The hind claw is thick and short. :thumbs_up:

Buffy Pipits are mostly associated with open savanna habitats, particularly in overgrazed, agricultural or recently burned areas.:thumbs_up:

Buffy Pipit exhibit important behavioural characters that help with their identification. In particular, the tail wagging is very extreme, involving the whole rear half of the body with the tail extending upwards so far that the vent can easily be seen if the bird is viewed from behind. Also, Buffy Pipits tend to wag their tails more frequently and more continuously than the similar Plain-backed. This is where my powers of observation failed me. I do NOT remember having seen this individual do the tail-wagging bit.

However, based on the other factors I am now 95% convinced that the subject bird is a Buffy Pipit.

I will appreciate comments very much :lol:

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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Fri Aug 10, 2007 7:13 am 
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Faansie Peacock, author of PIPITS OF SOUTHERN AFRICA (The complete guide to Africa's Ultimate LBJ's!) posted a reply on this specific pipit "delemma" on Wednesday evening:

Quote:
Thanks for the pictures. Wow, this is a tricky one!

You are definitely spot on by narrowing it down to Long-billed / Buffy. Supposedly these two are not difficult to distinguish but in practice it is a different story. Yes, the bird’s feathers are very worn – looking at those tertials it looks like it has just disentangled itself from a mist net! Long-billed Pipits are quite common at Pilanesberg, especially this time of year when they come down from the hills to feed on the low-lying firebreaks. Buffy Pipit is also common throughout that area however. Just looking at the bird’s shape and proportions I would call it a Buffy. As you pointed out, the legs look rather long and thin and the hind claw is very short and straight. Furthermore the tail looks rather long, the head smallish and flat, the eye quite large and the neck thin. The mottling on the mantle is faint – and could probably be either of the two species. However, the weak facial markings and very little breast streaking persuades me that it is a Buffy.

It is definitely unusual that it was not wagging its tail, as Buffy’s tend to do this constantly. It is however, not unheard of. I’ve watched Buffy Pipit do absolutely nothing and then suddenly jump into action and then start wagging like mad.

I hope this helps!

Kind regards

Faansie Peacock



So, Faansie adds some more "Buffy-features" to look out for:

1. Head small with flattish crown
2. Large eye
3. Thin neck
4. Weak facial marking (general appearance)

Faansie also suggests (I'm reading between the lines here) :lol: that one should observe a new bird (possible lifer) a bit longer than 10 minutes - I would've seen it do it's tail-pumping act with a bit more patience.

So this has turned into a bit of a Buffy Pipit tutorial. I'll link this info later to a new posting on Buffy Pipit in the birding index.

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