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 Post subject: General Birds ID - Interesting discussions
Unread postPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 12:08 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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We had an unusual sighting of a Nightjar near Matlabas, some 20km before the Botswana border on the Limpopo. It was late afternoon and it was sunbathing or ant bathing, not too sure which. Anyone keen to give a go on ID, it is showing it's wing pattern very nicely.

Image

Image

Image

How's that for a challenge!

Cheers

Niall.


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 Post subject: Re: Identification Help - General Birds
Unread postPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 3:27 pm 
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Hi Niall!

Awesome picture of an awesome sighting!
Nice challenge. :lol:

The rufous wing with no sign of white makes me believe that it is one of two birds.

Female European Nightjar or female Pennant-Winged Nightjar.

I've studied a dead female European Nightjar a while back and this seems to fit the profile of that perfectly. The wing of the bird I studied showed distinct grey coloration towards the upper part of the wing which is evident here. The primaries of this bird show some extended black "fingers" as what was the case with my study. There also seems to be no rufous coloration on the head. :D

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 Post subject: Re: Identification Help - General Birds
Unread postPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 3:44 pm 
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It is way out of range for Pennant Winged. It also appears to have some white on the chin/chest, although it is puffed up which hides it somewhat. (This would rule out European). It also kept landing on the ground, eventually when it flew off the road it landed in a grassy sandy area. It was in pentad 2350_2700 to give you more of an idea of location.

Cheers and keep the ideas coming!

Niall.


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 Post subject: Re: Identification Help - General Birds
Unread postPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 3:55 pm 
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Here is a series of photos of my European Nightjar's wing pattern.

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 Post subject: Re: Identification Help - General Birds
Unread postPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 6:15 pm 
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I'm no expert but the distribution and lack of white on the wings point me to a (female) European Nightjar.

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 Post subject: Re: Identification Help - General Birds
Unread postPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 9:13 am 
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Niall,

I had a long hard look at it. There are two markings on the wing (pointed in red) which seems more distinct than what the European Nightjar would have.

Image

I would suggest that you consider Female Rufous-Cheeked Nightjar as well.

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 Post subject: ID General Birds - Interesting discussions
Unread postPosted: Sun Feb 15, 2009 7:05 pm 
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Okay... it's my turn to post a poser...

Image
Large view

I photographed this bird on Feb 4 just north of Leeupan some 40 m off the H1-2 to the west. At the time I had some decent scope views and I thought the white throat unusual. I took only this one shot before it flew off. From the photographic evidence I feel one can say it is NOT:
1. Common Cuckoo... bill not black enough, grey on throat does not extend down far enough
2. African Cuckoo... No grey extending onto throat, tail pattern and barring on front looks off
3. Red-chested cuckoo... Eye, tail pattern, lack of red in the throat area

Am I right so far?

So, what is left? Lesser Cuckoo and Madagascar Cuckoo. Can a distinction be made based on the visual information supplied? :roll: :|

After an extensive webz-search that delivered very little information, I really have only Mr Roberts VII left to consult... and with relevance to what we can see in the photograph, he says the upper parts of the LC, including the wings, are uniformly coloured slate grey. Regarding the tail it is said to have white tips to the retrices with (only?) the outer retrices having white spots on the outer margins.

What do we see in the pic? The upper parts are NOT uniformly grey, with the wing primaries and tail being darker. The retrices ALL seem to be spotted and am I imagining it, or are some of the spots situated along the
shafts? Mr Roberts VII?

Madagascar Cuckoo: Apart from a rufous morph in the female of this species, male and female are similarly coloured. Upper parts are slate grey with wings and tail darker. Retrices (all?... Mr RVII does not specify specific feathers here as he does for LC!) have white spots along the outer edges and along the shaft and the tips are white. My bird certainly isn't a rufous morph... but Madagascar Cuckoo looks like the most likely candidate...

Any comments, alternative thinking / suggestions?

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 Post subject: Re: Identification Help - General Birds
Unread postPosted: Mon Feb 16, 2009 3:58 pm 
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Hmm JvR, the time was just about getting ripe for a nice bombshell on the forums :D

Your Cuckoo looks very interesting indeed but I have to say that the most likely candidate in my view is still African Cuckoo. That said, I would love to be wrong on this one. I am not familiar with Lesser / Madagascar at all so I can't speak from experience.

What I can say is that I've seen a very similar bird just outside of Mutare in Zim and much as I tried convincing the other lads in the car that we had a Lesser Cuckoo, I just couldn't. I will add though that we didn't have prolonged views of the bird so ticking something like Lesser Cuckoo would have been wrong but the fact that the barring extended well onto the throat bothered me tremendously.

When we returned home I did a lot of reading and found, like you, that there is actually very little available :wall: However, I did find out that barring on the throat is not uncommon in sub-adult birds. Juvenile birds have barring all the way up to the chin and the uniform grey feathers moult from the top down. This means that a bird in near adult plumage will show all the adult features (yellow base to the bill, unmarked back etc.) except for some barring on the upper breast or throat area. I think this is what your bird is showing. I'm not sure what to make of the white throat but then I can't really see much of it anyway. I would think it is also a relic of juvenile plumage.

Here's a picture of a similar bird that Nancy Bell took in Etosha.
Image

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 Post subject: Re: Identification Help - General Birds
Unread postPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2009 9:42 pm 
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I had a number of my birding mates send congratulatory notes and support on getting a very special sighting ratified... Gee, talk about wearing Madagascar-coloured glasses! :lol:

Well, what has happened since?

I contacted an angel, Tamar Cassidy, manager of the bird collection at the Transvaal Museum and asked her if I could possibly have a look at her collection of Cuckoo skins. She offered to do some of the research for me, but after a week suggested, like deefstes, that considering the skins available to work with, my pic does look like a slightly unusual African cuckoo. When offered, I jumped at the opportunity to go look for myself.

I had a bird with what appears to be a white throat and white belly (or at least very lightly barred) and a reasonable view of upper tail spots. As deefstes suggested variable throat and belly colouration, I thought the tail spots would do the trick for me... match that (or eliminate those that do not match) and you will have a winner! :lol:

The Transvaal Museum collection lacks a Madagascar cuckoo specimen, but, if I could conclude that my bird was NOT C. gularis, C. canorus, C. solitarius nor C. poliocephalus, only C. rochii remains.

Tamar accompanied me to the area where the skins are kept and pulled the trays containing lots of C. gularis and C. canorus. She had one C. poliocephalus skin. The lesser cuckoo is markedly darker than my bird, trending very close to black. If that is the benshmark, then C. poliocephalus was out of the frame. Both of us agreed that C. solitarius wasn't required to feature in our deliberations. European cuckoo went out based on the dark bill that is a sure ID feature seen in all the museum skins. That left only the African cuckoo to consider.

Tamar showed me how she tied together the visual info seen on the pic and the African cuckoo skins...

Image
Large view

Wow! That blew my hair back! And my Madagascar specs right off my face! :lol: Unless I actually get hold of a skin from a Madagascar cuckoo to prove otherwise, Tamar has shown me conclusively that African cuckoo cannot be eliminated from my deliberations and probably is the correct ID call for my bird :cry:

Final comment... the Transvaal Museum is the greatest birding resource available to us. Man, you can learn a lot there. I asked if I could look at some other skin collections... no problem!

:lol: :lol: :lol: So, guess what, I got a tray each of Olive and Karoo thrushes to compare... deefstes will probably remember my reference to white vents for Olive and grey vents for Karoo in a previous discussion...
YES! It is true... you can add that to your list of ID features when considering an ID call between these two species. In a Karoo the vent will be grey or grey with a little white spotting. In an Olive thrush the vent will be white or white with a bit of grey spotting.

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 Post subject: Identification help
Unread postPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2009 10:12 pm 
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Please, I need identification help for this bird. The photo was taken near Skukuza. Thanks in advance.
Image


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 Post subject: Re: Identification help
Unread postPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2009 10:47 pm 
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Hi borrodcor2,

This is easily identified as one of the Honeyguides. The streaking on the head and neck tells me it's a Scaly-throated Honeyguide.

BTW, there are three threads that always appear at the top of the birding pages, where you can post your ID requests. :thumbs_up:


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 Post subject: Re: Identification Help - General Birds
Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 10:47 am 
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arks wrote:
I'm still quite puzzled by firefinches :?
Firefinches can indeed present quite a challenge. With the real difficult groups (larks, pipits, cistics etc.) there are excellent texts to describe the differences. Unfortunately it seems the field guides don't treat these birds with the same "respect" and only give superficial descriptions.

In reality the Red-billed Firefinch can be quite tricky to seperate from the Jameson's or even African if some of the giveaway features are not visible. In your bird the red bill is visible though so, I agree with JvR. All I'm saying is that you shouldn't beat yourself up about struggling with Firefinches. Most people who claim not to are either dishonest or misleading themselves. These birds are tricky.

The same goes for Indigobirds. The illustrations in the field guides make it look so easy but in reality they're much more difficult.

@JvR: Excellent writeup on the Cuckoo, thanks for that. While my first impression was that it was probably an African Cuckoo I was really hoping that it was not. Pity about that but then this was a very interesting exercise so not a wasted effort.

borrodcor2 wrote:
Please, I need identification help for this bird. The photo was taken near Skukuza. Thanks in advance.
Image

Jeepers Moegaai, I feel a bit bad that I'm going to have to contradict you again :wink: but I seriously doubt that this bird is a Scaly-throated Honeyguide. I'll agree that the visible plumage features of this bird might nudge your thoughts in the direction of Scaly-throated HG but the first thing that should be considered is the habitat. Remember that Scaly-throated Honeyguide is a very habitat specific forest bird. None of the habitat anywhere near Skukuza fits the description for that. The closest would probably be along the escarpment forests.

I think the only non-forest habitat that STHG is found in would be well developed Miombo, not something we get in South Africa and certainly not near Skukuza.

I would think this bird is a juvenile Lesser Honeyguide. There appears to be the beginnings of a moustachial stripe which suggests that the bird is approaching adult plumage but it does show the streaky throat of juvenile Lesser Honeyguide.

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 Post subject: Re: Identification Help - General Birds
Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 11:18 am 
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Deefstes, you really do enjoying contradicting me, don't you!? :twisted:

The STHG's habitat is described as "Canopy of evergreen and taller riverine forest, BUSHVELD, thickly wooded valleys, exotic plantations". Distribution maps include Skukuza region, and Skukuza can be deemed bushveld and does feature tall riverine forests all along the Sabie River. So I think the STHG cannot be excluded. And I couldn't find any reference to streaking of Lesser Honeyguide, even in juv / imm...

But you're right about one thing - there is what appears to be a moustachial stripe.

So for now let's agree to disagree on this one!? I stick to Scaly-throated. Please convince me otherwise?

I like the ones that lead to debate!!!


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 Post subject: Re: Identification Help - General Birds
Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 12:43 pm 
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Moegaai wrote:
The STHG's habitat is described as "Canopy of evergreen and taller riverine forest, BUSHVELD, thickly wooded valleys, exotic plantations".

How is this possible!?!?! :huh: I don't have any field guides with me but I had a quick look in Roberts Mulitmedia and it does indeed mention bushveld. Moreover, I Googled around a bit and found this page which even goes as far as saying "it is perhaps more common in woodland-forest mosaics than in forest proper". I am seriously confused by this because I simply can't agree with such a statement.

I have only ever recorded Scaly-throated Honeyguide in places like Magoebaskloof, Entabeni forest, Dlinza, Mkuze's fig forest etc. I just can't imagine a SCHT in bushveld. I will certainly make a deeper study of this as I find it very confusing.

Moegaai wrote:
So for now let's agree to disagree on this one!? I stick to Scaly-throated. Please convince me otherwise?

Before I can convince you of anything I first need to convince myself! I can't claim to have seen many Scaly-throated Honeyguides (perhaps no more than I can count on two hands) as they are more often heard than seen. That said, I have seen numerous Lesser Honeyguides some of which certainly had some streaking (more like blotching) on the underparts. I don't have any field guides with me (apart from Roberts MM) but I'm pretty sure that streaking on the throat is indeed a feature of juvenile Lesser Honeyguide.

For now, I have to get back to work. I'll see what I can find on these birds and their distribution and habitat tonight.

*EDIT* Oh and one more thing. I would think it'd be very odd to get a photograph of a bird that keeps to forest canopy (or whatever other habitat, but canopy) on what looks like pretty much eye level and what looks like a scrub more than a proper tree anyway.

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 Post subject: Re: Identification Help - General Birds
Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 1:00 pm 
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Check out the second photo of the Scaly-throated Honeyguide on http://www.birdpics.co.za - looks identical to borrodcor2's bird!

According to Best Birding in Kruger (Hilton-Barber & Arthur) the Scaly-throated Honeyguide occurs in KNP. Two good sites are mentioned: Crooks Corner [which is riverine forest] but also the Bushman Trail in the South-West of the park!

Scaly-throated H. habitat in a few more field guides:
- Forests and dense woodland – Birds of Africa (Sinclair & Ryan)
- Forest and thickets in well-developed woodland – Roberts Bird Guide (Chittenden)
- Forest edge, savannah, riverine woodland – Birds of Kenya & Northern Tanzania (Zimmerman etc.)

deefstes wrote:
I would think it'd be very odd to get a photograph of a bird that keeps to forest canopy (or whatever other habitat, but canopy) on what looks like pretty much eye level and what looks like a scrub more than a proper tree anyway.

That is odd indeed. As is a Franklin's Gull shopping for scraps at Centurion Mall. :tongue:


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