Letter

Published on 13 March 2014 in Letters

On 16th May 2007, in an area of Sweet Chestnut Castanea sativa forest at an altitude of c. 600 m below Mount Olympus, the highest deciduous woodland on the Greek island of Lesvos, I found three counter-singing male Common Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita. The species may breed sporadically in the area (Brooks 1998), although otherwise it is described in BWP as breeding in Greece only in the northern mainland mountains bordering Albania, Macedonia and Bulgaria, where there are several hundred pairs of P. c. collybita (hereafter `collybita’). To my ear, it was immediately obvious that these birds’ songs were dissimilar to those of both P. c. abietinus (or at least to birds of that race breeding in Finland, where I have heard them) and collybita, and I recorded details as follows. creamy-coloured. The birds’ plumage seemed to be within the range of variation of abietinus and hinted at some of the features of Mountain Chiffchaff P. sindianus lorenzii. On purely geographical grounds, it would be expected that chiffchaffs breeding on Lesvos would be of the form P. c. brevirostris, described by Kirwan et al. (2008) as endemic to Turkey. That form is not, however, universally accepted as a valid race in its own right, while there is debate over its appearance and variability. Roselaar (1995) speculated that it might not prove separable from collybita, while Watson (1962) suggested that it may represent an intermediate form between abietinus and lorenzii (and Lars Svensson, in Dubois & Duquet 2008, suggested that brevirostris is

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