Published on 01 December 2010 in Letters

The recent paper describing the identifica- tion criteria of the eastern form of Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator niloticus (Rowlands 2010) also summarised the accepted Euro- pean records of this taxon. However, some published Italian records are seemingly not widely known about and this letter seeks to address the status of niloticus in Italy. Row- lands included one old record, a bird col- lected at Messina, Sicily, on 21st April 1915 (see also Iapichino & Massa 1989, Corso 2005). Brichetti & Fracasso (in press) give additional published historical records, as follows: Castelporziano (Roma), without data (Chigi 1912); Bari, April 1875 (Salvadori 1913); and Turin, 2nd May 1885 (skin pre- served at BMNH, Tring; Boano 2007). More recent published records of niloticus in Italy are as follows: adult male, ringed and pho- tographed, at Lampedusa, Pelagie Islands (in the Sicilian Channel), 24th April 1997 (Corso 2005), and another (photographed) there on 9th April 2007 (A. Corso in Ruggieri & Sighele 2008); adult male, photographed, Linosa, Pelagie Islands, 14th April 2005 (H. Larsson in Ruggieri 2005).

In recent years, several birds observed by myself and others in Sicily and in southern Puglia (southeast Italy) have shown inter- mediate characters, such as a large white wing-panel at the base of the primaries yet with limited white on the central tail feathers, and other such intermediate birds have been ringed (see Brichetti & Fracasso in press). However, the confirmed/photographed records listed above appear to refer to genuine niloticus. As Rowlands concludes, it is important to base safe identification on birds showing the full suite of key identifica- tion characters.