Separation of Grey-headed and Black-headed Wagtail: a dark-headed thunbergi in eastern Spain

Published on 05 May 2020 in Main articles

Miguel Rodríguez Esteban

Abstract The potential for confusion between dark-headed examples of ‘Grey-headed Wagtail’ Motacilla flava thunbergi and ‘Black-headed Wagtail’ M. f. feldegg is highlighted by a well-photographed bird on Cabrera, in the Balearic Islands. In certain light conditions and/or during a brief encounter, even good photos may not confirm identification. Great caution is needed, and views/images from different positions and angles are crucial when evaluating a potential vagrant feldegg. A sound recording or detailed description of the call is particularly valuable.

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First-summer male ‘Grey-headed Wagtail’, Cabrera, May 2019. The dark-spotted gorget is apparent in this image. Note also the restricted area of dark feathering on the hindneck (in feldegg it characteristically extends further down, to the upper mantle); in addition, the wing-bars are quite narrow, which is a pointer towards thunbergi rather than feldegg. The bird is aged as a 2CY by the presence of three generations of greater coverts; the outer greater coverts are heavily worn juvenile feathers, as are the primaries and secondaries. Juan Sagardia