The uppertail-covert pattern of ‘Stejneger’s Stonechat’

Published on 12 November 2014 in Main articles

First-winter male 'Stejneger's Stonechat' Saxicola maurus stejnegeri, Orivesi, Pappilanniemi, Finland, November 2013. The dark and saturated plumage combined with a seemingly strong bill created an overall impression that raised suspicions of 'Stejneger's Stonechat'. When examined closely, the longer uppertail-coverts appear to show class 2 markings, but it is difficult (other photos of the bird fail to clarify this) to exclude the possibility that this is a false pattern created by the spread tips of the coverts and the dark underlying rectrices. During the handling, no markings were noted by the ringer. The bird was subsequently proved to be 'Stejneger's Stonechat' from genetic analysis of a collected feather. Jani Vastamäki

First-winter male ‘Stejneger’s Stonechat’ Saxicola maurus stejnegeri, Orivesi, Pappilanniemi, Finland, November 2013. The dark and saturated plumage combined with a seemingly strong bill created an overall impression that raised suspicions of ‘Stejneger’s Stonechat’. When examined closely, the longer uppertail-coverts appear to show class 2 markings, but it is difficult (other photos of the bird fail to clarify this) to exclude the possibility that this is a false pattern created by the spread tips of the coverts and the dark underlying rectrices. During the handling, no markings were noted by the ringer. The bird was subsequently proved to be ‘Stejneger’s Stonechat’ from genetic analysis of a collected feather. Jani Vastamäki

By Magnus Hellström and Gabriel Norevik

Abstract Migrant Siberian Stonechats Saxicola maurus trapped for ringing at Beidaihe, China, in spring 2011 and autumn 2013, revealed the presence of dark spotting on the uppertail-coverts of c. 60% of first-winter and adult birds. The markings were found more often in males than females. Siberian Stonechats are generally considered to show an unmarked rump and uppertail-coverts, whereas dark spotting is characteristic of European Stonechat S. rubicola. The frequency and size of uppertail-covert spotting is examined, implications for identification are reviewed, in particular the separation of stejnegeri from the nominate race maurus.

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