BBRC has recently completed detailed assessments of several claims of Common Chaffinches Fringilla coelebs of the African forms africana/spodiogenys. So far, claims of six different individuals have been assessed, including a well-publicised bird in Essex in 1994 (see Birding World 7: 132, 134). All of the birds assessed so far have shown features which are strongly reminiscent of male `African Chaffinches' and have appeared markedly different from European races of Common Chaffinch (F. c. coelebs, etc.). For example, the claimed birds have shared a tendency to show green or greenish (rather than rich warm brown) mantle tones, pale pink underparts and an extensive bluegrey hood (rather than a blue-grey crown and nape contrasting with rich pink cheeks). Nonetheless, despite such striking superficial similarities to North African birds, several other features have conspired to make the claimed birds differ significantly from typical North African Common Chaffinches. In fact, there seem to be some common threads running through the claims which amount to a pattern of recurring anomalies. Some particular atypical traits found in the claimed birds include: a tendency to show an extensive grey wash on the breast (not found in African birds); unusually pale and colourless underparts, or underparts on which the pink coloration is either too orange for typical africana/spodiogenys or is unusually restricted; pink tones on the ear-coverts or malar area (where africana/spodiogenys is normally uniformly blue-grey); and rather dull green or brownishgreen mantle tones (typically cleaner, brighter green in africana/spodiogenys). Extensive studies of skins at the British

Issue 4
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