Saturday, 23 February 2013

The buzzard from Tabuk

A couple of weeks ago I posted two pictures of a buzzard from Tabuk in the far NW of Saudi Arabia close to Israel. these were taken by local birder Viv Wilson who has kindly let me reproduce them. 

The bird caught my attention for this main reason: Buteo buteo buteo (common buzzard) is "unrecorded in Arabia" but is a "regular winter visitor to Israel" according to Birds of the Middle East.

The default sub species in Arabia is buteo buteo vulpinus or steppe buzzard but they are supposed to winter much further south.


One of the original photos of the buzzard

All Viv's first set of pictures were of a perched bird and the conclusion from the experts on BirdForum was that from pictures of a perched bird we cant tell which it was.

I asked whether Viv could try to find it again it and see if he could get some flight pictures. He went out a week later, he found the same bird and he did!

a second of the original photos of the buzzard

This time I asked people on Birdforum and also privately to other experts. One or two of them said it was still impossible to tell which begs the question how do the Israelis do it.

new photo of the buzzard in flight

Those who did try for an identification chose vulpinus or steppe buzzard.

One correspondent said "let's try to get it by moult pattern, everybody will agree on having 2 generations of tail feathers and secondaries (I am not sure about P1-4), which would be rather odd for B.b. buteo in winter and normal in B.b.vulpinus...."

second photo of the buzzard in flight

Another added " even on plumage - darker birds with pale flashes on primary bases plus narrow tail band both fit vulpinus much better"

third photo of the buzzard in flight

The other point they made is that because it was so far north in winter that is quite likely to have some part buteo genes a generation or two back. In other words it might be a mostly vulpinus (steppe buzzard) inter-grade with the other sub species.

the buzzard landing

I think that's as close as we will ever know to what this bird is.

Thanks again to Viv Wilson for the pictures which I have cropped severely in places.

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