Thursday 27 January 2011

The status of eastern stonechat in Libya

Every so often I see a stonechat in Cyrenaica which is much whiter underneath than the ones I normally see. The bird below was one of these. I saw last week at Old Marj.

I can't remember having seen any similar, lighter birds further west (that is in Tripolitania - north west Libya).

I have wondered whether the lighter birds I see are eastern stonechat. I have put a picture (see second picture below) of an eastern stonechat taken in Kuwait for comparison.

stonechat at Old Marj last week

To be honest I think these two birds look very similar but a bird watching friend whose skills I respect says my bird is definitely not an eastern stonechat.

What's going on?

eastern stonechat in Kuwait by Nawaf Ahmed

I have looked through dozens of images of the two birds on the internet and I am more than a bit confused. Collins guide says the eastern stonechat has a larger white collar than the European bird but in the birds I have seen photographed its not larger (on average) - indeed many European birds seem to have larger collars!  It does seem that the collars are longer but not necessarily larger (look at this feature in the eastern stonechat wintering in Kuwait).

European stonechat

A typical European stonechat is shown above. It has a wide(but short) collar. The bird I photographed at Old Marj is much whiter underneath than this and has more white on the wing.

I am not as sure as my friend that the Old Marj bird is a European stonechat. 

I will start looking harder at stonechat for the rest of the winter. I will not rest until I am sure what's going on.  Is north east Libya the western extreme of the eastern stonechat's wintering habitat or not?

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