Well that's very interesting indeed.
It would be well worth having a look around your area now Rob to see if there
are any Willie Wagtails still hanging around.
Do you recall if these 2 adult Willie Wagtails that you saw in May there in
Bamaga seemed particularly large birds to you??
If they did appear like big Willie Wagtails to you, then they could be either
birds from the north of you (ie the larger race 'melaleuca' from Torres Strait
islands & PNG), or they could have been visiting migrants from southern
Australia of race 'leucophrys'.
If they just appeared about the same size as birds that you would see, say
around Cairns for instance, then they were probably likely to be of our local
northern race 'picata', which is a noticeably smaller bird than the southern
latitudinal migrants 'leucophrys' that we have been discussing here on this
What makes it hard is that all 3 races look pretty much the same, apart from
the size. I get to see our Cairns locals all year as they breed here
extensively, and they appear generally quite a bit smaller than the southern
birds that winter in the inland of Qld. I just wonder how far north these
migratory 'leucophrys' actually travel when wintering in normal non-drought
But Rob, I suspect that the birds that you saw were indeed most likely visiting
southern 'leucophrys' - it is a very dry year all round & my bet is that they
get up as far as you in Bamaga in these very dry times.
Also, I've never seen a Willie Wagtail of race 'melaleuca' but from what I
read, they must appear significantly larger than our local breeding northern
birds of race 'picata', and also a bit larger than the southern birds as well.
Lots of questions need to be answered, but Lloyd & Greg are most definitely
onto something pretty significant here in having found that this species does
seem to have a major latitudinal migratory population - well, at least a fair
proportion of the nominate race 'leucophrys' anyway.
Does everyone down there in the southern Australia (say in Sydney, Melbourne, &
Adelaide), see Willie Wagtails in the months of May, June & July??
I'm just putting it out there - as they say...
trinity beach, cairns.
> Date: Mon, 15 Jun 2015 11:31:02 +1000
> Subject: [Birding-Aus] Willie wagtail migration
> Hello All,
> I found this topic of interest for a lonely birder way up north here at
> Cape York "Tip" at Bamaga. On May 7th I submitted the following to Eremaea
> *Willie Wagtail Bamaga Hospital Grounds and Surrounds 10 53S 142 23E 1'
> Cell, Queensland, AU*
> *2 adults. First records for the Tip of Cape York since 8/1995 (at Pajinka
> Wilderness Lodge) and 1909 (McLennan who spent June and July in the area
> and saw a single specimen - published in EMU 1911). Another record 8/2011
> at Capt. Billy's landing turnoff approx. 120km south. I note there was an
> e-bird record 2 days ago at Mission River approx. 230km south perhaps
> indicating northward migration. Draffan (1983, EMU) reports that they are
> found on NW Torres Strait Islands (presumably resident and race melaleuca
> of PNG). Atlas has 1 record for ?Torres Strait and HANZAB has CY Tip as
> blank. eBird checklist
> *Rob Reed 7/5 #223170*
> Even non-birders, including those that have lived locally since birth, have
> enquired whether it is unusual to see this bird so far north and no one has
> even seen it here in the past (on casual observation).
> I don't know if I have missed them in my prior 6 years here, an unusual
> year or it a sign of things to come?
> Grey fantails do venture this far north each year but only for a few weeks
> every June/July. Huge numbers seem to arrive all at once, then all gone a
> few weeks later.
> Rob Reed, Bamaga
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