Re: Identification Problems

Subject: Re: Identification Problems
Date: Thu, 5 Mar 1998 17:51:59 +0800
David James wrote :
>Here are a few other groups desperately in need
>of identification articles. These are groups that
>seem to be routinely misidentified by people using
>modern field-guides, and for which there is little
>or no extra literature easily accesible:
>Myiagra flycatchers (why are there so many records
>of male Satin and so few female and juvenile Satin
>on migration? Why are there so many unconfirmed
>records of broad-billed from the tropical east?)
>Atherton and Large-billed Scrubwren (some say they
>can't be identified at most locations where they
>are sympatric!)
>Grey Whistler and Lemon-breasted Flycatcher (OK,
>maybe there is no problem here but the number of
>times I've seen this stuffed up... In particular
>in Fauna surveys!)

I would also throw in :

Fan-tailed / Chestnut-breasted / Brush Cuckoos - They are quite similar in
Cairns.  I have seen Brush reported for the south west, and Fan-tailed for
the Kimberley.  The Brush does have a distinct call from the other two.

Tawny Grassbird vs ?????? - Some Victorians seem to report lots of Tawny
Grassbirds in the Kimberley (e.g. Parry Lagoons near Wyndham; Roebuck
Plains near Broome Bird Observatory). They do occur there but in very low
numbers (I haven't seen them in these locations).  What are they confused
with?  I looked the day (or the day after) they saw them, and all I found
were lots of Golden-headed Cisticola and Singing Bushlark.  Tawny
Grassbirds are common on Adele Island 80km north of Cape Leveque in the
West Kimberley, and I have seen one in typha at the Argyle Diamond Mine in
the East Kimberley, and George Swann has seen one in typha at the Derby
sewage overflow in the West Kimberley.

Welcome vs Pacific Swallow.  Lloyd Nielsen in his book says to look at the
tail.  The Pacific has a "bar" either side near the end of the tail when it
is spread.  The Welcome has "dots".  This seems to be reliable.  I
certainly saw both near Mossman north of Cairns in January 1997.  The
swallows with "bars" also had the shorter tails, but young or moulting
Welcomes can also have short tails.  I have checked many swallows in WA and
they have all had "dots".

As for cisticolas, I have found that if I have any doubt then they are
Golden-headed because the Zitting that I have found have such a different
call and I have also seen the small white tip to the tail.  However, I have
only recorded Zitting a few times in Australia (Parry Lagoons WA; Kowanyama
Qld), so I stand to be corrected, although they were common in a few places
in South Africa in February 1997.

I agree with the Broad-billed from far north Queensland.  I reported
Broad-billed in the mangroves at the north end of the Cairns Esplanade in
August 1994 (1993?), but I was corrected and so I assumed at the time that
I was mistaken.  In Broome, the few Broad-billeds that I have closely
looked at seem to have a whitish edge to the tail (as described for
juveniles in the early Simpson & Day).  One that I looked at in Broome
could not have been a juvenile as it was banded and so had to be a 2+
adult.  I would need to check my records, but I am fairly certain that one
I saw at Cape York in January 1997 also had some white edge to the tail.
Of course if you get a very good look at the bill it gives the game away,
but you don't often get a perfect view of the bill.


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