Re: Martin Identification

To: "Messages Birding-aus" <>
Subject: Re: Martin Identification
From: "Bob Forsyth" <>
Date: Wed, 28 Mar 2001 18:35:04 +1000
g'day all,
Many thanks to all those who replied to my posting.
I really appreciate the information provided.
It made feel a little less stupid when others said they  also had difficulty splitting Fairy and Tree Martins and were looking forward to the answers.
FM-call "blowing rasberries" , "Short churing call" , "farty noises"
TM-call "more continuous and not particularly distinctive twittering call"
TM-shape "Chunkier"
FM-rump  "Bright or clean white" , "finer"
TM-rump  "off clean" , "dirty looking white" , "off cream" , "grey underneath"
TM-underneath "grey"
Here are the replies....
1 I don't have any objective tips on martin ID - but I can say they definitely fly differently (DA)
2 Like you say, if you don’t get to see the crown, I don’t think there’s any definitive rule one can use for separating Tree and Fairy Martins.
The Fairy Martin’s familiar short churring call is unique though – the Tree Martin doesn’t have it. That’s reliable.
For what it’s worth, when I look at them I find the Fairy Martin to be a cleaner looking bird with a whiter rump, and a little finer too - the Tree Martin is just that bit chunkier. There is nothing like the experience of seeing the two species together to test this sort of thing out. If you can apply this sort of thing repeatedly, you’ll find it will either work for you, or it won’t. Different styles of id do work for different people when you get into these somewhat subjective areas.
There might be people out there who can talk about the difference in the blues – but I can’t. (BJ)
3 Try by sound. Many years ago Andy Burton told me to listen to the "farty" noises made by the Fairys. It really helps! (PDB)
4 What about rump colour.  I think that one has a much whiter rump (one clean white while the other is off cream) than the other (JB)
5 I generally find that the TMs are grey underneath and the FMs white, rump the same. The head colour is hard to to see and both difficult on a grey day. (CB)
6  I find that the most obvious visual difference, apart from the head, is the rump - which is a bright or "clean" white in Fairy Martins and a "dirty" white in Tree Martins. This difference can be quite marked in good viewing conditions.

I also found that after learning the calls, life suddenly became much easier and I no longer had to peer for ages at the birds' heads as they zoomed around above me! To my ears, the Fairy Martin sounds as if it is blowing little raspberries, whereas the Tree Martin has a more continuous and not particularly distinctive twittering call. (CP)
7 Someone has probably already given you this tip but I find the white rumps the best thing to go off. Fairy have very clean, bright white rumps (usually!) & Tree's have slighty dirty looking white rumps. (MA)
8  Around my place I record all flying martins as Tree Martins because all the stationary ones I have seen here have been that species. (RI)
Thanks again, for these clues...when the dust settles, I will request help on some other species that continually frustrate me,
Unfortunately, in this neck of the woods advice like this only can be obtained from visitors.
Regards, Bob Forsyth, Mount Isa, NW Qld.



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