Help With Unidentified Wader

To: "Birding Australia" <>
Subject: Help With Unidentified Wader
From: "Chris Coleborn" <>
Date: Sat, 8 Apr 2006 15:14:06 +1000

Hello All,

Yesterday, Fri 7th, David Parker and myself observed a wader at Lake Murphy
in Nth Victoria.  We closely observed it for about an hour and a half, and
made extensive notes on it, drew a diagram, rang one of the 'experts' and
took some distant photos of it. We still are having trouble in identifying
it. Can any one help?

The basic data on the bird is as follows.

Habits & Size: It was a solitary feeding bird about the size of a Curlew,
Sharp-tailed or Broad-billed Sandpiper. A Red-capped Plover landed beside it
and it was larger by about half. It fed in a leisurely way, probing in the
mud and often withdrawing its food up out of the water and further 'dealing'
with it, before swallowing it. It did not feed in the jerky jabbing way of
the Curlew Sandpiper or the hurried way of the Sharp-tailed. It would often
rest and was not at all disturbed by our presence, as were all other waders
present. When feeding and moving about, it would at times 'bob' its tail -
not constantly like a Common Sandpiper, more like the Wood, but its
coloration and behaviour was certainly not like a Wood. When feeding it
would at times adopt an upright stance, and had a fairly long neck. When
resting, it would 'hunker down into a horizontal shape.

Over all it was dark brown/grey on the head and back and wings, with a paler
brown bib and some markings on the side. It was pure white from the
underbelly to the tip of the undertail tail (coverts).

Head: it had a distinctive white eyebrow that came from the front of the
head (from above the nostrils) but not all the way around the head. It had a
dark line from the bill through the eye into the ear coverts. The top of its
head was dark brown – no chestnut was observable. The dark colour of the
head continued down the rear of the neck to the back. The pale brown of the
'bib' extended up the side and front of the bird's neck. It had a small
white chin under the bill. There was a noticeable white flesh ring around
the eye.

Bill: the dark/black bill was long and was slightly but obviously down
curved with a slight thickening on the tip – not a point. It appeared to be
about the width of the head plus about an extra quarter in length.

Upper body: it was dark brown down the neck and onto the back with the wing
primaries being extra dark. The plumage on the back and wings was black/dark
centred with pale to white edging. The primaries of the wing almost seemed
to be ‘barred’.

The ‘bib’ had a distinctive cut off line, (similar to a Pectoral) but it did
not come to a point on the chest, instead the bib had a not too
prominent/slight broken area or gap of white that went about half  or a
third way up into the bib. It was coloured pale brown with darker mottling
and some distinct darker vertical lines radiating out from the top of the
'bib' - a type of barring. There was a 'hook' or white that came up between
the bib and the top of the wing and some further pale brown coloration with
some wider spaced vertical dark brown lines or barring on the side beneath
the top of the wing, but more spacing between them than on the chest. The
side coloration did not extend onto the belly.

Legs: The legs were fairly long and when seen in the full sun, olive colour
with some yellow appearance, but in the faded light slate grey or black.

In Flight: The most noticeable feature was a pure white rump. There was no
black or other colour to break the white of the rump. There was a dark tip
to the tail. There was not a very distinctive white band to the wings.

We consulted six field guides and HANZAB but have not been able to satisfy
our selves what we were seeing. We considered and ruled out Sharp-tailed,
Curlew, Wood, Common, Broad-billed Sandpipers. We looked at all the obvious
waders, and less obvious, such as Stilt Sandpiper, but are stumped. There is
one that generally meets the description, but the bill appears to be too
long and that is the White-rumped Sandpiper. Any suggestions?

There were a nice range of migratory waders still present at Lake Murphy,
despite a half dozen duck hunters camping and shooting occasionally.
Sharp-tailed, Common Greenshank, Ruff (nice male coming into breeding
plumage), Red-necked Stint and Double-banded Plover, plus about 50 other
species of birds.


Chris Coleborn


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