A Contemporary South African Case of Reverse Migration

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: A Contemporary South African Case of Reverse Migration
From: L&L Knight <>
Date: Sun, 23 Jul 2006 17:55:31 +1000

The key difference between this bird < pic available at the website> and the GHL at BJ is that the arrival of twitching didn't scare off the reverse migrant. It is also interesting to compare the ID trail. In both cases, the bird was discovered in an accessible place and the ID made on the basis of a picture.

When you think about, the a priori probability of the GHL lobbing up in a place where it would be observed by a birdwatcher is pretty low. It was extremely fortunate that it chose a spot beside a section of road with a 50 km/hr speed limit. From behind it looks like a local lapwing, so if it had been 100 metres further from the road or in a high speed zone, it might still be undiscovered.

Regards, Laurie index.php?set_id=1&click_id=143&art_id=vn20060719011420317C271053

Rare robin takes flight from Cape farm
Melanie Gosling
 July 19 2006 at 10:36AM

A little robin-like bird got its bearings wrong and instead of heading home to southern Asia, it ended up on a farm in the Northern Cape - the first time this species has ever been recorded in South Africa.

Formerly called a Persian Robin, now known as an Iranian, the little creature has caused a small frenzy among local "twitchers", who tore off from all over the country to a sheep farm near Williston.

But the little bird, which had been hopping about with a flock of mossies in the Van Wyk's garden for weeks, disappeared just before the hordes of bird-watchers descended.

 It has not been seen since.

"I think all the people scared it off," said Marie van Wyk, who was the first person to spot the bird. "I first saw him about three weeks ago in my garden. He had a lovely bright orange breast. He seemed to identify with the mossies, because he was always with them.

Then when my son-in-law, Ockert Lombard, came to visit, I showed him the bird and he photographed it. He went home to Port Elizabeth and showed it to friends, and then I heard it was a very rare bird," she said.

"So many people came to our farm to see it, with big cameras and binoculars, but I think they must have scared it off, because all the birds left, even my mossies and starlings."

The photograph was sent to Terry Oatley, prolific author and honorary researcher at UCT's Avian Demography Unit, who identified it as "indisputably a male Persian Robin".

Oatley wrote: "It would seem to offer a striking example of 'reverse migration' for it to be this far south at this time of year. So far as I can ascertain, it has not previously been recorded south of Tanzania. The pics will have every twitcher in the country hot-footing it to Williston, because this is undoubtedly a new bird for the South African list!"

Once the photograph got onto Callan Cohen's SA Rare Bird Alert, the twitchers took off to Williston. Cohen said the bird also used to be known as the White-throated Robin. He said the bird breeds in south-western Asia and winters in north-east Africa, usually in Ethiopia.

"This reverse migration happens once or twice a year where a bird's compass gets it wrong and, instead of migrating from north-east Africa back to Turkey and Afghanistan, it headed south to South Africa.

"It is really interesting for us but, from the bird's perspective, he's in a really bad place. He's lost, there are no other birds like him and he'll probably never make it back home. He's not a happy bird."

No doubt equally unhappy are the hundreds of people who went up to the Northern Cape on a "wild bird chase".


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