RE: Western Yellow or Green-headed Wagtails in WA

To: "'Mike Carter'" <>, "'BIRDING-AUS'" <>, "'John Darnell'" <>, "'Frank O'Connor'" <>
Subject: RE: Western Yellow or Green-headed Wagtails in WA
From: "Jeff Davies" <>
Date: Sat, 20 Feb 2010 15:17:47 +1100
Would very much like to see the photos Mike and John.

How have you excluded macronyx in this instance in favour of thunbergi, did
the bird show any signs of a nexklace.
One possibility for us not getting thunbergi is that its expansion into the
east is very recent, post glaciation, and like other taxa such as eastern
populations of Ringed Plover their preference may be to continue migrating
to regions further west.

Cheers Jeff.


-----Original Message-----
From: Mike Carter  
Sent: Saturday, 20 February 2010 2:37 PM
To: BIRDING-AUS; John Darnell; Frank O'Connor
Cc: Jeff Davies; Sean Dooley; Bill Ramsay; Danny Rogers; Rohan Clarke;
Adrian Boyle; Tony Palliser
Subject: Western Yellow or Green-headed Wagtails in WA

John Darnell has sent me some poor photos of some Yellow Wagtails seen at 
Cranbrook in SW WA (north of Albany). Unusually far south for such birds. If

I read the camera data correctly they were taken on 21 January 2010. It 
seems that several birds were present, some advancing into breeding plumage.

I'm told that they were initially claimed as Grey Wagtails but this was 
corrected to Yellow Wagtail. They may still be there - are they Frank?. Now 
the claim is that they are Eastern Yellow Wagtails as one might reasonably 
expect. John agrees that some probably are that species but it is clear that

some are not. Some have no white supercilium and John suspects that they are

what today we would call Western Yellow Wagtails of the race thunbergi. He 
uses the name 'plexa' which was the name given to the far eastern forms of 
that taxon now subsumed into thunbergi. Western Yellow Wagtail is not yet on

the Australian list but perhaps only because of the difficulty/impossibility

of telling thunbergi apart from macronyx. Although intuitively wrong, 
macronyx is considered a subspecies of Green-headed Wagtail (taivana) which 
is on the Australian list because adults of the nominate race are annual but

rare in NW WA and occasional in the NT. Occasionally those areas too get 
birds which look like these. Macronyx has been claimed (with and without 
photographs from both Christmas and Cocos Islands. These are very colourful 
birds with blue heads. It seems odd to me that we should get the Mongolian 
macronyx and Manchurian taivana rather than the Siberian thunbergi. Our 
usual Eastern Yellow Wagtails tschutschensis breed in the intervening region

and further east. This situation of the more southerly breeding populations 
coming further south is contrary to the strategy adopted by other migrants. 
More northern birds usually leap-frog there southern counterparts.
Anyway, you Western Australians, get behind John and the WA Museum and not 
call thunbergi/macronyx birds Eastern Yellow Wagtails. They are either 
Western Yellow Wagtails or Green-headed Wagtails even though you may not 
know which!

Mike Carter
30 Canadian Bay Road
Mount Eliza  VIC 3930
Tel  (03) 9787 7136


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