Following on from Ayuwat’s fascinating photos linked in his comments on the last post, I’ve received some pictures of a bird in Selangor which poses more questions than it answers.
Vol 2 of Wells’ Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula (2007), in referring to the status of M. (d).williamsoni (Brown-streaked Flycatcher), states:
“Evidence of breeding by williamsoni south to Bedong, Kedah …, is supported photographically, and Perlis and Kedah, at least, are climatically similar to breeding areas north of the border. Still further south, a date 4 May in Seberang Prai …[Pulau Pinang] is suggestive, but discovery in April 1999 of a pair of flycatchers showing characteristics of williamsoni at a typical nest above an open road-verge on the forested sub-montane slope of the Gombak Valley, Selangor Main Range …is ground-breaking. Presence in the south of a separate, perhaps un-named breeder cannot be ruled out (given a further find in nearby Ulu Langat district in August 2005 …).”
From time to time, and increasingly regularly in recent years, these flycatchers continue to be reported from the Ulu Langat area, and in particular, Sg Perdik, which is around 140m asl on the lower slopes of the continuously forested slopes of the southern end of the Titiwangsa Range, the highest peak nearby being Gunung Nuang (1,493m).
Suhaimi My recently sent me a series of superb photos of a bird photographed at Perdik on 22 April 2013. He’s kindly allowed me to reproduce them here.
What is evident is that this is a Muscicapa flycatcher in rather abraded plumage. The underparts appear to be diffusely streaked brown from the throat to rear flanks at least. So – Brown-streaked? Against this diagnosis, the plainnness of the ‘face’ pattern (ie the lack of contrastingly pale eye-ring and lores) is striking, as is the contrast between the rather grey head and the warm brown upperparts, but can these be explained by feather wear?
Feather abrasion on both the Kedah bird (left) and the Perdik bird (right) seems comparable, but the plumage pattern is strikingly different. The Perdik bird appears to have a slightly slimmer bill when viewed in profile (in all photos).
However, the most obvious differences are in the wing and tail length. Even allowing for a slight foreshortening effect caused by the angle of the tail, the Perdik bird is much longer-tailed and shorter-winged than the Kedah bird. The primary projection is roughly equal to the exposed tertial length on the Kedah bird (right in the lower pic, left on the upper), whereas on the Perdik bird, it is nearer half.
So – what is the long-tailed Muscicapa of Ulu Langat? Could it be M.d.umbrosa, which is described as having a lack of perceptible eye-ring (Rheindt & Eaton 2012) but has hitherto only been recorded in Borneo? Or, as Wells suggested back in 2007, do we have an as yet unnamed taxon within easy driving distance of KL?
The only way we’re going to find out is to get more info on these birds, so – do watch out for ‘brown flycatchers’ next time you’re heading for the Ulu Langat area. Take lots of pictures, and let me know if you find one!
Rheindt, F.E. and Eaton, J.A. 2012. Notes on the life history and taxonomy of Muscicapa dauurica umbrosa, an overlooked Borneo canopy bird. Forktail 28 (2012):144-146
Wells, D.R. 2007. The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula 2. London: Christopher Helm.