Brunei Flowerpecker: Brown-backed or…?

My photo of “Brown-backed Flowerpecker” in the post on 26 June elicited the following response from ‘The Bird’, which has caused me to re-examine my photos:

“The ‘Brown-backed Flowerpecker’ photo shows an immature male of either a Crimson-breasted or Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker. The dark mottling you can see on neck/nape and mantle, and dark wingcoverts are the first molted parts of the adult male plumage. In time, it will achieve the full aduilt male plumage, get a darker richer iris color, the orange gape will disappear, and the yellow lower mandible will become gray.”

Rather than respond in the reply box, I thought I would post some more of my admittedly terrible photos of the bird. First of all, here’ s the photo in question.

IMG_2262I did see a male Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker in the same tree, and Crimson-breasted, though scarce in Borneo, may well occur in western Brunei according to Myers’ distribution map. So is it either of these rather than Brown-backed?

Looking at the structural detail first, the bill is rather massive for a flowerpecker, with the upper mandible distinctively extending beyond the tip of the lower. Here’s another view.IMG_2255

Compare this with the bill thickness and shape of this immature male Crimson-breasted,  this male Yellow-rumped, and this Brown-backed.

Secondly, the plumage details. There are definitely two age-classes of feathers, as The Bird has pointed out, with the newer ones appearing distinctly darker, so the bird is in moult. IMG_2265 IMG_2264

However, there is no hint of blue in the upperparts, as there should be if this was a male Yellow-rumped or Crimson-breasted, or olive green if it was a female. The new feathers are dull grey-brown.IMG_2259

Similarly, the underparts are a colourless pale grey-brown, with no hint of yellow or olive-green, as there surely would be if this were Crimson-breasted or Yellow-rumped of either sex. This much younger juvenile male Crimson-breasted already shows yellow on the central breast, and this juvenile female shows uniform yellowish-olive underparts.


I was fortunate to get a picture of the carpal tuft as the bird raised its wings. This was cream, shading to white, similar in colour to the carpus of this Brown-backed.

So, all in all, I’m happy with my original identification of the bird. Thanks for the comment though – I always appreciate critical review of my identifications, because it makes me re-examine my assumptions, and I always learn something as a result!




2 thoughts on “Brunei Flowerpecker: Brown-backed or…?

  1. Thank you very much for a series of blogs, I really enjoy reading your blogs and at the same time learn a lot from it, best wishes and happy birding always!

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