More breeding Muscicapa Flycatchers

_MG_9903-2Sofian Zack (aka Langkawi Birder) recently photographed this Muscicapa flycatcher on Langkawi, Kedah, on 23 July 2013. It’s one of the “Asian Brown group”, and the relatively long wing and short tail differentiate it from the ‘Perdik flycatcher’ which was the subject of this and this post.

_MG_9899The pale edges to the flight and tail feathers show that it’s in fresher plumage than the presumed Brown-streaked Flycatcher I photographed in April.

The possible options for this birds are:

1. Asian Brown of the nominate dauurica race, a long-distance migrant which is common in Peninsular Malaysia from September onwards (earliest confirmed dauurica is 25 Aug (Wells 2007)).

2. Asian Brown of the siamensis race, a short distance migrant which breeds in northern Thailand: one probable record on 12 Aug (Wells 2007).

3. Brown-streaked Flycatcher, a scarce resident which breeds in northern states of Peninsular Malaysia and is also a short-distance migrant arriving from late July onwards.

The rather rich brown upperparts, and especially, the rufescent tone to the fringes of the greater coverts, make this most likely to be Brown-streaked. Asian Brown (both dauurica and siamensis) are more grey-brown above, and lacking in rufescent tones.

What makes identification easier is that Sofian also managed to capture evidence of breeding, in the form of this young bird.

_MG_0070_MG_0071_MG_0073Although young, it has already completed a body moult and replaced its spotty juvenile body feathers (with the exception of one crown feather!), while retaining its original juvenile wing and tail, so technically, it’s in formative or first winter plumage.

Wells (2007) describes juvenile wing and tail feathers as follows:

Lesser and median wing coverts show a bold buff white sub-apical spot (which these don’t, so have they been replaced too?). [Greater] secondary coverts are tipped, and tertials and secondaries edged and tipped, rufous cream; and the tail is boldly tipped rufous cream.

That’s a perfect description of this bird, which confirms that this is Brown-streaked.

Some have asked how to distinguish this taxon from Dark-sided Flycatcher. Dark-sided is a common non-breeding migrant visitor between September and April. It is smaller and daintier-looking, rather dark grey-brown, has a tiny, mostly dark bill, is very long-winged, and has a variable number of grey-centred undertail coverts. All these features and the overall impression of the species are well-illustrated in this photo.

However, to add to the fun, there are at least 2 races of Dark-sided which occur in Peninsular Malaysia in the northern winter. Wells again:

The overwintering population includes migrants from both breeding ranges, in about equal numbers: northern nominate ‘sibirica’, lighter ashy – to dun brown, and long-winged…P10 falling short of the longest primary covert; and apparent southern breeders, darker, with less white on the throat (typically, no collar) and smaller, P10 equal to or reaching beyond the longest primary covert. Variously identified as subspecies ‘cacabata’… and ‘rothschildi’ …[which may be synonymous].

Here’s the nominate sibirica race, and one here of a candidate for rothschildi.

A good photographic project for the coming migratory season for some of you!

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