Wednesday, 15 June 2011

One shrike and you're out?

I'm currently trying to sort out some stuff for an article in one of the birding journals, and this is involving a bit of musing around the 'isabelline shrike' complex. Shrikes are one of my favourite families of birds - charasmatic and characterful, colourful and to boot they often show themselves rather well.

Over the last few years, through a fair number of trips to the Middle East, I've seen quite a lot of these birds; differing markedly in colour. Just have a look at these spring birds, both stonking birds at both ends of the extreme: -
male Turkestan Shrike (ssp. phoenicuroides)

male Daurian Shrike (ssp. isabellinus)
So, it's unfortunate that bar spring passage, Turkestan Shrikes are pretty hard to find and my winter trips have largely been full of Daurian Shrikes. So here are a couple of more subdued birds: -
check out the warmish tones to the underparts, pale base to the lower mandible with a relatively indistinct supercilium to what you would expect on a Turkestan Shrike.

A pretty typical looking 1st-winter Daurian Shrike, though some birds can show a fair bit more chevroning on the flanks with a nice placid brown tone to the upperparts and overall creamy warmth to the underparts.
And now for this bizarre creature, seen in April 2007: -
This bird is a bit battered, and has an extraordinarily contrasting tail that is deep in colour. It's short winged, with only a handful of primary tips exposed beyond the tertials. However, the centres of the primaries and the tertials are still pretty dark (even though the edges are cream). Presumably an extreme Daurian Shrike, perhaps coming from the east - recent research indicates a cline of Daurian into Chinese (ssp. arenarius - if this is a valid subspecies?)
Ok, and now it's time for bed.

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