mandag den 6. januar 2014

Deviant Meadow Pipits

In the spring of 2013 there was a lengthy discussion regarding the identification of a deviant pipit from Bøjden, Funen, Denmark. The debate ran on both Netfugl, FugleogNatur and Birding Frontiers. Opinions were divided, and many thought that the bird most resembled Water Pipit or littoralis Rock Pipit, while others, including myself, were convinced that the bird was a very deviant Meadow Pipit. Eventually most debaters on Netfugl seemed to accept this view, although some still remained in doubt.

Furthermore, the possibility that the bird might be a hybrid Meadow Pipit x Rock Pipit or Meadow Pipit X Water Pipit was aired on both Netfugl and Birding Frontiers. I therefore asked on Birding Frontiers if these hybrid forms ever were detected with certainty? Pierre Andre Crochet commented on this, as he to me surprise could give a reference to this article which demonstrates a case of hybridization between Meadow Pipit and Water Pipit .

Nevertheless, I felt increasingly confident that the bird from Bøjden had to be a Meadow Pipit. This was partly due to obvious features such as very strong stripes to the mantle and crown, partly because I remembered having seen online discussions of similar richly coloured Meadow Pipits from England and finally becuase I myself had seen spring Meadows Pipits with a yellowish pink underside several times in the past.

During April 2013, I had ample opportunity to study plumage variation of Meadow Pipits at my local patch, Ulvedybet. Here I came across several birds with varying degree of aberrant warm colouration to the breast, but especially two birds stood out with strong yellowish pink underside, slightly weaker striping to the breast and flanks, well-marked pale supercilium and slightly greyish tinge to the neck and scapulars on one of the birds. Both birds though still had pale legs unlike the bird from Bøjden.
Meadow Pipit, Perlen, Ulvedybet, Denmark, 16/4-2013.

Meadow Pipit, Gjølvej, Ulvedybet, Denmark, 27/4-2013.

Scrutinizing on the variation of Meadow Pipits during April 2013 assured my belief in that the bird from Bøjden indeed also was also an aberrant Meadow Pipit, even in spite of the dark legs of the bird. This can also be seen on the Meadow Pipit, as evidenced by this photo on netfugl.

I think that a certain percentage (or less) of Meadow Pipits become more strongly coloured in spring - not unlike littoralis Rock Pipits which also are most richly coloured in March-May.

For comparison I have also posted my own photos (hence the poor quality) of littoralis Rock Pipit, Water Pipit and Asian Buff-bellied Pipit in transition/breeding plumages below.
Rock Pipit (littoralis), Brabrand Sø, Aarhus, Denmark, 26/3-2004.

Water Pipits, Årslev Engsø, Aarhus, Denmark, 2/4-2008.

Buff-bellied Pipit (japonicus), Sharm El Sheikh Sewage, Egypt, 11/1-2009. A least three different birds were present. Apparantly first egyptian record.

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