Monday, 29 October 2012

'Tristis' Chiffchaff

Over the past week we have had several monochromatic Chiffchaffs here on Bardsey. All of them that have been heard calling have sounded almost identical to Common Chiffchaffs. This has led us to think these birds are the Scandinavian form P.c. abietinus.

However, this morning one of the birds in Plas Withy was calling somewhat differently, giving a short piping mono-syllabic  'peu', not the di-syllabic 'hu-eet' that the other Chiffchafs were giving.

The bird called just on just four occasions in the 1 1/2 hours I spent trying to record it with my phone! Each time it gave four or five individual calls, with an almost Dunnock-like feeling to the call and nothing like the other Chiffchaffs. It did not give the classic Bullfinch-like call that I have heard on many occasions.

The bird is very striking and is in the same bushes as several colybita Chiffchaffs and an abietinus Chiffchaff.

It was good to be able to see the three types together and hear the calls. Plumage wise, there was little difference between the presumed abietinus-type bird and this presumes tristis-type bird. It should be pointed out that this tristis is and adult in active wing moult. This is,  I assume, why the flight and tail feathers are so brightly fringed giving it an almost Bonelli's feel to it.

The bird also showed the classic tristis wing bar, formed by pale tips to the greater coverts.

There was no hint of yellow in any part of the bird's plumage with the exception of the under-wing coverts. This can just be made out in the father blurry flight shot lower down.

The bird's bill was also much blacker than the other Chiffchaffs. The only pale on the bill was at the very base. The difference can be seen well in the pictures of the abietinus and colybita at the end of the post. The legs and especially the feet were solid black. Much darker than the abietinus and colybita (c.f. photos at the end of this post).

It was quite interesting too that the bird did not really respond to tape of Common Chiffchaff, however, it did respond quite well to the song of Yellow-browed Warbler from the recording by Andreus Schultz on Die Volgelsimmen. What is interesting about this is that there is a quite loud 'tristis' Chiffchaff singing in the background of that particular recording!

I will be very interested to see the comments on this bird.

Note the wing bar

black legs

very grey head

note the darkness of both legs and bill

black feet

yellow under-wing coverts

Collybita Chiffchaff

One of the abietinus Chiffchaffs from a day or so ago.
Same bird as above

1 comment:

  1. Cracking post Steve. I have been watching a few Chiff chaff down the Porth meudwy Valley this week, all except one classic 'collybita' birds, however one was much greyer and paler than the accompanying chiffs. I was starting to think 'tristis' until it called, uttering the same 'hueeet' as the other birds. It also responded to Chiff chaff call on the iphone. I presume it was a 'abientinus' like your birds above.
    The Bardsey 'tristis' has noticably darker black bill and legs in the photos above.
    Some of the Conwy birds over the past few years have also given the 'Dunnock' type call. It would be great if you could get a recording. Good record!