Saturday, December 14, 2013

A lesson in pipit ID

Whilst photographing the "red-throated" pipit on Thursday I was struck by how boldly marked it appeared and the idea of Rosy Pipit briefly crossed my mind, but was soon forgotten as I was busy trying to get the pictures and watching the clock as I had to get to work.

There have been a few photos published on Facebook in recent weeks of a couple of Rosy Pipits at Nakhon Nayok.  This is a species I have no previous experience of, and my knowledge of it was very poor, other than to say that in Thailand I thought it was only known from the extreme north, with just a couple or records elsewhere (see Lekagul & Round 1986, Robson 2004). The images of the Nakhon Nayok birds were interesting as I'd never carefully looked at the ID of Rosy Pipit, but it seemed from these images that it was more heavily marked  on the underparts and showed some olive tones on the upperparts. That was as far as I had got.

When I uploaded my "red-throated" pipit photos to my laptop I was immediately struck by the rather olive-grey tones exhibited in the bird's upperparts. My problem was that I rarely get to study Red-throated Pipits in detail, so I didn't have much to compare it I had left all my fieldguides in Bangkok (this was after all a short business trip).

After some web-trawling I figured out that there were a few more features on my bird that were pro-Rosy:
  • boldly streaked underparts, and a thick malar patch
  • broken eye-ring
  • greyish-olive tones to upperparts, with heavy streaking
  • distinct olive tones to the primary fringes
  • photos indicated that Rosy shows much less streaking on the rump than I would expect for a Red-throated Pipit, but I could not find any text on-line that noted this as a feature
 Other features that I read about on-line (but wasn't convinced I could see) included:
  • a pale patch below the eye
  • the supercilium is sometimes disconnected at the rear (making it look like a 'drop').
I was starting to convince myself that this could be a Rosy Pipit, especially after seeing a nice selection of recent Red-throated Pipit shots by Dave Bakewell.  By this time it was very late in the evening and so I posted a message on BirdForum's ID Q&A, and planned a pre-breakfast trip back to the rice fields.

When I woke up yesterday morning I checked BirdForum and was heartened to see that those who had responded were all in agreement that this looked like a Rosy Pipit! A world tick no less!

Rosy Pipit (bird 1)

My trip back to the rice fields gave me more photo opportunities with at least two more Rosy Pipits, and also a number of Red-throated Pipits for comparison.  Having photographed the birds below all in the same light, just 30 metres apart, I am left in no doubt about the identification.

Rosy Pipit (bird 2) - note poorly streaked rump, overall olive-grey tones.
Red-throated Pipit - note the bird's overall buff tones
Red-throated Pipit - note the well-streaked rump.

Rosy Pipit (bird 3) - very heavy thick black streaking on underparts
R-t Pipit, much finer streaking on underparts

Rosy Pipit (bird 1)

R-t Pipit

R-t Pipit

I also noted a feature that I have not seen mentioned in the literature - the colour of the base of the bill is pink in Rosy, but yellow in Red-throated:

Rosy Pipit - pink bill base

Red-throated Pipit - yellow bill-base

On returning to Bangkok I read in Robson (2004) that Rosy only shows faint/no mantle "braces", but as the images below demonstrate, this may not be true:

Rosy Pipit (bird 3) exhibiting mantle "braces"

Rosy Pipit (bird 3)


Thaibirdspot said...

Good work very helpful....

Lee Dingain said...

Excellent and interesting post matey. When we do come to thailand this will be very useful.