Flycatcher Comes Good

Black and White Sounds

Was frustrated getting the Doc’s text about the Flamborough Flycatcher this morning. He was surprised as anyone (thanks to him for processing this so quickly). The data we have says: ‘just a Pied’! Being a little peeved didn’t last long. I really enjoyed seeing the bird and the whole puzzling learning experience. Most especially the pressure of not knowing what it was, opened up a new zone in the world of black and white ficedula flycatchers. One I haven’t exhausted yet (and I have been here before with this group of birds e.g. seeing the Filey male Collared Flycatcher in 1985 with extra white in the tail, seeing a potential 1st winter Atlas/ Iberian on Menorca in the 1990’s, learning about this Siberian bird at Filey,  and the Spurn first winter Collared Flycatcher.

The Biggest Learning… 

…from the Flamborough bird was that it catalysed the discovery of  differences in the calls between Pied, Iberian Pied and Atlas Flycatchers. It came good! This is pretty new, undocumented stuff and didn’t even get used on the southern potential Atlas Flycatchers in southern Europe this spring. Next time then!

Thanks to Magnus Robb-the king of bird sounds and a true Frontier dude. His presentation:

“I’ve done heavily zoomed in sonagrams of ‘wit’ calls of hypoleuca, iberiae and speculigera to show the differences. Four of each taxon, different individuals. In each case, you can see a number of frequency bands in a vertical stack. Note that these are not harmonics, because they do not rise and fall in synchrony. The differences between the three taxa are fairly striking.”

Pied Flycatcher, nominate hypoleuca

In hypoleuca, the bands above the lowest one are typically broken.


Iberian Pied Flycatcher, iberiae

In iberiae the three strongest bands are a middle band that is nearly flat, a lower one rising and an upper one descending. At this scale it looks like a sort of horizontal symmetry (though at different scales this illusion may disappear).


 Atlas Flycatcher, speculigera

In speculigera, the bands are more or less parallel, and all have a rising contour.


Atlas Flycatchers from Morocco and Tunisia show the same pattern. In iberiae and hypoleuca I have never come across the speculigera pattern, i.e. with all bands nearly parallel and rising. hypoleuca can sometimes have the upper bands complete, making it look more like iberiae than the examples shown here. I would need to check this more thoroughly, but for the moment, the main point is to show how different speculigera and iberiae are.

all recordings by The Sound Approach except:

José Luis Copete

Ficedula hypoleuca iberiae male song bird 2 La Hiruela Mad rid June 2007 © JL Copete

Ficedula speculigera male calls and song 1 Ifrane Morocco  June 2009 © JL Copete

see here

Bas van de Meulengraaf (on xeno-canto) 

see here

Brett – it wasn’t a waste of time!

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About Martin Garner

I am a Free Spirit
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