Identification of an Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler in France

Identification of an Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler in France

I couldn’t dream of a better opportunity to write about sonogram analysis !   Last Sunday, with Jean-Yves Barnagaud we spotted a “weird” Bonelli’s warbler in Vic-la-Gardiole (34, France). Actually, the only real “weird” thing about this bird was that it was alone in the middle of the beach, and that it was quite late for Bonelli’s migration on the coast. It looked dull, but we would probably have written it down as Western with no regret if it was in a…

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Willow warblers: song-switchers and mixed singers

Willow warblers: song-switchers and mixed singers

One of the first things that a birder in Europe learns when getting to grips with the seperation of Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus) and Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) in the field is the fact that both species have very distinct songs from each other, enabling easy identification. The song of the Willow Warbler is a musical descending series of notes, whereas that of Common Chiffchaff is an almost stuttering series that is responsible for the species’ onomatopoeic common name in several…

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Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) and Garden warbler (Sylvia borin) song identification

Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) and Garden warbler (Sylvia borin) song identification

Two very common species, but still a classical identification issue even for experienced birders !   Structure of  the song and differences with Mediterranean warblers : Both species have a rich whistling song including an astonishing variety of notes. While typical songs are quite easy to identify, the main confusion is caused by subsongs produced by both species. Hence, the challenge is to find keys to identify sub-singers. A first look at the structure of the sound shows that those warbling songs are unique among European birds, so that…

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A tale of three chiffchaffs

A tale of three chiffchaffs

Once upon a time… three little chiffchaffs arising confusion and perplexity among the birding community.     Yeah… They look quite similar, and that’s the problem. Back in 1996 there was virtually a single species of chiffchaff in mainland Europe. We had the widespread Common chiffchaff (Phylloscsopus collybita) in all Europe, and birds form the Iberian Peninsula were just considered as subspecies with a remarkably different song. Now it has been genetically proven that the Iberian chiffchaff (Phylloscopus ibericus) fully deserves its specific…

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The wagtail conundrum

The wagtail conundrum

Yellow wagtail’s phylogeny is confusing : there are many subspecies, that are visually much different from each other. Some taxa like tschutschensis are now often considered as distinct species, and Citrine wagtail (Motacilla citreola) forms a cryptic species complex with flava (i.e there are hybrids). Interestingly, the flight calls of these taxa are also different. Even if much caution must be taken regarding a sound-based subspecific identification, the following sonograms should help to point out some differences. Beware of song notes that can be…

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Identification of pluvialis plovers

Identification of pluvialis plovers

In this article we’re going to deal with the sound identification of the four “Pluvialis” plover : Grey plover (Pluvialis squatarola) American Golden plover (Pluvialis dominica) Eurasian Golden plover (Pluvialis apricaria) Pacific Golden plover (Pluvialis fulva) The four species produce diagnostic flight calls and alarm calls. As the visual identification is often difficult (the best criteria being the axillaries and underwing covert), vocalizations can help to confirm the identification. 1.Grey plover The call is a long continuous whistling call : A…

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