26 Jan 2012

First for Bahrain, Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit (Anthus rubescens japonicas) – Alba Marsh Bahrain

Whilst ringing at Alba Marsh on Friday 20th January with Brendan Kavenagh, we caught six pipits, all being coutelli race Water Pipits with the exception of one bird. This bird superficially looked like a Water Pipit but had a very heavily streaked malar, breast and flanks and was much whiter on the under-parts than the coutelli Water Pipits. Brendan checked the measurements and they did not fit for Meadow Pipit or Tree Pipit and the bird did not look like a Tree Pipit either and did not show the highly curved rear toe of this species. After checking Pipits & Wagtails of Europe, Asia and North America thoughts then turned to Buff-bellied Pipit (Anthus rubescens) and I posted a question on Surfbirds to see what other people with more experience of pipits thought. The first reply from Marc Giroud was that he thought it was a Buff-bellied Pipit of the sub-species A. r. japonicas and Yoav Perlman who has seen the japonicas sub-species in the hand as well as the field in Israel, also confirmed its identification as a Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit. I would like to thank Marc & Yoav for sharing their knowledge and thoughts on this bird. In the interviening time I looked on the internet for pictures of Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit and compared my photographs to them and the bird looked very similar in many ways. The Siberian Pipit (Anthus (rubescens) japonicas) is sometimes treated as a separate species from American Buff-bellied Pipit (Anthus rubescens rubescens), as it breeds in eastern Asia and is significantly different in terms of plumage characteristics from the latter which breed entirely within North America and western Greenland.
Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit


The Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit (A. r. japonicas), breeds in central & western Siberia from Tunguska to Kamchatka and south to northern Sakhalin & the Kurile Islands. They winter in eastern & southern China, Honk Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Nepal, Pakistan, northern India, northern Myanmar & northern Vietnam with birds being recorded regularly in Israel. Vagrant birds have been seen in Italy and regularly in the Middle East (mainly Israel) during migration and winter. The species status in the Middle East is listed here:-
Oman:  Vagrant - 6 records (7th record if accepted 26th December 2011)
UAE:  Vagrant (perhaps rare winter visitor) – 19 records (20th record if accepted 10th December 2011)
Qatar:  Not recorded
Saudi Arabia:  Not recorded
Bahrain:  Not recorded
Kuwait:  Rare – 15 records (16-19th records if accepted in January 2012)
Israel:  May overwinter. Arrive during late October (earliest 22nd) and depart in March or early April (latest 10th) (Shirahai 1996 – Birds of Israel)

Siberian Pipit differs from American Pipit by having a more dark olive brown upper-parts and whiter under-parts. The sides of the chest may occasionally be washed buff, but typically the throat, center of breast and belly are white, creating a very white look to the under-parts. Siberian Pipit is heavily streaked below with long, thick streaks which are brown in colour although look black from a distance and the streaks contrast strongly with the white under-parts and are considerably darker than the upper-parts. These streaks extend down the flanks in a pattern similar to Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) and sometimes give a stripped appearance. The median coverts are nearly always white-tipped (buff-tipped in American Pipit) and stand out as white upper wing-bars. The greater coverts vary between whitish and buffy and are not so diagnostic. The eye-ring of Siberian Pipit stands out well, due to the darker upper-parts. The malar stripe of Siberian Pipit tends to be thick and dark, contrasting with the white under-parts and greyish upper-parts and bulges at the posterior end, which is solidly coloured, often flaring onto the side of the neck. The leg colour of Siberian Pipit is pink to pale brown and never black, whereas American Pipit generally has dark grey to black legs although they can occasionally show pale brown legs (Chin-Ty Lee – Siberian versus American Pipit in Alternate Plumage).
 Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit
 Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit
 Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit
 Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit
 Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit
Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit

A few features that help identify the species are the large white eye-ring, bold supercillium, bold breast streaking, strong wing-bars and plain mantle. All of these features can be seen on the photographs of the bird caught in Bahrain and shown above. Separation of Siberian Pipit from American Pipit should be possible using a combination of field arks such as wing-bar colour, overall colour, amount of streaking, thickness of the malar stripe, boldness of the eye-ring and leg colour.

This is the first record of Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit for Bahrain, as far as I am aware, and would not have been seen except for the fact it was caught. The area where is was trapped is not an area where you can get views of the birds as they sit on the ground out of sight in the Tamersik and reeds and only fly when disturbed. Some birds use the site to roost and others winter there, so it is difficult to know which of the two options the bird was using. If we re-trap the bird later we will know. This record has still to be accepted by the Bahrain Rare Birds Committee.

2 comments:

  1. Great stuff Jem always great to find a national "First".

    Keep up the good work

    Alan
    www.surfbirds.com/community-blogs/falklandbirder

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Alan - I certainly, and I suspect most birders also, have along way to go to find as many firsts as you have done in the Falkland Islands.

    ReplyDelete