5 Mar 2013

Various Stonechats – Dhahran Hills

The spray fields have held a number of Stonechats throughout the winter including Siberian, Common and Caspian types. The last few days have been good for Stonechats with many more passing though the area on passage. Yesterday I saw five Stonechats together and managed to get a couple of photos of two of the species. The first one shown below is the (North) Caspian Stonechat showing the plumage features and the white in the tail (see bottom of post for details on the name change. The second bird looks to me like a Common Stonechat and although it has a white rump the rump is slightly streaked and not the full unmarked white of a Siberian Stonechat. The Common Stonechats we get in Saudi Arabia are the European types and not the race that commonly occurs back home in the UK that shows very little white on the rump. Hopefully a few more birds will pass through, as they are very interesting to look at and learn about the variation in plumage.
(North) Caspian Stonechat
(North) Caspian Stonechat
(North) Caspian Stonechat
(North) Caspian Stonechat
Common Stonechat
Common Stonechat
Common Stonechat

Svensson, Shirihai, Frahnert & Dickinson's paper Taxonomy and nomenclature of the Stonechat complex Saxicola torquatus sensu lato in the Caspian region (Bull. B.O.C. 2012 132(4), 20 April 2012) states:
Saxicola [maurus] variegatus called ‘North Caspian Taxon' has a new scientific name proposed Saxicola maurus hemprichii (Ehrenberg)
Saxicola [maurus] armenica called ‘South Caspian Taxon' has a new scientific name proposed Saxicola maurus variegatus (S. G. Gmelin)
The paper proposes the sub-specific suffix variegatus is transferred from Caspian Stonechat (the northern form) to Armenian Stonechat (the southern form), with hemprichii being adopted for the northern (white-tailed) form.

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