7 Mar 2012

White-spotted Bluethroat (Luscinia (svecica) cyanecula) - Alba Marsh (Bahrain)

Whilst ringing at Alba Marshes on Friday 3rd March we caught a male White-spotted Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica cyanecula) which is a scarce passage migrant to the region, unlike the Red-spotted Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica svecica) which winters in good numbers. The White-spotted Bluethroat breeds locally in central & southern Europe wintering mainly in west & central Africa with a few in the Middle East (mainly Israel) and north-east Africa. The interesting thing about this White-spotted Bluethroat, apart from it being scarce, was that it had a ring on it and was originally ringed by me at the same site on 6th January 2012. Originally it was not identified as cyanecula as it was not in full breeding plumage and identification of the Bluethroat sub-species is very difficult unless you see a male in breeding plumage. As a result many birds seen in the winter months are indeterminate as to sub-species. The original ringing date of 6th January 2012 seems to suggest the bird was wintering in Bahrain as this would be an extremely early date for a migrant.
 White-spotted Bluethroat (male)
 White-spotted Bluethroat (male)
White-spotted Bluethroat (male)
White-spotted Bluethroat (male)

Local avifauna lists record the following for the sub-species:-
UAE – Apparently rare spring visitor
Kuwait – Scarce passage migrant
Israel – Quite a common migrant & rare winter visitor mainly in eastern and southern Israel

Birds of the Middel East says ‘racial distribution on passage and winter poorly known, but mostly pallidogularis (red-spotted), svecica (red-spotted) & magna (totally blue); with cyanecula (white-spotted) probably rare on passage’

This is an unusual record of White-spotted Bluethroat and shows that they are either very early migrants or a very small number of birds may winter in the area? We will try to keep tabs on what races of Bluethroat we catch and when to try to come to some conclusion as to what sub-species occur and what their status is. White-spotted Bluethroat has a wing in males of 69 - 79 with an average of 73. Our bird had a wing measurement of 73 fitting exactly the average of the sub-species.

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