17 November 2013

Hybrid Red-backed Shrike at Hidd (Bahrain) - Bird record by Jehad Alammadi

When I was ringing in Bahrain at Alba Marsh I met a birdwatcher and photographer called Jehad Alammadi who told me about an interesting shrike he had seen and photographed in Bahrain earlier in the year that may have been a Bay-backed Shrike. This would have been a first for Bahrain as far as I know if it was one so I asked Jehad if he could send me a photo of the bird. He kindly did this saying he had taken the photos of the bird on 27 April 2013 in Hidd Town near an area called ‘Dry Dock’ which it is located near the sea on the north east of the Kingdom of Bahrain. When I got the photos the bird did not look like a Bay-backed Shrike but rather a Red-backed Shrike x Turkestan Shrike hybrid as it had a lot of white in the closed wing and rufous outer tail feathers. The black face mask and amount of black in the wings did not seem enough to me for Bay-backed Shrike. I was not certain if this was the parentage so sent it to Brian Small and Alan Dean for their opinions. I received the following from Alan “You are right that it is not a Bay-backed Shrike but appears to be a Red-backed x Isabelline Shrike hybrid, with Turkestan the obvious candidate for the Isabelline taxon but too little influence in the plumage to say this with certainty. The shrike is clearly an adult male and in Bay-backed would have a much deeper extent of black across the forehead, a richer coloured mantle, a richer and more prominent patch of colour on the flanks and a more solid area of black on the wing (embracing the ‘shoulder’ area). Structurally, the tail would be proportionately longer. Overall, the Bahrain shrike looks quite close to Red-backed but the photos reveal a rufous hue in the outer tail-feathers (wrong for Bay-backed and Red-backed) and it is reasonable to assume that this indicates introgression from Isabelline Shrike. Such birds are encountered not infrequently in the Middle East. There are photos of hybrids similar to the Bahrain bird in E. Panov’s ‘The True Shrikes of the World’, in Fig. 17.7”
The photographs below were taken by Jehad Alammadi and the copyright remains with him and I thank him for allowing me to use them on my website.