11 March 2015

Additional thoughts on moulting Long-tailed Shrike – Dhahran Hills golf course

I sent the photo of the shrike with the short tail to Alan Dean for his comments and he has kindly replied as follows “Interesting thought Jem & I can see what you mean. It does indeed look like an erythronotus Long-tailed Shrike in terms of head and body plumage. As you’ll know, moult of the tail does not involve all feathers at once but involves first the central feathers, then progressively outwards. Thus, all the tail feathers would not usually be short at same time. In your photo they all look same length and tail looks quite well ‘squared off’. Tail moult in spring certainly occurs in nominate schach. A bird photographed in January in Eastern China by Alan shows outer tail feathers only part grown, although, by this stage the central feathers are full-grown, so the tail still looks long. Possible, I suppose that tail had been lost and hence your shrike was re-growing all feathers at same time. The other possibility is that it was a hybrid – but there isn’t really much in the plumage to suggest a second species. As noted before, the outer primaries in your photo look strangely rufous and the upper tail coverts are perhaps admixed rufous and black but these could be photo artefacts. In other respects I’d agree with you that the principal plumage characters point towards Long-tailed Shrike. Alan also looked through Oriental bird images and found a Long-tailed Shrike with a tail similar to the one I photographed taken in April in India see this link Moulting Long-tailed Shrike This one was a juvenile growing its tail (my bird was an adult), indicating that all tail feathers can be involved at the same time under certain circumstances. It thus looks like the bird is definitely the Long-tailed Shrike moulting its tail feathers all at the same time. As Alan mentioned it may have lost its tail for some reason and be regrowing all tail feathers simultaneously. An interesting bird anyway and another one to learn from as if I had found this bird before the Long-tailed Shrike was known to be present I may have made a mistake in the identification and thought it to be a hybrid shrike of some sort as Long-tailed Shrike had not been recorded in Saudi Arabia prior to this bird.
Long-tailed Shrike