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: An Interesting Pipit  ( 16291 )

Greg Neise

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An Interesting Pipit
« : December 10, 2009, 01:56:07 PM »
I'm not sure what to make of this bird...I think it's an American Pipit (at least I can't think of what else it might be offhand, but I don't have any reference material for the Asian Pipits to look into). It was at Fullerton Beach this afternoon. I first noticed it among a group of 8-10 American Pipits, and I thought I had a Yellow-rumped Warbler for a second. It was smaller than the other pipits, with a shorter tail, it fluttered more than it walked...and didn't walk with the typical, long-necked "pigeon stride" that American Pipits have. It did not bob its tail, while I was watching it.

But the plumage is what really made it stand out: it was gray, with a distinctly streaked back and crown. White underparts with crisp streaks forming a short necklace (forming a distinct white throat), distinct wingbars, tail with 2 outer retrices white all the way to the base. The bill was also brighter yellow than the other Pipits and the legs appeared a bit paler, but not flesh-colored (as in Red-throated). Lastly, whenever this bird got near the American Pipits, they chased it away.


At right, with a American Pipit. It has none of the olive or buffy tones that are to be expected on an American Pipit.


Grayish overall, crisply streaked back and crown, tail shorter than Am. Pipit, distinct white wingbars, 2 outer tail feathers white all the way to the base.


Necklace of crisp streaks on white underparts with no buffy or olive tones. Also notice the almost warbler-like appearance, with streaked mantle, distinct wingbars and short tail.






Legs appeared paler than the other pipits.


This bird was also more easily approached the the other pipits.

And here's a couple of American Pipits from the same group for comparison:



« : December 11, 2009, 02:07:15 PM Greg Neise »
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Greg Neise

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Re: An Interesting Pipit
« #1 : December 10, 2009, 05:04:00 PM »
On ID Frontiers a year ago (Dec. 16, 2008), photos of a bird that has some similar characteristics, but is definitely not the same "type" (the bird in question then had a remarkably bold eye-ring) were posted. Brian Sullivan wrote about that bird saying, "One thing that immediately sets it apart from any North American breeding pipit (aside from Red-throated) is the black-centered median coverts with bold white fringes.  I've noted this on japonicus and Red-throated Pipits, and have looked for it, but never seen it on any other North American pipit. Moreover, the few japonicus I've seen have been much more boldly streaked below, particularly on the malar, and often with a strong necklace effect and dark, thick streaking most prominent on the flanks.  This bird has much finer, yet still prominent streaking that does not appear overly concentrated on the malar, necklace or flanks, rather it is more dispersed throughout the underparts."

This bird most definitely shows black-centered median coverts with bold white fringes. This bird shows a necklace of streaks, but below that the streaking is rather fine, and almost spotted.
« : December 10, 2009, 06:24:31 PM Greg Neise »
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Dan Williams

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Re: An Interesting Pipit
« #2 : December 10, 2009, 07:36:13 PM »
Greg,

I'm not sure that this bird is necessarily an Asian pipit if it is not an American Pipit.  Why not from Europe?  By the time I got home from the office, Barbara was checking Birds of Europe, by Lars Jonsson. If you have Birds of Europe, check pp.366-367.  His illustration of winter Water Pipit A. spinoletta, which once was lumped with American Pipit A. rubescens, bears a pretty good resemblance to your bird, but your description of the size of your subject is not consistent with Water Pipit, which is the same size as American.  The feather features seem to have a lot of similarities, and your characterization of "crisp" plumage might be from a fresh molt into basic.

Then I pulled out Vol. 5 of Cramp's Birds of Europe, the Middle East, etc.  This series predates the split, but both subspecies of what was then Water Pipit, including the American Pipit (rubescens) Plates 21 & 22 are illustrated.  The text is detailed, but, in summary, it advises that it is "difficult, even impossible"  to identify non-breeding adults of Water Pipit and Rock Pipit from each other.  Not much help so far, but the text is interesting if you can get through it.  See pp. 393-413.  There is no illustration for juvenile rubescens.  There is a discussion of winter habitats, and Water Pipit hangs out in the kind of place you photographed today, and is "resistant" to harsh weather and hangs in ponds, , while Rock Pipit hangs in craggy seashores and cliffs.  Cramp suggested that the birds could be split on "ecological grounds."

I would enjoy reading any comments from folks who are familiar with Water Pipits and Rock Pipits, and whether they believe that your subject bird is not a non-breeding Water/Rock Pipit.

« : December 10, 2009, 07:49:22 PM Dan Williams »

Greg Neise

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Re: An Interesting Pipit
« #3 : December 11, 2009, 06:19:28 AM »
Dan, thank you and Barbara for taking the time to do a little research. I pulled out the only European guide that I have at the moment (the NewGen guide by Perrins), and indeed the illustration of juvenile Water Pipit is strikingly similar to my bird. So I've done a Google search for Water Pipit images and my, oh my...you could put my bird among them and it would not stand out.

Before I post some of those pictures...about the size. As I think about it now, this bird seemed smaller, I think due to the shorter tail and the fact that it stayed rather puffed up making it look compact. It didn't walk with the attenuated body shape and long necked appearance that the other pipits had. It was certainly not dramatically smaller...the way a kinglet would be among warblers, for instance.

Attached are some comparisons with a bird photographed in Grimely, England above that are, well...

(click to enlarge)
« : December 11, 2009, 06:41:54 AM Greg Neise »
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Steve Gent

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Re: An Interesting Pipit
« #4 : December 11, 2009, 07:28:45 AM »
Greig these images look interesting  www.ibercajalav.net/img/315_WaterPipitAspinoletta   quite comprehensive

Steve Gent

Greg Neise

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Re: An Interesting Pipit
« #5 : December 11, 2009, 07:51:27 AM »
Here's an interesting painting by John Wright of a blakistoni Water Pipit:


http://wrightswanderings.blogspot.com/2008/12/water-pipits-blakistoni.html
« : December 11, 2009, 08:17:54 AM Greg Neise »
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Greg Neise

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Re: An Interesting Pipit
« #6 : December 11, 2009, 08:37:41 AM »
It has been pointed out to me that the pipits I had posted from Japan were long considered a subspecies of Water Pipit (A. spinoletta), but are now considered A. rubescens japonicus, a subspecies of the Buff-bellied Pipits, which includes American Pipit.
« : December 11, 2009, 08:47:58 AM Greg Neise »
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Greg Neise

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Re: An Interesting Pipit
« #7 : December 11, 2009, 08:54:26 AM »
Via ID Frontiers:

I suspect your bird is a variant American Buff-bellied Pipit (rubescens). It does not appear to be a Water Pipit of any form.
 
There is some overlap in the features of both japonicus and rubescens and Paul Lehman speculated that birds in the Bering Sea area may be intergrades between the two populations.
 
American Buff-bellied Pipit (hereafter ABBP) varies from being plain-mantled and olive-toned, with a distinct GREY CAST. Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit (hereafter SBBP) has similar upperparts, but are often darker in tone and more browner in general colouration. It also has a much whiter supercilium and eye-ring and more contrasting whiter underparts. In comparison, ABBP is generally more extensively buff below, with this colour extending to the supercilium and eye-ring. Often, the eye-ring of japonicus is more striking and obvious.
 
The tips of the median and greater coverts of ABBP are buffish and diffusely demarcated, whilst in SBBP, the tips are distinctly whitish and much more clear cut and defined. ABBP has mid to dark brown streaking, short and often diffuse, often blurred together on the breast and extending in narrower streaks down the flanks. The breast streaking on SBBP are normally very dark chocolate-brown or blackish, generally broader, better defined and sometimes even spotted-like. The underparts are overall much more contrasting.
 
The leg colour is usually distinctly different between the two species. Rubescens have very dark leg colour, varying from dark reddish-brown to black, whilst in japonicus the leg colour averages much paler, being pinkish or pale brown, but exceptionally black.
 
The tail pattern of both species is somewhat variable (as in most pipit species) but rubescens averages more white on t5 (the second to outer-most feather) and often has a white tip to t4.
 
To the trained ear, there are subtle differences in calls: ABBP has a somewhat Meadow Pipit-like 'tsip' note, often repeated five or six times, whilst SBBP has a much more 'buzzy' tone to it, often uttered just once.
 
So, in summary, it ought to be possible to identify an either/or on 1) the base colour of the underparts; 2) the facial pattern; 3) the colour of the wing-bars; 4) the extent and colour of the underpart streaking and 5) colour of its legs.
 
SEPARATION OF AMERICAN BUFF-BELLIED PIPIT FROM WATER PIPIT
 
Should be relatively straightforward. Water Pipit is a larger and more robust bird. It has a larger, heavier bill and shows a whitish eye-ring that is invariably broken, at least in front of the eye. This combines with dark lores and a darker eye-stripe to give a somewhat aggressive appearance, quite unlike the plain, open-faced expression of rubescens. The moustachial stripe is also much weaker. The crown and nape are distinctly greyer than the mantle in Water Pipit, and lack the olive tones, whilst the rump and uppertail coverts are prominently warm-toned (in ABBP, the rump is concolorous with the upperparts). The tail and tertials are consistently blacker in ABBP and the flight calls are noticeably different - a weak, slightly drawn out 'veeestt' in Water Pipit.
 
ESSENTIAL READING
 
Per Alstrom & Krister Mild (2003), Pipits and Wagtails of Europe, Asia and North America; The identification of Rock, Water and Buff-bellied Pipits, published in Alula 4: 161-175
 
Lee & Bitch 2002, Notes on the distribution, vagrancy and field identification of American Pipit and Siberian Pipit, North American Birds 56: 389-398
 
Peter Pyle 1997, Identification Guide to North American Birds Part 1
 
Paul French, Identification of American and Siberian Buff-bellied Pipits in the Western Patearctic, published in Birding World 19: 439-535.

Lee G R Evans
British Birding Association
UK400 Club, Rare Birds Magazine, Ornithological Consultant and Conservationist
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Greg Neise

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Re: An Interesting Pipit
« #8 : December 11, 2009, 09:16:53 AM »
Attached at the bottom of this post is an excellent article on the identification of Buff-bellied Pipit by Paul French, published in Birding World in Nov 2006.

He adds:

"In my opinion, your bird is a variant American Pipit, but certainly an odd looking bird."

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Greg Neise

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Re: An Interesting Pipit
« #9 : December 11, 2009, 10:18:37 AM »
Via ID Frontiers:

Date:         Fri, 11 Dec 2009 10:04:18 -0800
Reply-To:     Peter Pyle
Sender:       NBHC ID-FRONTIERS Frontiers of Field Identification
Subject:      Re: An Interesting Pipit in Chicago (Water Pipit?)

Here in California we have been identifying birds like this japonicus. Although it lacks the bold black upperpart streaks that some birds can show, I believe that some japonicus have less distinct streaking, perhaps first-cycle and/or females. I have seen 6-8 and there seems to be a clear separation between this group and the other American subspecies, with few or no intermediates. This bird reminds me a lot of one I saw in northern Baja California last winter, which I had no problem submitting as japonicus.

Peter
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Greg Neise

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Re: An Interesting Pipit
« #10 : December 11, 2009, 02:42:24 PM »
Here are some of the plates and captions from the article sent to me by Paul French (Identification of American and Siberian Buff-bellied Pipits in the Western Palearctic © Paul French 2006, attached above). Overall, this bird seems to fit well as Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens japonicus (the Siberian subspecies of American Pipit). Under each is a picture of the Chicago bird for comparison.

Plate 10. Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens japonicus, Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt, November 2005 (Colin Bradshaw). Note the gorget of coalesced blackish spotting bleeding down from the large malar patches. The blackish-centered median coverts show sharply demarcated whitish tips (as opposed to diffusely demarcated buff tips on rubescens).



Plate 12. Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens japonicus, Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt, November 2005 (Colin Bradshaw). The same bird as in Plate 10. The bold white eye-ring stands out well here, as do the pale lores. The pale legs, whitish underparts and bold, dark streaking all indicate japonicus, and actually invite confusion with Meadow Pipit. However, the mantle is relatively plain and lacks the bold ‘tramlines’ of that species. Also, the bill on this individual is stronger than on Meadow Pipit.



Plate 13. Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens japonicus, Choshi, Japan, January 2001 (Dick Newell). Identification as a Buff-bellied Pipit is straightforward enough, but identification to form is rather tricky with this individual. The base colour to the underparts is pale buff, the wing-bars are buff and the legs appear at the darker end of the range for japonicus (although a coating of mud may be partly responsible for this). By midwinter, japonicus should be whitish below. The breast spotting does appear to be too dark and heavy for rubescens, but extreme individuals do occur. It is possible that this bird originated from the Bering Straits region, and therefore shows intermediate characteristics.



Plate 1. American Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens rubescens, California, USA, December 2004 (Tom Grey). A classic individual. The malar patch is small and inconspicuous, while the breast streaking is brown and quite narrow, and does not form spots. Note the prominent buff supercilium and submoustachial stripe concolourous with the underparts.


Plate 4. American Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens rubescens, East Haven, Connecticut, USA, October 2003 (Julian Hough). A grey-toned individual. Note that the moustachial stripe stands out well in this view. The relatively short, fine bill, unbroken eye-ring and diffuse upper edges to the wing-bars are also evident here.


Plate 5. American Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens rubescens, Michigan, USA, September 1998 (Gary Wright). This individual shows quite heavy streaking for rubescens, but note that the streaks are still brown, not blackish. Also, the underparts are washed deep buff, and the wing-bars are buff. From an angle such as this, the lores may appear to be darker than they really are; this feature should be evaluated from all angles.
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Greg Neise

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Re: An Interesting Pipit
« #11 : December 11, 2009, 03:01:15 PM »
Greg, excellent piece of field birding.  Thanks for posting.
Consider documenting this bird as pacificus subspecies.


Bill, I have just completed documentation for this bird as Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens japonicus. We'll see what the IORC thinks of it...but I think it's pretty solid.

The last couple of days have been unprecedented in terms of a winter passerine fallout along the lakefront in Chicago. I wish that I could have been birding every daylight hour...I'm sure that there is a Chestnut-collared or McCown's Longspur somewhere among all of the longspurs an pipits that are clustered near the beaches.

Craig Thayer (on IBET) noted, "The strength of the storm yesterday [Wednesday] was highly unusual . The barometric pressure Wednesday morning was 28.91 inches mercury which is the lowest here in 20 years!! Barometer readings less than 29.00 inches (which is category 1 hurricane level) are highly unusual in Chicago."
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Greg Neise

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Re: An Interesting Pipit
« #12 : December 11, 2009, 05:36:47 PM »
A couple last shots of this bird (all that I have have now been posted here)...the first one I thought I had included earlier, but it was a cropped version. Here is the uncropped shot showing it with an American Pipit, so you can see the differences in tone (especially on the breast) and the breast/lateral throat stripe.

Click to enlarge.
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Greg Neise

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Re: An Interesting Pipit
« #13 : December 12, 2009, 04:03:21 PM »
A final note about the photographs.

One of the inherent problems with the little ultrazoom cameras, like the FZ18 that I use, is that they are consumer products, and the image sensor just can't handle bright, high-contrast subjects as well as a DSLR. I had adjusted the exposure to what I felt was as close as I could get, but one thing has been nagging at me, and that is the bird's malar area.

When I first saw this bird, my immediate reaction was "yellow-rumped warbler". The reason for that was the bird's overall gray tones, heavy streaking on the chest, and a heavy dark mark on the upper breast/malar/side of neck area and clean white throat. It really stood out, giving the impression of the glommed up streaking on the upper breast of a breeding Yellow-rumped Warbler. Of course, in the very next second, I realized it was a pipit...but the photos as I have them on the forum—even though I feel that they give the best overall impression of the bird—failed to exhibit that mark which first got my attention.

The other thing about the photos I've noticed is that the bird's plumage seems reflective. The sun was directly behind me (at 1PM, when I found the bird), and low in the sky (being mid-December). If you look at the images I've attached to this post, you'll notice that in image _5646 the median coverts seem gray with rather broad pale gray fringes. But if you look at image _5650, where the bird has shifted slightly and is now at an angle to the sun, the median coverts appear as I saw them in the field: black centered with broad white fringes.

The same goes for the upper breast/malar markings. In the two images that best show this, the bird is flat to the sun and the breast is blown out, and the dark markings washed out (_5646a). In image _5646, I've adjusted the exposure so that this appears more like it did in the field, but because of the limited amount of image data caused by the high contrast subject, the image "blocks up" a little, and renders the legs darker than they appeared in the field.

What I saw, what I think the photographs depict, and why I think that this bird is japonicus, are:

Lateral throat stripe thick and blocky, appearing spotted and extending to the rear of the auricular.
Crisp blackish streaking on crown and mantle.
White eye-ring
Clean white underparts, with dark gray to blackish streaking, that almost looked spotted.
Black-centered median coverts with bold white fringes.
Greater coverts with well defined light gray-to-white fringes, forming distinct white wing bars.
Whitish "moustache-stripe" wrapping around behind the auricular.
Necklace of blocky, almost spotted, streaks defining a clean white throat.
Pale lores.
Lower mandible yellow nearly to the tip.
Leg color dark yellow/pale brown.

« : December 16, 2009, 11:27:45 AM Greg Neise »
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Eric Walters

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Re: An Interesting Pipit
« #14 : December 13, 2009, 07:41:34 PM »
Hey Greg,
your field experience jogged my memory of a pipit I found back on November 12th, 2004 at the Evanston Northwestern University Landfill.  Back then I just noted it as an unusual looking American Pipit, but upon digging up the photos, perhaps it might be similar to what you found.  These shots were taken just after sunrise, so there might be more than usual warm/yellow/buff cast, but the overall markings should be enough to comment on:








What's your opinion on this Evanston pipit?


Eric Walters
Zion, IL

 

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