[CT Birds] Ageing & sexing Northern Wheatears

Julian Hough jrhough1 at snet.net
Sat Sep 12 19:11:22 EDT 2009


I'd just like to address Hugh's comments about the Sikorsky bird and to try 
to elucidate on trying to age and sex Northern Wheatears, since I feel the 
term "sub-adult" is somewhat innacurate. I hope the following is clear and 
helps the situation.

In fall, adult wheatears undergo a complete moult to winter plumage where
the summer plumage is hidden beneath the new winter feathers that have
buff-tips.
In fall, adult males are recognisable in that they still show the black
mask, white supercilium, grey upperparts and peachy breast of adult summer 
plumage showing
through.
The Sikorsky bird is a typical example of an adult male in fall.

The other alternative to an adult male at this time of year would be a
first-winter male and these are indistinguishable in the field from
first-year females and first-year males (Svensson 1992).

Any "brown" or non-adult males (eg. the sikorsky bird) in fall are either 
adult
female, first-year male or first-year female. All these look identical to
each other under field conditions. In spring wheatears attain breeding
plumage through wear and 2nd-cycle birds are separable from adults due to 
their
worn-brown (retained juv) coverts and primaries.

To clarify the situation, there really is no "sub-adult" plumage of Northern
Wheatear - in fall they're either adult or first-year, and first-years do
not ever look like the Sikorsky bird. I'm unsure as to the "barring"
mentioned, since this isn't visible in any photos I have looked at.

best, 





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