12 April 2013

Seebohm's Wheatear

Most often considered conspecific with Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe, the Moroccan and Algerian race, O. o. seebohmi or Seebohm's Wheatear, is actually a very different looking bird. After dipping at one of their best known breeding grounds, Oukaimeden in the High Atlas, at the start of our trip to Morocco last month (they hadn't arrived), we thought we'd blown our chances of seeing them, but a few days later found a migrant male at a wadi near Tinejdad. It seems we were very lucky to find a bird on passage as according to Thévenot (2003) in The Birds of Morocco, "outside breeding range, [there's] only few records of migrants". For me, this was one of the most interesting birds on the trip.

Seebohm's Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe seebohmi, near Tinejdad, 16 March 2013. The pale grey upperparts and very white
underparts with no orange-buff, creates a distinctive 'cold' look compared to Northern Wheatear. Note the faint peachy-buff wash
to the undertail-coverts and vent - a feature I've not found mentioned in the literature?

I'm a little confused over the age of this bird. Presumably the white edges to the tertials and tips to the primary, greater and medium
coverts age this as a 1st summer male? There are photos on the internet of males with no white edges which are presumably 2cy
birds. The black throat-patch looks very extensive here, reaching the upper breast and almost reaching the carpal.

Fig 1: Notice the weak black 'band' across the nape - a feature noticeable on other photos on the internet but which I've not found
mentioned in the literature. Fig 2: Note the rather narrow black terminal tail-band and white tips to the tail feathers. Fig 3: The black
underwing coverts are diagnostic (cf. Northern Wheatear here).

Seebohm's Wheatear breed in the Rif and Atlas mountains of Morocco and also in northern Algeria, but in contrast to nominate oenanthe are a short distance migrant (so unlikely to make it to Britain, but just imagine one on the patch!), wintering in southwest Mauritania with some only making it as far south as Saharan Morocco.

1 comment: