Eastern Black-eared Wheatear - Oostelijke Blonde Tapuit

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear

Oostelijke Blonde Tapuit

Oenanthe (hispanica) melanoleuca

Pictures: Teus Luijendijk

A very rare species in The Netherlands. Until this bird appeared, there were 6 accepted records for the country's list, 4 of the western (sub)species hispanica, 2 of the eastern melanoleuca, plus another record of hispanica still under consideration.
I managed to miss the previous twitchable bird because of my stay in Sweden at that time. So the appearance of this one was very welcome! Although it was reported quite late on a Sunday afternoon, a twitching team was quickly formed which fortunately arrived in time to witness this rare event. The bird was quite tame and approachable, resulting in high-standard pictures that have been published in Dutch Birding. Some video stills from me are shown here. The next morning the bird could not be relocated, so our quick action had paid off!
Eastern and western Black-eared Wheatears were until recently considered to be subspecies, but under the phylogenetic species concept they were split (although true phylogenetic evidence is lacking!). Fenotype differences are minimal, however, with no conclusive differences in morphological features at all. An excellent article by Magnus Ullman (Dutch Birding  vol. 25 (2003), pp. 77-97) recently described the major pointers towards separating the two.

    Eastern Black-eared Wheatear  -  Oostelijke Blonde Tapuit  Oenanthe (hispanica) melanoleuca, first-spring male ;
    videograbs (approx. 250x).
    de Petten, Texel NH, The Netherlands, 4 May 2003.


The bird would every now and then start singing, a mixture of quite low, Wheatear-like warbles and imitations (mainly of Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica). As can be seen from the sonogram shown below, the imitation of this well-known tsweet calls (the 2 calls between 0 and 1 s) must be very accurate, as they each consist of several separate tones. The human ear only hears one tone here! Comparison with Barn Swallow recordings show a similar pattern, although not identical: the main tone (blackest in the sonogram) is lower in the 'real' Barn Swallow.



Copyright ©Teus Luijendijk 2003