Waders

Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus

Since the split of Hudsonian Whimbrel, Whimbrel is now generally regarded (e.g. by Cramp et al. 1983) as comprising three subspecies. Nominate phaeopus breeds across northern Europe and western Russia but intergrades with variegatus (‘Eastern Whimbrel’) in north-east Asia. A third subspecies – alboaxillaris (‘Steppe Whimbrel’) – breeds on the steppes east of the Lower Volga. Tomkovich (2008) recognised rogachevae from central Siberia whist other authors (e.g. Chandler 2009) also recognise islandicus from Iceland, the Faeroes and Scotland. Both the latter are recognised by IOC.

Nominate phaeopus is common in Britain but no other subspecies is on the British List though variegatus at least is a potential vagrant.

Identification of variegatus is not straightforward as there is a cline in characters with nominate phaeopus, whilst young phaeopus can have more extensive dark markings on the rump than adults. Some variegatus are separable by a strong brownish wash or brownish markings in the rump, almost resembling Hudsonian Whimbrel, coupled with strong grey barring on the lower flanks, vent, axillaries and underwing coverts. Biometrics are potentially useful, variegatus being distinctly shorter-winged than nominate phaeopus.

Claims of birds showing the full suite of variegatus characters might be acceptable based on detailed notes and good photographs but biometrics or details from a ringed or marked bird would provide more solid evidence. (updated December 2014 AMS).

References

Chandler, R. 2009. Shorebirds of the Northern Hemisphere. Helm, London.

Cramp, S. et al. 1983. The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Vol. 3. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Hayman, P., Marchant, J. & Prater, A. 1986. Shorebirds: An identification guide to the waders of the world. Croom Helm, Beckenham, Kent.

Prater, A. J., Marchant, J. H. & Vuorinen, J. 1977. Guide to the identification and ageing of Holarctic waders. BTO, Tring.

Tomkovich, P. S. 2008. A new subspecies of the Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) from central Russia. Zoologichesky Zhurnal 87: 1092-1099.

 

Curlew Numenius arquata

Two subspecies of Curlew are generally recognised. Nominate arquata breeds across Europe and western Russia where it intergrades with orientalis (‘Eastern Curlew’), the subspecies occurring east of the Urals. Some authors (e.g. Chandler 2009) recognise suschkini from the southern Urals and Kazakhstan.

Nominate arquata is common in Britain but no other subspecies is on the British List. The subspecies orientalis is a potential vagrant, however, and birds showing some ‘eastern’ characters have occurred in eastern England.

Identification is problematic. ‘Classic’ orientalis shows brown spotting in the rump, lightly streaked underparts and white, unmarked axillaries and underwing coverts. There is a cline in characters, however. Biometrics are potentially helpful, orientalis being both large and long-billed.

Claims of orientalis should contain biometrics or details from a ringed or marked bird. (updated December 2014 AMS).

References

Chandler, R. 2009. Shorebirds of the Northern Hemisphere. Helm, London.

Cramp, S. et al. 1983. The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Vol. 3. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Hayman, P., Marchant, J. & Prater, A. 1986. Shorebirds: An identification guide to the waders of the world. Croom Helm, Beckenham, Kent.

Prater, A. J., Marchant, J. H. & Vuorinen, J. 1977. Guide to the identification and ageing of Holarctic waders. BTO, Tring.

 

Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa

Black-tailed Godwit comprises three subspecies. Nominate limosa (‘Continental Black-tailed Godwit’) breeds in central Europe and central western Russia, islandica (‘Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit’) in Iceland and melanuroides (‘Eastern Black-tailed Godwit’) in central Siberia.

Nominate limosa is a scarce breeder and passage migrant in Britain, islandica a scarce breeder and common non-breeding visitor. The subspecies melanuroides is not on the British List though it is a moderately long-distance migrant and would appear to be just about a potential vagrant.

Identification is potentially challenging. The subspecies melanuroides closely resembles islandica but with, in summer plumage, darker and richer, more saturated hues with more extensive breast and belly barring. It is also said to have a darker forewing and narrower wing-bar (Chandler 2009). Biometrics are potentially helpful, melanuroides being distinctly small.

Claims of melanuroides should contain biometrics or details from a ringed or marked bird. (updated December 2014 AMS).

References

Chandler, R. 2009. Shorebirds of the Northern Hemisphere. Helm, London.

Cramp, S. et al. 1983. The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Vol. 3. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Hayman, P., Marchant, J. & Prater, A. 1986. Shorebirds: An identification guide to the waders of the world. Croom Helm, Beckenham, Kent.

Prater, A. J., Marchant, J. H. & Vuorinen, J. 1977. Guide to the identification and ageing of Holarctic waders. BTO, Tring.

 

Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica

Bar-tailed Godwit is usually (e.g. by Cramp et al. 1983) recognised as comprising two subspecies. Nominate lapponica breeds across northern Europe and northern Siberia. In north-east Asia and western Alaska it is replaced by baueri. The two subspecies intergrade across Siberia where some authors (e.g. Chandler 2009) recognise an intermediate subspecies menzbieri. Some authors (e.g. Chandler 2009) also recognise taymyrensis (north-central Siberia) and anadyrensis (Chukotka), though the validity of the latter has been questioned (Tomkovich & Serra 1999).

Nominate lapponica is a common migrant and winter visitor in Britain. The subspecies baueri is not on the British List but it is a spectacular long-distance migrant and would appear to be a potential vagrant.

The subspecies baueri shows a dark lower back and upper rump (therefore lacking a white ‘V’), well-barred rump and uppertail coverts, brownish axillaries and narrowly-barred white underwing coverts. It also differs significantly in biometrics, being distinctly larger than nominate lapponica. The subspecies menzbieri (if recognised) appears to be intermediate in all respects so separating it from both nominate lapponica and baueri would be problematic.

Claims of baueri might prove acceptable based on detailed notes and good photographs. A bird showing ‘eastern’ characters might be acceptable as ‘baueri/menzbieri’. (updated November 2015 AMS).

References

Chandler, R. 2009. Shorebirds of the Northern Hemisphere. Helm, London.

Cramp, S. et al. 1983. The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Vol. 3. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Hayman, P., Marchant, J. & Prater, A. 1986. Shorebirds: An identification guide to the waders of the world. Croom Helm, Beckenham, Kent.

Prater, A. J., Marchant, J. H. & Vuorinen, J. 1977. Guide to the identification and ageing of Holarctic waders. BTO, Tring.

Tomkovich, P.S. & Serra, L. 1999. Morphometrics and prediction of breeding origin in some Holarctic waders. Ardea 87: 289-300.

  

Turnstone Arenaria interpres

There are two subspecies of Turnstone. Nominate interpres breeds in Greenland, the east Canadian Arctic, northern Europe and Asia and western and northern Alaska, with morinella (‘Canadian Turnstone’) in central Arctic Canada.

Nominate interpres is common in Britain but morinella is not on the British List. However, it is a long-distance migrant and appears to be a potential vagrant.

Differences are subtle and identification is difficult. Adult summer plumage morinella is, on average, whiter-headed and brighter chestnut above than nominate interpres. Juveniles and non-breeding adults are more rufous in the wing coverts. Biometrics are potentially useful, morinella having on average a shorter wing and a longer bill and tarsus. It therefore has lower wing/bill and wing/tarsus ratios.

Claims of morinella should contain biometrics or details from a ringed or marked bird. (updated December 2014 AMS).

References

Chandler, R. 2009. Shorebirds of the Northern Hemisphere. Helm, London.

Cramp, S. et al. 1983. The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Vol. 3. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Hayman, P., Marchant, J. & Prater, A. 1986. Shorebirds: An identification guide to the waders of the world. Croom Helm, Beckenham, Kent.

Prater, A. J., Marchant, J. H. & Vuorinen, J. 1977. Guide to the identification and ageing of Holarctic waders. BTO, Tring.

 

Dunlin Calidris alpina

Dunlin taxonomy is somewhat fluid but seven subspecies are recognised by most authors (e.g. Cramp et al. 1983) – alpina (northern Scandinavia and northern Russia), schinzii (southern Greenland, Iceland, Britain and the Baltic), arctica (north-east Greenland), sakhalina (North-east Asia), arcticola (north Alaska), pacifica (western Alaska) and hudsonia (Arctic Canada west of Hudson Bay). Tomkovich (1986) recognised centralis (from the Taymyr peninsula to the Khatanga River, intergrading with alpina in the west but geographically separated from sakhalina in the east), whilst other authors (e.g. Chandler 2009 and IOC) also recognise actites (Sakhalin) and kistchinski (Kamchatka and the Kurils). Genetic studies have, however, shown little support for the above taxonomic framework (Wenink et al. 1993, 1996, Marthinsen et al. 2007). Instead, five major genetic lineages have been identified, located in Europe, Central Siberia, Eastern Siberia, Alaska and Canada. These taxonomic conflicts pose obvious problems in identifying vagrant individuals.

The subspecies alpina, schinzii and arctica are all common in Britain, the first as a winterer, the second as a migrant and breeder and the third as a migrant only. No other subspecies is on the British List though all are long-distance migrants and have the potential to reach Britain. The subspecies hudsonia (‘Hudsonian Dunlin’) has already been suspected here (Stoddart 2007) and a bird showing characters suggesting an east Asian origin has also been documented (Stoddart 2011). Ringed birds from as far east as the Taymyr peninsula (and therefore, if recognised, centralis) have reached western Europe and may winter regularly in Italy (Tomkovich & Serra 1999).

Identification to subspecies is far from straightforward though the plumage differences are most marked in adult summer plumage, the East Asian and North American subspecies being whiter and less-streaked below and with brighter orange and less marked scapulars. Biometrics are helpful, the East Asian and North American subspecies being longer-billed than those from Europe. Though identification to a particular subspecies by either plumage or biometrics might be difficult, allocation to a broad subspecies group might be possible.

Claims of a vagrant subspecies might be acceptable (at least to a broad Siberian/Nearctic subspecies group) based on detailed notes and good photographs (for adults in summer plumage) but claims of a particular subspecies should contain biometrics or details from a ringed or marked bird. (updated November 2015 AMS).

References

Browning, M.R. 1977. Geographical variation in Dunlins, Calidris alpina, of North America. Canadian Field-Naturalist  91: 301-393.

Chandler, R. 2009. Shorebirds of the Northern Hemisphere. Helm, London.

Cramp, S. et al. 1983. The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Vol. 3. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Hayman, P., Marchant, J. & Prater, A. 1986. Shorebirds: An identification guide to the waders of the world. Croom Helm, Beckenham, Kent.

Marthinsen G., Wennerberg, L & Lifjeld, J.T. 2007. Phylogeography and subspecies taxonomy of Dunlins in the Western Palearctic analysed by DNA microsatellites and amplified fragment length polymorphism markers. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 92: 713-726.

Prater, A.J., Marchant, J.H. & Vuorinen, J. 1977. Guide to the identification and ageing of Holarctic waders. BTO, Tring.

Stoddart, A. 2007. An apparent Hudsonian Dunlin on the Isles of  Scilly. Birding World 20: 464-466.

Stoddart, A. 2011. An apparent Hudsonian Dunlin in Norfolk. Birding World 24: 208-210.

Tomkovich, P. 1986. Geographic variation of the Dunlin in the Far East (in Russian). Biol. Mosk. 91: 3-15.

Tomkovich, P.S. & Serra, L. 1999. Morphometrics and prediction of breeding origin in some Holarctic waders. Ardea 87: 289-300.

Wenink, P. W., Baker, A. J., & Tilanus, M. G. L. 1993. Hypervariable control-region sequences reveal global population structuring in a long-distance migrant shorebird, the Dunlin (Calidris alpina). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 90: 94-98.

 Wenink, P. W., Baker, A. J., Rösner, H. U. & Tilanus, M. G. L. 1996. Global mitochondrial DNA phylogeography of Holarctic breeding Dunlins (Calidris alpina). Evolution 50: 318-330.