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Birds in Spain
Roser Solé, Josep Tantull and Ricard Gutiérrez.
On 26.3.2006, Roser Solé and Josep Tantull saw in the Riet Vell reserve of Ebro delta (Delta de l'Ebre) an unidentified Rallidae to them which according to their description 'had barely the size of a Moorhen, with a red bill tipped yellow, mantle and wings pale brown, almost orange, neck and breast between sky blue and grey and without wing marks and legs of a brownish-green colour'.They managed to obtain three images of which three thumbnails are featured here
Since there is a 2003 record of Lesser Moorhen Gallinula angulata in Spain (Ardeola 52(1), 2005, 185-206), the 1st for the Western Palearctic, the odd shape of the Riet Vell bird, clearly a Moorhen despite the initial colour recalling a smaller Porzana, added to the limited quality of the initial three images brought some attention to this bird.
To further add interest to the record, the sole Lesser Moorhen record from Spain, had been recorded on 10 March 2003 at Algeciras, Cádiz, near the harbour, therefore only '15 days' before the Ebro record. And its true vagrant origin could not be discarded despite the proximity of the harbour of Algeciras, since the small distance to Africa (Algeciras is placed in the Straits of Gibraltar) plus the references that March is the month in which the Lesser Moorhen undertakes some movements related to rainfall in their northernmost distribution area limits, placed the species in the Spanish D list. All in all these facts brought even more interest to the Riet Vell record.
The 1st of April 2006 the bird was relocated (Bosco Díes, J.Ignacio Díes, Ricard Gutiérrez, Josep Tantull, Roser Solé). The new photos (see below) clearly showed that, in structure, the bird was a typical Moorhen, perhaps rather slim due to bad condition? that however had not moulted normally its feathers and showed an extremely worn plumage. Distribution of colour in bill was wrong for angulata and typical for chloropus but the wear of some of the parts was differential and puzzling, e.g. the face dark colour or the brown cap contrasting with the very pale neck or underparts.
structure and wear are, besides plumage aberrations, factors to bear in
mind when approaching identification of potential vagrants.
is indebted to Josep Tantull and Roser Solé for having pointed him
this bird which brought an interesting identification debate not only on
this record but on the changing looking of birds due to plumage variation.
Extremely worn Moorhen Gallinula chloropus at Delta de l'Ebre, a pitfall for Lesser Moorhen Gallinula angulata
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