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Rare Birds in Spain

Identification and occurrence

A probable Tree Swallow Tachycineta bicolor in Bueu (SW Galicia), October 2018: a potential 1st for Spain and 11th for WP

José Ramón Gómez, Ana Isabel Pérez and Cosme Damián Romay

Introduction
Description and photos
Discussion
Editorial comment
Acknowledgements
Resumen
Resumo
Citation

Introduction

On 15.10.2018 an odd swallow was seen flying over Udra cape, Beluso, Bueu (SW Galicia) by JRG and AIP. Although the circumstances of the observation were tricky (strong south wind, rain, dim light), some field notes and pictures were obtained by JRG, owing the observers and CDR to suggest the possibility of a juvenile Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor), a Nearctic Hirundinidae breeding in North America and wintering mostly in Central America. This species had never been recorded previously in Spain, and Western Palearctic records were scarce (7 in Azores, 2 in UK and 1 in Iceland).

Description and photos

  • Circumstances

The bird was seen at 17:05 h (official) entering from the sea to the tip of Udra cape just before a big shower, suggesting a bird escaping from the rain. The bird was present there for 5 minutes, until it flew towards the sea just befere another big shower and some fog from the sea arrived to the cape.

  • Identification

In general, very dark brown upperparts, dark underwing and whitish underparts. At first glance,it looked like an odd House Martin (Delichon urbicum), but dark rump ruled out this species. Tail silhouette did not fit Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica). Sand Martin (Riparia riparia) was also suggested by slim jizz, but its typical collar was absent at all.

Eight identification key features were noted, these being depicted in Fig. 1-3. These were:

1. Somewhat heavy and “big bellied” swallow. Wings with an odd silhouette, wide and short for an (Eurasian) swallow, recalling sometimes the wings of an Eurasian Skylark (Alauda arvensis). Wide wing base base and slightly shovel-shaped silhouette to wings, with a wider central area. Dark underwing.

2. Very projecting wing tip, compatible with a longer p10 (old feather, not moulting).

3. External primaries (p9, p8) apparently shorter than p10.

4. Wider part of the wing around p4-p5.

5. Throat not white, apparently greyish.

6. Undertail covers white and "long", leaving visible only the external part (‘isolated’) dark rectrices.

7. An apparently long rear end to body, with a notched tail, sometimes appearing almost straight.

8. Dark “cap” sides showed a neat contrast with white neck sides.

fig1

f2

g3

f4

It was seen flying low (less than 10 m from ground), flying in circles, with a slow motion, never as fast as, e. g. Sand Martin. In one ocasion, it flew very low, lower than the observers, downhill. Sometimes it performed sudden turns, showing its dark underwing.

The bird was not relocated on 16.10.2018 nor on 17.10.2018. Some e-mails asking for oppinions on this bird were sent, and a tweet about this sighting was published on 16.10 by JRG, without any reply and only one retweet so far (https://twitter.com/BirdingGaliza/status/1052146005402107904).

Discussion

  • Circumstances

The sighting of this individual was made just when the last remnants of hurricane Michael affected the SW coast of Galicia. Days before (13-14.10.2018), the remants of hurricane Leslie entered by Lisbon area into the Iberian Peninsula, so conditions for a storm-driven bird were optimal. The observers (JRG and AIP) have a long experience on bird identification, including dozens of sightings of this species in Jamaica Bay, New York, in October 2015.

  • Identification

Identification of this bird was not easy, due sighting conditions and similarity of Tree Swallow with other swallow species. As pointed by other birders, dark underwing and rump, contrasting with whitish underparts and greyish throat, are consistent with the hypotesis of a juvenile Tree Swallow. Moreover, moulting primaries are apparently characteristic of the post juvenile moult of this species, with longer, unmoulted p10 and growing p9 and p8 giving an odd silhouette to wing (cf. record in Corvo of this species on 2007 by Peter Alfrey). However, the lack of better pictures/field notes deserves (hitherto) a question mark on the identification of this bird, regarded as ‘probable’ Tree Swallow.

Editorial comment

The shape and characteristics noted by the authors fit the species and the stage of moult (see birds from August and September from the Macaulay library below). In the previous days, there was a strong bird migration movement in SE USA (see Birdcast website here). The arrival of Atlantic hurricane systems, having brought a number of American landbird vagrants to Azores but also UK and Portugal may certainly have contributed to the arrival of this bird that, if accepted, will become the 1st of this species for Spain.

Acknowledgments

David Calleja, Maarten Platteeuw, Bas van Schooten, Bruce Mactavish, Hans Verdaat, Daniel López Velasco and Ricard Gutiérrez commented the ID of this bird. Almudena Romay improved the text.

Resumen

El día 15.10 una extraña golondrina fue vista volando por encima del cabo Udra, Beluso, Bueu (suroeste de Galicia) por JRG y AIP. Aunque las circunstancias de la observación fueron difíciles (fuerte viento del sur, lluvia, luz tenue; coincide en el tiempo con la llegada de los restos del huracán Michael) JRG tomó algunas notas de campo y fotos, permitiendo a los observadores y a CDR sugerir la posibilidad de un juvenil de golondrina bicolor (Tachycineta bicolor), un hirundínido neártico nidificante en Norteamérica e invernante en Centroamérica. La especie no había sido registrada hasta ahora en España, y los registros en el Paleártico occidental son escasos (7 en Azores, 2 en el Reino Unido y 1 en Islandia). Se identifica en base a la coloración general marrón muy oscura en las partes superiores, parte inferior del ala oscura y partes inferiores blancuzcas, con los siguientes ocho puntos clave: 1. Golondrina algo pesada y “barrigona”. Alas con una silueta extraña, anchas y cortas para una golondrina, recordando a veces las alas de una alondra común (Alauda arvensis). Base ancha del ala, y silueta algo espatulada, con una zona central del ala más ancha. Parte inferior del ala oscura. 2. Punta del ala muy proyectante, compatible con una p10 más larga (vieja, sin mudar). 3. Primarias externas (p9, p8) aparentemente más cortas que p10. 4. Parte más ancha del ala hacia la p4-p5. 5. Garganta no blanca, aparentemente grisácea. 6. Infracobertoras caudales blancas, “largas”, dejando visible sólo el extremo de rectrices oscuras “aisladas”. 7. “Popa” aparentemente larga, con el extremo de la cola escotado, y a veces de perfil casi recto. 8. Lados del capuchón oscuros mostrando un neto contraste con los lados del cuello blancos. Ante la ausencia de mejores fotografías o notas de campo se opta (por el momento) en poner un signo de interrogación en la identificación de esta ave, que se deja como “probable” golondrina bicolor.

Resumo

O día 15.10 unha estraña anduriña foi vista voando por encima do cabo Udra, Beluso, Bueu (suroeste de Galicia) por JRG e AIP. Aínda que as circunstancias da observación foron difíciles (forte vento do sur, choiva, luz tenue; coincide no tempo coa chegada dos restos do furacán Michael) JRG tomou algunhas notas de campo e fotos, permitindo aos observadores e a CDR suxerir a posibilidade dun xuvenil de anduriña das árbores (Tachycineta bicolor), un hirundínido neártico nidificante en América do Norte e invernante en Centroamérica. A especie non fora rexistrada ata agora en España, e os rexistros no Paleártico occidental son escasos (7 nos Azores, 2 no Reino Unido e 1 en Islandia). Identifícase en base á coloración xeral marrón moi escura nas partes superiores, parte inferior da á escura e partes inferiores brancacentas, cos seguintes oito puntos chave: 1. Anduriña algo pesada e “barrigona”. Ás cunha silueta estraña, anchas e curtas para unha anduriña, lembrando ás veces as ás dunha laverca común (Alauda arvensis). Base ancha da á, e silueta algo espatulada, cunha zona central da á máis ancha. Parte inferior da á escura. 2. Punta da á moi proxectante, compatible cunha p10 máis longa (vella, sen mudar). 3. Primarias externas (p9, p8) aparentemente máis curtas que p10. 4. Parte máis ancha da á cara á p4-p5. 5. Garganta non branca, aparentemente grisácea. 6. Infracobertoras caudais brancas, “longas”, deixando visible só o extremo das rectrices escuras “illadas”. 7. “ Popa” aparentemente longa, co extremo da cola de perfil escotado ou ás veces case recto. 8. Lados do capucho escuros mostrando un neto contraste cos lados do pescozo brancos. Ante a ausencia de mellores fotografías ou notas de campo óptase (polo momento) por poñer un signo de interrogación na identificación desta ave, que se deixa como “probable” anduriña das árbores.

Citation

Gómez, J. R.; Pérez, A. I. & Romay, C.D. 2018. A probable Tree Swallow Tachycineta bicolor in Bueu (SW Galicia), October 2018: a potential 1st for Spain and 11th for WP. Retrieved from http://www.rarebirdspain.net/arbsi048.htm

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A probable Tree Swallow Tachycineta bicolor in Bueu (SW Galicia), October 2018: a potential 1st for Spain and 11th for WP

Summary:


Introduction
Description and photos
Discussion
Editorial comment
Acknowledgements
Resumen
Resumo
Citation



 


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17.10.2018