Hoodie or Hybrid?

Yes, it’s time to return to that subject which almost always ends in the answer being, “it’s a hybrid.” But, I have a feeling this bird which I photo-ed on patch today may not be so simple.

A very nicely marked individual having a good look about in the field with some of the usual Carrion Crows.

Hmm...
Hmm…

I have photographed another individual on patch before which was in pretty much the same place, this one about 20 metres from this one I photographed back in April.

The general consensus on this bird was that it wasn’t a very striking creature, although it was poor lighting (if I remember correctly this was taken in the late afternoon/evening), and my camera isn’t great. There is pale colouring in the vent but the photos weren’t showing that area very well.

So I was quite surprised when I looked over the fence from the road above the field to see a very obvious Hoodie-type Crow in the field not too far away. Certainly gave a better chance to get some pics with my camera (which I really must replace!).

Here are some crops of the original shots.

Hooded Crow is a description species in Lothian, and rightly so! There are a load of hybrids about, whether 1st generation birds or not no one knows. Very few reports of Hoodies are accepted in Lothian because of this, and also probably because they are pretty rare as pure birds.

So why do I think I’m in with a shout with this bird? Well, for starters it is a well marked bird. Almost slivery, and the flanks are clean, no black feathering there. The vent, while difficult to see here, did not show any black plumage or even darker grey feathers when viewed through my bins. The crow did eventually take flight, giving me a few quick seconds to get my camera on full zoom and take these two shots.

HC6 HC7

Not amazing images, I’m sure you’ll agree, but the second image just about shows how nice and clean the undertail coverts were. The only really big thing going against the idea of me finding a Hooded Crow on patch is the fact that it is more likely hybrid than not, based on location and the other birds found in the area.

He/she didn’t return to the spot at the top of the field when I made my way back, but I’ll be looking out for this Hoodie-type in the few days before I depart to head north, where I might be more likely to see a pure Hooded Crow on patch. I’ll ask others for their verdict, and be sure to voice your opinion if you happen to be reading if you notice something I’ve missed out.

Going back to April this year, I photographed another interesting corvid which I posted on BirdForum, and I’m sure I got a reply from someone but I can’t find it! Anyway, here’s my best candidate for a Nordic Jackdaw.

Whilst none of these shots show it (my photography showing it’s true colours again), this ‘daw did have the “headlight” look about it when seen face on. The collar was very noticeable and actually made me do a double take as I walked past it in a field about 80m away from where that Hoodie-type Crow was seen. Must be some sort of interesting corvid hot-spot.

NJ4

After a read on Martin Garner’s post on the “3 Jackdaw types” ( http://birdingfrontiers.com/2011/02/20/3-jackdaws-types/ ) there’s a couple things I’m noticing about this Jackdaw. It differs from the monedula ‘daw on that post in that I suspect this is an adult, given the definitely dark wings (no brownish tones), and the pale iris. Also, the white collar is a far sharper marking on my bird than the juvenile pictured on Birding Frontiers. The latter observation, however, is explained now that I’ve looked at images of adult monedula birds.

So, to recap, that Hoodie-type that I saw on patch today (yesterday now as it’s 00:16) looks like my best opportunity for getting a proper Hooded Crow but I have my doubts just because it’s in Lothian and not in Inverness-shire. The one photographed back in April I’d guess was the same bird but I’ve captured it better here.

The possible Nordic Jackdaw ssp. monedula that I saw in April as well I think looks like a good candidate, and given the frequency at which these Nordic birds are seen in the UK, I think it’s status goes from possible to probable. BUT!… I’m no expert, and I’d rather learn what I’m doing wrong now than get through life thinking I’m right, when I’m not. So feel free to correct me, I won’t take offence!

And to finish off, a couple of definite hybrid Hooded x Carrion Crows. The first from next to Hunter’s Bog in Holyrood Park, this bird very unconvincing as a Hoodie, only showing a touch of grey to it’s mantle and breast.

The one on the ground
The one on the ground

This second one seen just off patch, on one of the golf courses in the Braid Hills. Far better marked, but obviously has black feathers on it’s flank and it did have black undertail coverts. I watched this bird for a while as it was playing with that Starbucks cup lid. It would pick it up on to it’s side and let the lid roll a bit in the wind, hop after it and knock it over again, until it was close enough to get this picture before picking up its toy and returning to the group of Carrion Crows who were messing up the green. Crows are fascinating birds to watch, and attempt to identify!

HC9

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Hoodie or Hybrid?

3 thoughts on “Hoodie or Hybrid?

  1. lothianrecorder says:

    Like you I was prepared to be disappointed, there really are a lot of hybrid crows around, but pleasantly surprised to see these pics, even the last in the stubble is showing obvious pale grey undertail, but not quite enough to prove there are no black tips in there! I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the real deal. Your comments on visible plumage features also encouraging, nevertheless I’m sure the rarities committee will be wanting to see more details in the photos. Really hope you find it again…

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  2. lothianrecorder says:

    Just re-checked the stats, a bit messy with possible overlaps between the 7 different Lothian records, perhaps actually as few as 3 different birds since 2007, 2+ birds in winter 10/11 (Skateraw to Yellowcraig; Harperigg) and one Cramond June 11; latter seems to be the last accepted; a few other claims perhaps not submitted?

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  3. Hmm, always tricky these probable Hoodies, perhaps that’s why people haven’t submitted their sightings, afraid of rejection! I’ll no doubt be out again tomorrow, perhaps I’ll take my scope to scan through the hundreds of corvids and pigeons in the stubble at the moment. Will be sure to report any news on whether I find it again or not. Suspect it’s quite likely to hang about as there’s a load of crows in the area, including one of those “white-winged” crows that I’ve read about in Geoff’s old blog posts. Nice to see they’re still about!

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