Tuesday, 28 January 2014

More on aging and sexing Rufous Whistlers

Following some interesting feedback on the previous piece on aging and sexing Rufous Whistlers Pachycephala rufiventris, I have added a few more examples of details to look for when doing so.

Adult female Rufous Whistler
Charcoal Tank, NSW, Oct 2010
This first adult female (3+) shows the features of a dark red eye, dark black bill, white throat streaked with dark grey and streaked breast.

Left - Adult female, right Immature (unsexed)
Charcoal tank, NSW, Oct 2010
The shot above shows a second adult female (3+) alongside an immature, unsexed bird (2). Her eye is clearly red compared with the young bird's brown eyes. Her head is grey streaked with black, her belly is pale buff, almost white, and she has very little streaking on her undertail coverts. In comparison, the young bird has a grey/buff head with finer black streaks, its belly is a creamy orange and there is definite streaking on the undertail coverts. The immature bird would have hatched in the Spring two years previous to that when the shot was taken, but as it was still early in the breeding season when the bird was caught, October, and as sub-adult males can breed in their second year while in such a plumage, the bird cannot be sexed. It might yet moult into sub-adult male plumage later in or after the breeding period.

The photograph below shows the heads in profile of the same two birds. Note the female's grey head versus the young bird's brownish colour. Her iris is red, the other bird's is brown. Her bill is black on the outside upper and lower mandibles, and inside. The young bird's bill is dark, almost black on the upper mandible, brownish grey on the lower, and with a pale yellow inside the roof. Also her bill is worn with use, with chips and flecks taken out of it, while the young bird's bill is smooth edged and clean-looking with pale margins.

Left - Adult female, right Immature (unsexed)
Charcoal Tank, Oct 2010
In comparison of the two adult birds, the second adult female has a brighter shade of red in her eye, her breast is less rufous, her belly is paler, and her undertail coverts are less streaked. This might simply be normal variation in colouring between individual birds. However, she might be an older bird, so further study needs to be done on the features listed here on re trapped birds of known age, to help clarify this point.

No comments:

Post a Comment