Mendo Birders, Andy asked me topass on his most recent reply to you all,
so that in case anyone goes out to scan pipits for subspecies, they have
the best info. The webpage with the identification info is:
Andy, thanks for the reply. Your reply clarifys the species status, and
with luck the people who bird the California coast will make your last
sentence prophetic. Because I was copying the Mendobirds listserv, I
carefully worded my original reply to generate both excitement and
caution. I completely agree that one field mark, especially when one's
perspective is only from memory, is rarely enough . . . definitely not
enough when differentiating subspecies.
Thanks again for your updates. Good birding!
Hi Matt, the AOU has not split japonicus (Siberian Pipit) from American
Pipit yet. Four subspecies of Buff-bellied Pipits are currently
recognized by the American Ornithologist's Union: japonicus, pacificus,
alticola, and rubescens. Rubescens, pacificus and alticola are the three
races of American Pipit. The other subspecies, japonicus, is often
referred to as Siberian Pipit and may be a candidate for species status
according to the American Ornithologist's Union (AOU; 1989) because it
breeds in eastern Asia and is considered to be significantly different,
in terms of plumage characters, from the latter three, which breed
entirely within North America and western Greenland.
Siberian Pipits can be quite subtle birds to ID (if you're not used to
the wide variety of plumages exhibited by American Pipits) and it's
dangerous to go on one field character rather than a suite of
characters. The weblink has a plate comparing the 3 different races of
American Pipit against Siberian Pipit and looking again at the photos,
the underpart streaking and that thick malar patch are very good clues.
More careful searching through American Pipit flocks across California
in fall should produce more sightings.
> The Red-throated Pipit still lingers in Ventura Co. along Casper Road -
> showing well and quite vocal this morning.
> Possibly the most interesting bird amongst this pipit flock, however, is a
> japonicus Buff-bellied Pipit (Siberian Pipit). This bird was found earlier in
> the week by Don DesJardin, Ornk Arian and Nick Lethaby and still continues.
> It can easily be picked out in a binocular sweep of the flock by its whiter
> wingbars, whiter underparts and browner back. Closer inspection will reveal
> heavily black streaked underparts, a thick dark malar that flares below the
> cheeks (quite obvious at a distance). Indeed, face-on you may think you are
> looking at a Red-throated Pipit. It also has rather bright pinkish legs
> (although there are some Americans there with bright legs too).
> Because of the browner upperparts, its whitish eyering also stands out more
> than on the Americans.
> If you want to brush up on t
> he salient features before going to see it, there
> is an ID summary along with lots of photos and a plate all online at the
> following url:
> Andy Birch