‘Siberian’ Stonechats in Thailand

There are 2 taxa of stonechats in Thailand; the wintering race Saxicola (maurus) stejnegeri, and the resident race S. (m.) przewalskii. The former is found throughout the country from the highest summit to lowlands, while the latter is found mainly on high mountains with very few records from lower altitude (ca. 300 m). Here I want to compile photos of both taxa photographed in Thailand in as many plumage as possible.

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‘stejnegeri’ male in breeding plumage

Male Stejneger’s Stonechat approaching full breeding plumage. It is now considered as a full species apart from Siberian Stonechat (S. maurus) by many authors.

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‘stejnegeri’ male in breeding plumage

Another photo of the same bird. Main characteristics include buffish-rufous breast contrasting to the whiter belly and undertail coverts.

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‘przewalskii’ male in breeding plumage
© Peter Ericsson

Male S. (m.) przewalskii in full breeding plumage. This is a very little described taxon which can be found from Tibetan plateau through C China and NE Myanmar down to northern Thailand. In breeding plumage, it can be told from stejnegeri by deep rufous-chestnut breast extending down to undertail coverts.

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‘przewalskii’ male in breeding plumage

Male przewalskii in breeding plumage. This individual has paler lower belly and undertail coverts but still notably darker than stejnegeri.

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‘przewalskii’ male in breeding plumage

White rump is also another characteristic of breeding bird. In non-breeding plumage, the rump is pale rufous.

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‘stejnegeri’ male in non-breeding plumage
© Narongsak Phajharoen

In non-breeding plumage, it is much trickier to identify the two. Here’s a non-breeding male stejnegeri showing extensive buffish-rufous underparts but still with whitish undertail coverts.

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‘przewalskii’ male in non-breeding plumage

Here’s a non-breeding male przewalskii. It looks very similar to non-breeding stejnegeri, but with slightly darker tone of rufous on the underparts and colder, darker brown fringes on the head.

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‘przewalskii’ male in non-breeding plumage

Non-breeding male przewalskii showing pale rufous rump, a characteristic of non-breeding plumage.

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‘przewalskii’ male in non-breeding plumage

This shot shows that the underwing coverts of przewalskii is jet black contrasting to the pale greyish-white flight feathers. This proves that it is more closely related to the maurus clades but whether it should be put under maurus or stejnegeri is still a pending question.

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‘przewalskii’ female in non-breeding plumage

Interestingly, it is very easy to identify female przewalskii in non-breeding plumage. It differs from stejnegeri by having striking dark head with no obvious supercilium. The underparts are also more rufous than female stejnegeri.

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‘przewalskii’ female in non-breeding plumage

So far, I have not seen a female przewalskii in breeding plumage yet but it is described to have even darker head, especially on the throat which makes it look very similar to non-breeding male.

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‘stejnegeri’ female in non-breeding plumage

Female stejnegeri in non-breeding plumage has a much paler head and underparts. It also shows distinct pale supercilium which is lacking in female przewalskii.

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‘stejnegeri’ female in non-breeding plumage

There’s still a lot more to learn and to be discovered about these stonechats, especially the race przewalskii. Now it’s the breeding season for them in northern Thailand. Hopefully, I’ll be able to find and photograph them when I get back to Thailand in the next 2 weeks.

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8 thoughts on “‘Siberian’ Stonechats in Thailand

  1. Pingback: Peninsular Malaysia & Central Thailand February 2015 - Bellbird Tours

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