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poorly lit empidonax


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Can we do better than Empidonax sp. here?

Western/Pacific-Slope seems likely, but can Willow and Yellow-Bellied be ruled out?

Taken San Diego, CA this evening right before sunset while staking out a golden-winged warbler (!!!). Bird is backlit and was facing what little was left of the sunlight.

Was hunting insects from conspicuous high perch.

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Edited by Ruslan Balagansky
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1 hour ago, Aidan B said:

It's a Wood-Pewee. 

Thanks! I had discounted that prematurely. Squinting at it again, the appearance *is* a good match, and, of course the behavior is a much better match than for Empidonax.

1 hour ago, Aidan B said:

Did you get the Golden-winged Warbler? I was following all the reports of that bird pretty closely. Great bird anywhere in the state!!!

Yes! My wife and I got there quite late, but in time for it to be refound one last time. Was visible for just maybe a minute or two, chomping down some large insect. I got lucky and managed some decent snaps given the circumstances:

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7 hours ago, Ruslan Balagansky said:

Yes! My wife and I got there quite late, but in time for it to be refound one last time. Was visible for just maybe a minute or two, chomping down some large insect. I got lucky and managed some decent snaps given the circumstances:

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image.thumb.jpeg.86b50ef4e283a4417999c24ed40bf383.jpeg

Awesome! That's quite the bird for California!!!

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16 minutes ago, Aidan B said:

Awesome! That's quite the bird for California!!!

Yeah, so jealous! I can’t get down there until Saturday…it’s almost 2 hour drive for me. The rarities down here are finally starting to pick up…we had GRWA, BLPW, and PROW yesterday in OC. Sadly, I wasn’t able to get the GRWA but only a few people saw it briefly and nobody found it again. Got the other two. 

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FWIW, Yellow-bellied should never really be a default option in CA. They are a significant identification challenge, and are thought to be quite rare in California. They’re almost identical to Western Flycatchers so their real status and distribution is somewhat mysterious in California. Voice is the safest way to identify them to species out west.

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1 minute ago, DLecy said:

FWIW, Yellow-bellied should never really be a default option in CA. They are a significant identification challenge, and are thought to be quite rare in California. They’re almost identical to Western Flycatchers so their real status and distribution is somewhat mysterious in California. Voice is the safest way to identify them to species out west.

There is/was one in San Diego last week. Would make sense if this was at that location. Either way, it’s not one. 

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5 hours ago, AlexHenry said:

That yellow wash on the breast below the black bib might be seen as a sign of hybridization/genetic introversion in some places back east

Yep. Another birder on the scene pointed this out when looking at my photo.

The yellow wash seems very faint and only apparent in a few of the photos taken. It was speculated by those present that it's not enough to class this as a hybrid. Not sure if that could still change, though. The eBird reports are all Confirmed, at least.

Same individual (some of these taken nearly at the same time as mine):
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/609289127
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/609289128
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/609268517

Here are a few other examples I could quickly find of GWWAs with similar faint yellow washes:

https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/608879128
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/368889311
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/480678621
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/567506331
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/480678611
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/130574031
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/608879126

Meanwhile, most of the eBird hybrid reports have much more yellow. All of the (very few) California reports do.

Bit of context:
https://aba.org/birding_archive_files/v37n3p278.pdf
https://www.birdsontario.org/gwwa-bwwa/

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10 minutes ago, Avery said:

Yeah, if I saw that bird I’d call it a hybrid. Is there already discussion on the California threads about it? 

There is. The consensus seems to be a pure bird, that first fall male usually GWWAs have a yellow wash on the breast. 

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1 hour ago, IKLland said:

There is. The consensus seems to be a pure bird, that first fall male usually GWWAs have a yellow wash on the breast. 

This is a very confusing species complex, even at the best of times with phenotypically pure individuals. With birds like this which may be “pure” but also maybe show small signs of hybridization or introgression, it can be very hard to infer genotype from phenotype. Basically I don’t think the genetic work has been done to prove what individual birds like this really are, and even if the work had been done, these species are so close genetically that the answer still might not be clear.

Anyway, I think it’s underratedly difficult to infer genotype from phenotype for an individual like this, and I think it’s probably better to defer to people in the upper Great Lakes who study them in the contact zone.

But I’d generally agree that it’s probably either “pure”, or “close enough” from a listing perspective. But from an academic perspective I personally would add some qualifiers onto that ID and wouldn’t feel totally satisfied without genetic analysis.

Edited by AlexHenry
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1 hour ago, Ruslan Balagansky said:

One interesting thing to note is that all of those photos showing Golden-wings with slight yellow wash on the breast are either from the contact zone, or south of the contact zone during migration.

I’d be interested to see if anyone can find photos of Golden-wings with noticeable yellow wash on the breast from north of the contact zone.

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