web analytics

By Dylan Vasapolli

 

I hope the various photographers I gleaned the photos from will forgive me for using them. You can see more of the great photos they all take, along with some of the great articles they write, by following the links in the description of each photo.

I’m sure many of you may know this already, but I for one have been largely ignorant about one of the relatively newly split species, Scopoli’s Shearwater (Calonectris diomedea), within the southern Africa subregion.

This species is closely related to Cory’s Shearwater (Calonectris borealis), with which it was considered conspecific for many years, and which many of us have seen on summer pelagic trips off either Cape Town or Durban. It has only recently gained full species status (within the last 5 years) after previously being considered a subspecies of Cory’s. The IOC (see worldbirdnames.org) recognize this as a separate species, so it is definitely a ‘tickable’ species, and with it being seemingly regular along the west coast of Africa, and into Namibia, it should be a species we should watch out for within South African waters (probably only along the western coast however).

The only downside with having gained this ‘new species’ is that it is rather tricky to separate from Cory’s, and I’ll look at the main features for separating them below. After reading multiple papers, books, and articles and going through many photos, most individuals belonging to either Cory’s/Scopoli’s can be ‘comfortably’ separated, but only provided a good and close-up look is had, and preferably photos taken – for review later. While photos are not essential, of course, our brains can misconstrue small details, and we may actually think we see something that is not truly there, and essentially believe the ‘lies our brains are feeding us’. Of course, there is more to it than this as well – lighting conditions can vary plumage, and then there is individual variation in the species as well.

All right, diving back into separating them then…

Firstly, and what is the key means of separating Scopoli’s from Cory’s, is by observing the underwing feathers and pattern. Looking at it simply, Cory’s has a broader dark tip to the underwing, while Scopoli’s has a smaller dark tip, with more white on the primaries. Going into a bit more detail, the primary feathers (p6 – p9) on Cory’s are solidly dark or have variable (but always small) amounts of white on the primaries (from the primary coverts to the wingtip), but no white is visible on p10 at all (from the primary coverts to the wingtip), while Scopoli’s, however, shows distinct and long white tongues/inner webs on the primaries, including p10, eventually leading into dark wingtips and giving the impression of a much whiter underwing.

Here is an image showing the underwing primaries, and which feathers to concentrate and focus on.

DSC_2205_edited-1

 

Here are photos of typical Cory’s Shearwaters (C. borealis) – note the extensive dark tip to the wing with little or no white on primaries 6-9, and none on p10 (which is the key feature):

 

Corys Shearwater (Calonectris diomedea borealis) - martin lofgren

Cory’s Shearwater

© Martin Lofgren – Wild Bird Gallery.com

Atlantic Ocean off Madeira

May 2011

http://www.wildbirdgallery.com/images/birds/calonectris_diomedea/borealis.htm

 

Cory´s-Shearwater_KBJ6487

Cory’s Shearwater

© Klaus Bjerre Nature Photography

Atlantic Ocean off Madeira

June 2012

http://kbphoto.dk/

 

corysshearwater - trevor hardaker

Cory’s Shearwater

© Trevor Hardaker

Off Cape Peninsula, South Africa with Zest for Birds

April 2013

http://hardaker.co.za/

 

DSC_2205_edited-2

Cory’s Shearwater

© Dylan Vasapolli,

Off Cape Peninsula, South Africa

December 2014

 

Here are photos showing Scopoli’s Shearwater (C. diomedea) – note the much whiter underwings, with the long white webs/tongues present on the primaries:

 

Scopoli’s Shearwater © Angus Hogg, from the surfbirds galleries.

Scopoli’s Shearwater

© Angus Hogg

Surfbirds.com (http://www.surfbirds.com/community-blogs/blog/2016/07/01/maltas-first-marine-special-protection-areas-announced/)

 

scopolis - dick newell - senegal - 2003

Scopoli’s Shearwater

© Dick Newell

Dakar, Senegal

November 2003

 

Berta maggiore mediterranea; Scopoli's Shearwater; Calonectris d

Scopoli’s Shearwater

© Daniele Occhiato – pbase.com

Viareggio, Italy

May 2014

http://www.pbase.com/dophoto/image/155840210

 

scopolis-7 - martin garner

Scopoli’s Shearwater

© Martin Garner – Birding Frontiers.com

N of Lanzarote, Canary Islands

June 2012

http://birdingfrontiers.com/2012/09/06/scopolis-shearwater/

 

scopolis-5 - martin garner

Scopoli’s Shearwater

© Martin Garner – Birding Frontiers.com

N of Lanzarote, Canary Islands

June 2012

http://birdingfrontiers.com/2012/09/06/scopolis-shearwater/

 

Scopolis Shearwater

Scopoli’s Shearwater

© Steve Howell – Seabirding

Hatteras, USA

May 2013

http://seabirding.blogspot.co.za/2013_05_01_archive.html

 

Secondly, and by no means a key feature (rather a backup feature acting in favour of Scopoli’s) is that of the structure of the bird. Scopoli’s is a smaller bird, weighing less than Cory’s, with slimmer wings, head and bill. This is an unreliable feature when used on its own, as there is marked sexual dimorphism in both Scopoli’s and Cory’s. For example, a male Scopoli’s may have similar proportions to a small female Cory’s, which can be very misleading. But this feature serves as a good backup feature for the first point above.

Lastly, we have that of differences in flight patterns. With Scopoli’s being a smaller bird, weighing less than Cory’s and having slimmer wings, the flight pattern of Scopoli’s is quicker on average, and the bird appears quite light in the air. Cory’s, however, is more bulky than Scopoli’s and shows a rather heavy, somewhat labored flight. This is also not a key feature, as weather conditions certainly can affect the manner in which the bird flies, as can the activity of the bird at the time. This feature mainly applies to birds in ‘natural flight’ (such as birds returning to colonies in the evening) as opposed to birds feeding and following fishing boats (such as stern trawlers and long liners), as we regularly see them. Scopoli’s does also seem to show more flaps (5-7) between glides, while Cory’s usually has very few flaps (2-3) between glides. This, again, applies to birds seen flying ‘naturally’ (not foraging), and while some Scopoli’s do show much shorter flap-sequences (such as around 3), observations watching these particular birds for a while will invariably reveal flap sequences between 5-7, as is typical of Scopoli’s, and very atypical for Cory’s. Again, this is not a key feature for separating them, and, combined with the fact that the majority of the time in our waters (on our pelagics) we find these birds feeding, it is probably less applicable to birds we encounter – but it certainly will help in favor of/against Scopoli’s if birds are noted.

It has also been suggested that the upperwing pattern is of use, but many sources seem to disagree with this, as lighting influences this too much, as does birds in moult of any kind along with individual variation, and as a result I have left it out.

As a summary, the underwing pattern is key in separating Scopoli’s from Cory’s, with the build of the bird and the flight style acting only as backup features. At the same time, there is some variability on all of these features, and as these are rather subtle differences, good and relatively prolonged looks need to be had to accurately identify the species. It must be noted, though, that not all individuals seen as either Cory’s/Scopoli’s can be confidently identified to exact species level due to both individual variability and quality of the sighting.

I hope this helps to improve your current knowledge on separating these two similar species, and please feel free to get in touch with questions, and view the sources below for more information.xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

This is just a quick note to all again that we have a few places open on our upcoming pelagics in 2017 off Simonstown, South Africa which you can see below (where we plan on looking for the newly-split Scopoli’s Shearwater during our summer pelagics). You can see more information on these pelagics by clicking the following link here.

29/30 April — 4 places remaining

27/28 May

10/11 June

15/16 July

19/20 August

16/17 September

14/15 October

18/19 November

 

Please do send us an email at info@birdingecotours.com if you’re interested in joining any of the above dates.X

x

I just want to acknowledge the following sources used in the text (see links where applicable and follow them to read the super-interesting articles yourselves):

  1. British Birds. Volume 103. Scopoli’s Shearwater off Scilly: new to Britain. Fisher, E. A & Flood, R. L. December 2010. Pages 712 – 717. https://www.britishbirds.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/V103_N12_P712%E2%80%93717_A.pdf
  2. Birdguides. Focus on Identifying Scopoli’s Shearwater outside the Mediterranean. Garner, M. October 2005. http://www.birdguides.com/webzine/article.asp?a=595
  3. Petrels, Albatrosses & Storm-Petrels of North America – A Photographic Guide. Howell, S. N. G. 2012. Princeton University Press
  4. Rare Birds in Spain. Underwing pattern in Scopoli’s Shearwaters Calonecris diomedea diomedea off NE Spain in summer 2004. Gutiérrez, R. October 2004. http://www.rarebirdspain.net/arbsi027.htm

Tours by destination



Austria

Long-eared Owl

Austria is a landlocked country of roughly 8.5 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Hungary and Slovakia to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. The territory of Austria covers 83,855 square kilometres (32,377 sq mi) and has a temperate and alpine climate. Austria’s terrain is highly mountainous due to the presence of the Alps; only 32% of the country is below 500 metres (1,640 ft), and its highest point is 3,798 metres (12,461 ft). Austria has six national parks, almost 60 nature preserves and „nature parks“, about 35 „hot spots“ for bird-watching, 20 Alpine gardens and many other opportunities to admire nature in its undisturbed, pristine beauty. With 425 bird species, it is a wonderful destination for bird watchers to enjoy the exciting Central European avian riches.

 

Click Here to Read More

Bulgaria

Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker

Despite being a relatively small country, together with Spain Bulgaria boasts the highest biodiversity in Europe, with the birds contributing greatly to this. Bulgaria’s biodiversity is conserved in three national parks, 11 nature parks and 17 biosphere reserves. The vast tracts of different habitats make it a pleasant country to bird, and the country plays host to several scenically beautiful areas, adding to its splendor. 

Click Here to Read More

Finland

Boreal Owl - Jari Peltomäki

Finland is a land of interesting contrasts, such as the four seasons, the Midnight Sun and the winter darkness, urban and rural, east and west.  As you look out from the plane, the first impression you may have is that there are a lot of trees, an endless carpet of forest, with many lakes and small towns in between. It’s kind of a surprise when you land in Helsinki to find that the airport is so modern and efficient: not a polar bear in sight. It’s truly amazing how uniquely exotic each season can be. Four times a year, nature changes its uniform completely, color, light, temperature, sounds and smells. Everything changes in a way that happens nowhere else.

Click Here to Read More

France

European Crested Tit - Thomas Hochebner

France  is a country located in Western  Europe.  Clockwise from the north, France borders  Belgium, Luxembourg, and  Germany to the northeast,  Switzerland to the east, Italy to the southeast, and Spain to the southwest across the Pyrenees mountain range (the small country of Andorra lies in between the two countries). The Mediterranean Sea lies to the south of France, with the Principality of Monaco forming a small enclave. To the west, France has a long Atlantic Ocean coastline, while to the north lies the English Channel, across which lies the last of France’s neighbors, England (part of the United Kingdom).

Click Here to Read More

Greece

Rock Partridge

Greece lies in the south of the Balkan peninsula and is part of the European East Mediterranean Region. Its territory expands in approximately 132.000 km2, its coast line is 15.000 km long, and has a great variety of geomorphological formations and rocks. In general, the climate can be regarded as Mediterranean, with mild and wet winters, and hot and dry summers. The country’s geomorphology is diverse. Greece is primarily a mountainous country, with seventy per cent of its territory covered by mountains. It has a very long coastline, with a plethora of peninsulas and islands. The fauna consists of a rich mixture of European, Asian and African species, including a considerable number which are endemic. Greece has one of the highest bird densities in Europe and is a fascinating country ornithologically: About 407 bird species have been recorded, of which 240 nest in Greece (59% of the total). Some species (e.g. the Dalmatian Pelican, Pelecanus crispus) nest only in Greece of all EU countries.

Click Here to Read More

Hungary

White-tailed Eagle

 

Hungary is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. Slightly more than one half of Hungary’s landscape consists of flat to rolling plains of the Pannonian Basin: the most important plain regions include the Little Hungarian Plain in the west, and the Great Hungarian Plain in the southeast. The country is well established as one of the very best birding nations in Europe. With 416 species, including such treasures as Saker Falcon, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Pygmy Cormorant, Lesser White-fronted Goose, Ferruginous Duck, Great Bustard, Corncrake, Ural Owl, Aquatic Warbler, and nine species of woodpecker, it certainly deserves a place on any world birder’s wish list to enjoy the exciting Central European avifauna.

Click Here to Read More

Iceland

Atlantic Puffin - Jari Peltomäki

Iceland, thanks to its remote location and harsh winters, has a relatively small population, leaving vast parts of this island nation untouched. Some amazing scenery of glaciers, volcanic peaks, steep cliffs, waterfalls, and steaming geysers make this an amazing panorama for a birding destination.

Click Here to Read More

Italy

Wallcreeper

Italy is a “must-visit” country to most travelers, this is where both the Roman Empire and the Renaissance began, and no other Western country can quite compete with the incredible historical depth of this one. Even if you are not a history buff, your jaws will still drop when you first set eyes on the beautiful cities of Florence, Venice, and Rome. Combined with its art and history, Italy also has some of Europe’s most magnificent scenery.  We acknowledge the fact that many people will want to visit Italy at some stage or another, and we hereby present you with the opportunity of combining birding with seeing the main sights and also experiencing the culture of modern Italy.

Click Here to Read More

Romania

Western Yellow Wagtail

Romania is a country very rich in biodiversity. It contains 98% of Europe’s bird species, a large majority of them found the Danube Delta. In this delta alone, over 320 species of birds are found during summer, of which 166 are hatching species and 159 are migratory. Over one million individuals (swans, wild ducks, coots, etc.) winter there. The last three days of Birding Ecotours’ Bulgaria and Romania tour are spent in this magnificent birding wonderland.

Click Here to Read More

Spain

White Stork - Ian Merrill

Spain has long been an extremely popular destination for birders, offering as it does a wide range of typical Mediterranean habitats, along with easy, safe, and excellent birding. Many sites are in beautifully scenic settings, featuring Romanesque architecture and ancient, fortified hilltop villages.  Much of interior Spain is very rural and way off the tourist trail. This is the finest region to sample a large array of southern European species and is especially good for raptors, with 23 species possible.

Click Here to Read More

Sweden

Hazel Grouse - Birding Tour Sweden

Sweden’s Taiga forests and wetlands around Svartådalen make for fantastic birding in the springtime. The Black River Valley of Västmanland hosts waves of migrating birds that arrive from late April, the number of species increase around the wetlands and in late May, and even the speciality species become common. Sweden in spring truly boasts an abundance of birdlife and photographic opportunities. One thing is for sure: Sweden will leave a lasting impression on you with its scenic beauty and serenity, and for the fantastic birding encounters you will enjoy.

Click Here to Read More

Turkey

Brown Fish Owl

Turkey is a richly historical land with some of the best cuisine you will ever taste, one of the world’s greatest cities and scenery from white-sand beaches to soaring mountains and fairy-like natural formations. With a checklist of approximately 500 birds, it should also be on any world birder’s wish list.

Click Here to Read More

We can run any of our tours privately any time and we can also arrange custom itineraries - send us your wish-list and we'll put the itinerary together! See more here.



Switch to our desktop site

Switch to our desktop site