News & Features

First Kamchatka Leaf Warbler recorded for Australian Mainland

Kamchatka Leaf Warbler, Nigel Jackett

On the 14th of February, 2016, a rare leaf warbler from the difficult Phylloscopus genus was found at the Broome Bird Observatory (BBO) by Wardens Nigel and Jaime Jackett (click here to see their checklist). The leaf warblers are such a tricky group of songbirds that they often can’t be identified to species by appearances alone – it is their calls that separate them.

Unbelievably, the leaf warbler at the BBO was calling and singing frequently from the deciduous shrubs it foraged among. Using the voice memos app on their iPhone, Nigel and Jaime were able to record its song – a crucial piece of evidence! The song was analysed and compared to the various songs of leaf warblers from Asia. One fit perfectly: the Kamchatka Leaf Warbler!

Kamchatka BBO song

Image above links to the ebird checklist with the audio recording of the Kamchatka Leaf Warbler.

 

Song phrase. Note the two downwards sweeps followed by an upwards sweep; repeated. copyright Nigel Jackett

Song phrase for the bird at the Broome Bird Observatory. Note the two downwards sweeps followed by an upwards sweep; repeated. copyright Nigel Jackett

 

Arctic Warbler complex songs, (Alstrom et al. 2010, Ibis 153:395-410)

Arctic Warbler complex songs, (Alstrom et al. 2010, Ibis 153:395-410). The spectogram of the bird recorded at the Broome Bird Observatory matches that of the Kamchatka Leaf Warbler (Phylloscopus examinandus).

eBird sites where Kamchatka Leaf Warbler has been sighted

Australia mainland’s first location, and other eBird locations, where Kamchatka Leaf Warbler have been sighted.

Leaf warblers are generally long-distance migrants, with the Kamchatka Leaf Warbler breeding in far eastern Russia, and migrating as far south as Indonesia. The individual that appeared at the Broome Bird Observatory was the first of its species to be identified on the Australian mainland (it has previously only been recorded on Ashmore Reef). With many species of leaf warblers migrating to Indonesia, it is only a matter of time before another new species shows up in Australia. Exploring the eBird database could provide clues as to which one will turn up next!

~contributed by Nigel Jackett