Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita


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Common Chiffchaff, probably menzbieri, Iran, April 2017

Chiffchaff (possibly menzbieri), Elborz Mountains, Iran, April 2017

The image above shows a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita ssp. observed in the Elborz Mountains near Kelardasht. They occupied light woodland (including oak, hornbeam and hawthorn) at an altitude of around 1500m,  a habitat they shared with Green Warblers P. nitidus. Their plumage was distinctive, with relatively white underparts (lacking evident yellow) but with well-developed yellowish-olive fringes to the remiges and rectrices. There was an extensive yellowish base to the lower mandible. Similar-looking birds with similar vocalisations were encountered also near Kiasar, which lies some way to the east of Kelardasht. The traditionally designated range of menzbieri is based around NE Iran and Kopet Dagh, in Turkmenistan, but a genetic study by Raković et al. (2019) found a clade in the Transcaucasus, south and east of, and genetically distinct from, brevirostris / caucasicus and which matched the single GenBank sample of menzbieri. Further samples from across N Iran and Kopet Dagh were required but the implication is that menzbieri extends from southernmost Armenia throughout N Iran and to Kopet Dagh. This issue is discussed further, with sound-recordings, sonograms and additional photos, in a separate item <here>.

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A. R. Dean

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