Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

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Maximum longevity: 11.8 years (captivity)
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Biology

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Spotted flycatchers migrate over long distances; they winter in South Africa and reach the UK in mid-May. As the name indicates, they feed on flying insects such as flies, beetles, aphids and wasps. In warm weather they perch in a very alert posture, watching for prey (2). They suddenly propel themselves into the air to pursue the insect in a series of agile, twisting manoeuvres, and return to their original position (5). Nests are built in sheltered locations from twigs, moss and grass with a soft lining of hair, wool and feathers. Between 4 and 5 pale brown-blotched eggs are laid in the first clutch, and a second brood may be produced which is usually smaller than the first. In some cases the first brood assists the parents in raising the second (2).
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Conservation

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The spotted flycatcher was only recently recognised as a species for conservation concern, there has therefore been little conservation work targeted at this bird. However it will have benefited from certain management practices used in broadleaved woodland, such as the creation of broad rides and clearings. Where natural nesting sites are scarce, the provision of artificial nest boxes will aid the spotted flycatcher. The spotted flycatcher is a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan; the Species Action Plan produced in order to guide the conservation of the species aims to stop or reverse the current decline by 2003 (3).
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Description

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Adult spotted flycatchers are ashy-brown with a softly streaked dullish white breast; the forehead is also streaked (4). Younger birds have pale brown spots on the head and back (2). They usually perch in a very upright position on vantage points (4); this habit earned the species the local name 'post bird' (5). The voice is thin but distinctive, including a 'see tk-tk' when disturbed (2).
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Habitat

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This species prefers natural habitats such as mature broadleaved woodland with plenty of clearings, but can also be found in hedgerows containing mature trees, parkland and gardens. Mature conifer woodlands are also used (3).
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Range

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The breeding range extends across Europe from the Atlantic coast east to lake Baikal in Russia, north to Sweden and Finland and south to the Mediterranean. They are found throughout Britain and Ireland with higher densities in Devon, Kent and Dornoch Firth. They are very scarce in the far north and west (4).
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Status

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Listed under the Birds of Conservation Concern Red List, Annex II of the Convention on Migratory Species (the Bonn Convention), and Annex III of the Bern Convention. Protected in the UK by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 (3).
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Threats

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The species has been undergoing a substantial decline since the 1960s (3). British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) surveys have shown that between 1970 and 1998 there was a 68% decline in spotted flycatcher numbers (2). The reasons for this decline are not yet well known, but may include the factors outlined below (3). Many spotted flycatchers nest in large mature trees, which have been reduced in numbers in woodlands, hedgerows and parks. Climatic factors may be important, particularly in the summer; studies have found that warmer temperatures result in early breeding and larger clutches (3), and insect food availability will also be high. In cool summers, insect food will be less abundant and chick survival can be seriously affected. Although there is a lack of solid evidence, it seems likely that changes in agricultural practices such as the increased use of pesticides may have had an effect on this species, as many farmland birds suffer from low invertebrate prey abundance in the summer. Decreases in livestock (which attract flies) may also have contributed to this (2). In addition, problems in the wintering area, or during the migration may have negative effects on the species (3).
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Status in Egypt

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Migrant breeder, regular passage visitor and winter visitor?

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Spotted flycatcher

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The spotted flycatcher (Muscicapa striata) is a small passerine bird in the Old World flycatcher family. It breeds in most of Europe and in the Palearctic to Siberia, and is migratory, wintering in Africa and south western Asia. It is declining in parts of its range.

This is an undistinguished looking bird with long wings and tail. The adults have grey-brown upperparts and whitish underparts, with a streaked crown and breast, giving rise to the bird's common name.[2] The legs are short and black, and the bill is black and has the broad but pointed shape typical of aerial insectivores. Juveniles are browner than adults and have spots on the upperparts.

Taxonomy

The spotted flycatcher was described by the German naturalist Peter Simon Pallas in 1764 and given the binomial name Motacilla striata.[3][4][5] The genus name Muscicapa comes from the Latin musca, a fly and capere, to catch. The specific epithet striata is from the Latin striatus meaning striated.[6]

There are five recognised subspecies all of which winter in southern Africa. The breeding range is given below.[7][8]

  • M. s. striata (Pallas, 1764) – Europe to west Siberia, northwest Africa
  • M. s. inexpectata Dementiev, 1932 – Crimea (southern Ukraine)
  • M. s. neumanni Poche, 1904 – islands of the Aegean Sea through to the Middle East, the Caucasus, northern Iran and central Siberia
  • M. s. sarudnyi Snigirewski, 1928 – eastern Iran and Turkmenistan to the mountains of central Asia and north Pakistan
  • M. s. mongola Portenko, 1955 – Mongolia and south-central Siberia

Two other subspecies were previously recognised, M. s. tyrrhenica and M. s. balearica. However, a molecular phylogenetic study published in 2016 found that they were genetically similar to each other but significantly different from the other spotted flycatcher subspecies. The authors proposed that these insular subspecies should be considered as a separate species.[9] The International Ornithologists' Union has split the species and it is known as the Mediterranean flycatcher, while other taxonomic authorities still consider it to be conspecific.

Description

The spotted flycatcher is a small slim bird, around 14.5 cm (5.7 in) in length, with a weight of 14–20 g (0.49–0.71 oz). It has dull grey-brown upperparts and off-white underparts. The crown, throat and breast are streaked with brown while the wings and tail feathers are edged with paler thin margins.[10] The subspecies M. s. tyrrhenica has paler and warmer plumage on the upperparts, with more diffuse markings on the head and breast.[11] The sexes are alike. Juveniles have ochre-buff spots above and scaly brown spots below.[8]

Behaviour and ecology

Spotted flycatchers hunt from conspicuous perches, making sallies after passing flying insects, and often returning to the same perch. Their upright posture is characteristic.

Most passerines moult their primary flight feathers in sequence beginning near the body and proceeding outwards along the wing. The spotted flycatcher is unusual in replacing the outer flight feathers before those nearer the body.[12][13]

The flycatcher's call is a thin, drawn out soft and high pitched tssssseeeeeppppp, slightly descending in pitch.

Breeding

They are birds of deciduous woodlands, parks and gardens, with a preference for open areas amongst trees. They build an open nest in a suitable recess, often against a wall, and will readily adapt to an open-fronted nest box. 4-6 eggs are laid.

Most European birds cannot discriminate between their own eggs and those of other species. The exception to this are the hosts of the common cuckoo, which have had to evolve this skill as a protection against that nest parasite. The spotted flycatcher shows excellent egg recognition, and it is likely that it was once a host of the cuckoo, but became so good at recognising the intruder's eggs that it ceased to be victimised. A contrast to this is the dunnock, which appears to be a recent cuckoo host, since it does not show any egg discrimination.[14]

Predation

A study conducted at two different locations in southern England found that one third of nests were predated. The Eurasian jay (Garrulus glandarius) was the most common aerial predator, consuming both eggs and chicks. The domestic cat (Felis catus) predated a small fraction of the nests.[15]

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Egg, Collection Museum Wiesbaden

References

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Muscicapa striata". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2013.old-form url
  2. ^ "Spotted Flycatcher". Wildlife in Norfolk. Norfolk Wildlife Trust. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  3. ^ Mayr, Ernst; Cottrell, G. William (1986). Check-list of Birds of the World. Volume 11. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Museum of Comparative Zoology. p. 314.
  4. ^ Sherborn, C. Davies (1905). "The new species of birds in Vroeg's catalogue, 1764". Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections. 47: 332–341 [336]. Includes a transcript of the 1764 text.
  5. ^ Rookmaaker, L.C.; Pieters, F.F.J.M. (2000). "Birds in the sales catalogue of Adriaan Vroeg (1764) described by Pallas and Vosmaer". Contributions to Zoology. 69 (4): 271–277. doi:10.1163/18759866-06904005.
  6. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London, United Kingdom: Christopher Helm. pp. 260, 367. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4..
  7. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2016). "Chats, Old World flycatchers". World Bird List Version 6.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  8. ^ a b Taylor, B. "Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)". In del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J.; Christie, D.A.; de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions. Retrieved 17 June 2016.(subscription required)
  9. ^ Pons, J.-M.; Thibault, J.-C.; Aymí, R.; Grussu, M.; Muntaner, J.; Olioso, G.; Sunyer, J.R.; Touihri, M.; Fuchs, J. (2016). "The role of western Mediterranean islands in the evolutionary diversification of the spotted flycatcher Muscicapa striata, a long-distance migratory passerine species". Journal of Avian Biology. 47 (3): 386–398. doi:10.1111/jav.00859.
  10. ^ Snow, D.W.; Perrins, C.M., eds. (1998). "Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)". The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Concise Edition. Volume 2: Passerines. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 1349–1352. ISBN 0-19-850188-9.
  11. ^ Viganò, M.; Corso, A. (2015). "Morphological differences between two subspecies of spotted flycatcher Muscicapa striata (Pallas, 1764) (Passeriformes Muscicapidae)" (PDF). Biodiversity Journal. 6 (1): 271–284.
  12. ^ Jenni, Lukas; Winkler, Raffael (1994). Moult and Ageing of European Passerines. London, San Diego: Academic Press. ISBN 0-123-84150-X.
  13. ^ Svensson, Lars (1992). Identification Guide to European Passerines (4th ed.). Stockholm: L. Svensson. pp. 34, 222–223. ISBN 91-630-1118-2.
  14. ^ Davies, N. B.; Brooke, M. de L. (1989). "An experimental study of co-evolution between the Cuckoo, Cuculus canorus, and its hosts. I. Host egg discrimination". Journal of Animal Ecology. 58 (1): 207–224. doi:10.2307/4995. JSTOR 4995.
  15. ^ Stevens, D.K.; Anderson, G.Q.A.; Grice, P.V.; Norris, K.; Butcher, N. (2008). "Predators of Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata nests in southern England as determined by digital nest-cameras". Bird Study. 55 (2): 179–187. doi:10.1080/00063650809461520.

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Spotted flycatcher: Brief Summary

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The spotted flycatcher (Muscicapa striata) is a small passerine bird in the Old World flycatcher family. It breeds in most of Europe and in the Palearctic to Siberia, and is migratory, wintering in Africa and south western Asia. It is declining in parts of its range.

This is an undistinguished looking bird with long wings and tail. The adults have grey-brown upperparts and whitish underparts, with a streaked crown and breast, giving rise to the bird's common name. The legs are short and black, and the bill is black and has the broad but pointed shape typical of aerial insectivores. Juveniles are browner than adults and have spots on the upperparts.

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