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Bird news from Vietnam, from Vietnam's resident and visiting birders.

20 March 2015

Spring migration : slowly but surely

Spring is an exciting time of year as tons of birds make their way through East Tonkin to their breeding grounds in China, Russia... Spring birding in Hanoi is not about quantity of birds but rather about quality, diversity - if you devote enough time and perseverance.

Recent short strolls on my favorite wooded and scrubby patches along the Red River produced some nice photo opportunities of some fine examples of different (but expected) migrants/winter visitors.

Birds included, among other, a mixed flock of Grey-backed and Japanese Thrushes, one female Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, some Hainan Blue Flycatchers, one flock of Ashy Minivets, 2 Rufous-tailed Robins, dozens of "Blyth’s Leaf Warbler" cf P. claudiae and some Sulphur-breasted Warblers and best of all: a fleeting glimpse of a Pale-footed Bush Warbler - a good local rarity (hmmm, maybe not…).  This species is extremely shy and is a great skulker. I just realized that I have overlooked it for a long time. During winter it is almost impossible to locate but in spring its typical song helps to find it easily. It is a loud, explosive zip..zip-tschuk-o-tschuk which reminds me of the one of the Cetti’s Warbler - a well-known song amongst European birders. I located 2-3 songsters in scrubby grasslands along the Red River and caught a glimpse of one. It was impossible to get a clean view - leave alone a clean shot. But I took some recordings of call and song which I put on xeno-canto. I also heard 2 Manchurian Bush Warblers and 1 Siberian Rubythroat singing in thickets. Spring!

Apart from songbirds, I scored 1 fly-over Purple Heron, 1 Grey-headed Lapwing and 1 Eurasian Woodcock (flushed from just a few feet away as usual).

Song of two species of Bush Warblers recorded recently:

-the explosive one of the Pale-footed Bush Warbler

-the melodious one of the Manchurian Bush Warbler

Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher (f)

Black-naped Monarch (m)

Black-naped Monarch (m)

Hainan Blue Flycatcher (m)

Cyornis sp. Flycatcher (f)

Sulphur-breasted Warbler

Sulphur-breasted Warbler

"Blyth's Leaf Warbler" cf P. claudiae


  1. Hi all,

    Very nice pics and records.
    I believe the Rufous-g Fly to be a Taiga Flycatcher, and the Blyth's surely is an Eastern Crowned Warbler?!


    1. Dear Falk, the leaf-warbler does not seem to have yellowish under tail coverts and has a conspicuous double wingbar. Why would you think it is Eastern Crowned? As for the flycatcher, can you explain? With the rufous edges to secondaries and tertails, and the very grey sides of the face, amongst others, I would lean towards rufous-gorgeted too.

    2. Hi Tom, You are quite right with what you state for Rufous-g Fly, however from my very personal experience the rufous never extends towards the bill/lower mandible (which it always does in Taigas) but forms only a smallish patch along the throat. Grey head a normal feat of male Taiga Flys. It does look a bit unusual though, I agree.

      The warbler was a straight, gut-feeling, this-is-a- Crowned Warbler. Slightly longish, largish appearance compared to the smaller, stockier Blyth's (whichever form we are talking about). I think I can see a bit of yellow around the vent, some birds have more some less yellow. The wing bars are puzzling indeed. Maybe I'm just off the marks here, it just looks good for EC, but then again you were in the field right next to them as it appears. Have you noticed any calls?


  2. Hi Falk, Tom,

    Indeed the orange extension on throat is unusual. I searched on the internet and found 1 female (amongst tons of males) showing the same pattern (i.e. a full orange throat and not only an orange patch below throat), here : https://www.flickr.com/photos/himalayan_wonder-9/12403265154/

    There is also a quite characteristic feature: the narrow white forehead over lores to eyes! Moreover never a Taiga will show such warm brown upperparts - I think.

    Concerning the phyllosc, it showed nuthatch-like feeding behaviour.