Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Syrian Woodpecker: Individual Plumage Variation

This female Syrian Woodpecker Dendrocopos syriacus was photographed by Josip Ledinscak in Nasice, Croatia, in December 2011. This species is easily confused with the co-occurring relative Great Spotted Woodpecker D. major and the two will even interbreed. Note that the undertail colour on this bird is rather red, not pink as it should be for a classic Syrian. But I do not believe that this indicates a hybrid. I believe that it is merely individual variation in plumage. However, there is always the chance that birds like this are descendants of ancestors that hybridized generations ago and that mixed features re-appear in subsequent generations, but this cannot be proved in the field. In fact, many Syrians and Great Spotteds show such atypical features in areas where they do not co-occur and thus cannot have hybridized.

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