Female Pied Wheatear: the problem of identification
Difficulties encountered in identifying the third British example of the Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe leucomela), trapped at Portland Bill, Dorset, in October 1954 (Ash, 1955), suggest the need for some clarification of the distinguishing features of Palaearctic wheatears, and particularly of the specific characters of female leucomela in the field and in the hand. The differences in the English and scientific names used by various authors are liable to cause considerable confusion for anyone referring to the literature (see Appendix Il). Field-descriptions of most of the female wheatears are scanty : a slight but misleading discrepancy in The Handbook, between accounts of field-characters and plumage of the female Pied Wheatear in autumn, was ultimately explained by finding that the first British specimen had been wrongly sexed (see below). Other reference books available at Portland (including Dresser, 1902 ; Ramsay, 1923 ; Peterson et al., 1954) were insuffcient for the certain exclusion of all other Oenanthe species which might conceivably occur as stragglers in Britain. It is hoped that this account may help anyone confronted with a similar problem in the future.