27 Nov 2012

Dark-sided Flycatcher (Muscicapa sibirica)

The flycatcher formerly known as "Sooty Flycatcher" is a passage migrant through Hong Kong, "uncommon in autumn" and "rare in spring".

I came across one in some wet woodland this morning, associating with an active group of Japanese White-eyes.  First impressions of an upright, small brown flycatcher called to mind Asian Brown, Grey-streaked or Dark-sided.  

Once I decided that there really was some streaking on the flanks, not just due to the bedraggled appearance of the bird, I was able to dismiss Asian Brown Flycatcher.  My personal prejudice is that Grey-streaked always seems to pop up along the waterside on Po Toi Island, and Dark-sided is the one I've usually encountered in woods in the New Territories.  Not very scientific, I know.

Dark-sided Flycatcher (Muscicapa sibirica)

Mark Brazil's "Birds of East Asia" is useful for differentiating this trio of flycatchers, but even he noted in relation to Dark-sided that.."Underparts darker than Asian Brown or Grey-streaked, but variable and confusing."

Grey-streaked has "more clearly defined streaks" according to Clive Viney in "The Birds of Hong Kong and South China" …"and the wing tip of adults almost reaches the tip of the tail."

The posture of the bird can affect the position of the wing tips relative to the tail....but I think it is the DEFINITION of the streaks that nails it for me.

Here are pics of Grey-streaked Flycatcher from Po Toi; -

Grey-streaked Flycatcher (Muscicapa griseisticta)

A big drop in temperature over the last couple of days has distressed many insects, and when this happens they tend to drop to the ground. On my way back to where I'd left the car, I came across two more flycatchers, both down on the stone path. Only the one on the right of this picture hung around long enough to give me a decent view.

He really WAS more "Sooty" than the other Dark-sided I had seen earlier.

And finally, a female Daurian Redstart in the "also snapped" category.

Daurian Redstart (Phoenicurus auroreus)

Looks like the waterproof camera cover is working okay !


  1. Great photos John. A very obliging Grey-sided or Dark-streaked Fly. :-)

  2. Great and instructive series here John. I find the difference in bill size (Dark-sided is truly dinky!) is one of the things I look for first. Jizz-wise, Grey-streaked reminds me of Spotted - long-bodied and large-headed, whereas Dark-sided usually looks rotund and cute, as your pics show well. Down here in Malaysia, Dark-sided is rather a common non-br visitor, whereas Grey-streaked is scarce in Borneo and not yet recorded in the Peninsula.

    We do occasionally get streak-breasted Asian Browns here too (which are not Brown-streaked!) - see this one for instance: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-Z6lUkkkudL4/UKjtd_dDicI/AAAAAAAAFEo/uEyp4DiEPx0/s1600/lolo+%281+of+1%29-58.jpg

    1. Dave,

      Many Thanks for the input ! I'm not familiar with Spotted Flycatcher - I wasn't a birder in the UK... but I certainly agree that Dark-sided with the petite bill looks rather cuter than Grey-streaked.

      As for Asian Browns with streaked breasts.... I just hope they don't start turning up here in south China, or it will all be too confusing.

  3. Like the top photo John.......

    I struggle a lot in autumn with Sooty/Dark Sided vs Asian Brown...... what is this one? at http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-tyVsTM7Hf8Q/UGldeP_aC1I/AAAAAAAANkk/FRNQWe82IVg/s1600/_MG_1146.jpg

    I had it down as an Asian Brown, I still haven't gotten a photo of a Sooty yet.

    1. Hi Stu,

      I'm still struggling with these, too... but I think you're right that it IS Asian Brown....

  4. Hi John,

    Great series of photos and a really useful guide on flycatcher ID.

    Keep up the great blog