Pipits without a name
UKARUMPA, PNG — I didn’t manage to see very many birds on a brief walkabout this morning, but I did get a few marginal photographs of two of our grassland passerines.
The sexually dimorphic Pied Bushchat (Saxicola caprata) is a member of the huge Old World muscicapid assemblage. This is a male; females are grayer and streaky. The birds frequent open perches in grasslands, reminding me of North American bluebirds. Behind this bird is a sweet potato garden, which feeds a Papua New Guinean family.
I flushed a couple of pipits as I walked. One lingered on the fence and allowed me time for a few pictures, much to my surprise.
No one seems quite sure what to call these little pipits. They are part of a complex of similar pipits that occur across much of the Old World, and species limits within the group remain unclear. The New Guinea birds are variously called Richard’s Pipit (Anthus novaeseelandiae), Australasian Pipit (A. novaeseelandiae), and Australian Pipit (A. australis). An overview of the larger problem is posted here; scroll down to the third post. I believe, however, that this post is inaccurate with regard to the New Guinea situation. We have two pipit species in New Guinea, and the post confuses them. The post indicates that the Alpine Pipit, A. gutturalis, belongs to the “Richard’s” complex, but Alpine Pipits occur at very high elevations and differ significantly from our representative of the “Richard’s” complex (i.e., the bird pictured here).