Changes to the British List (30 June 2022)

The British Ornithologists’ Union Records Committee (BOURC) has made the following changes to the British List.

The following species has been added to Category A of the British List:

Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus
One, second-calendar-year, Hillwell, Mainland, Shetland and Fair Isle, 1 September 2019.

Photo (right) © Tom Gale, Hillwell, 1 September 2019

The appearance of an odd buzzard, seen first at the south end of Mainland Shetland and then on Fair Isle, confused the observers, with it being identified at the time as either a pale Common Buzzard Buteo buteo or a European Honey-buzzard Pernis apivorus. Fortunately, the bird was well photographed and a very thorough critical analysis of the images revealed that it was instead a Long-legged Buzzard B. rufinus. This analysis also allowed the bird to be aged to second-calendar-year, and identified as belonging to the nominate subspecies B. r. rufinus.

Long-legged Buzzards of the nominate subspecies are increasingly being observed as vagrants in northern continental Europe, with the species a predicted addition to the British List (Birding World 26: 332-343). Based on this established vagrancy pattern and that the species is rare in captivity, the record was accepted by BOURC as the first British record, and the species added to Category A of the British List.

It should be placed after Rough-legged Buzzard Buteo lagopus on the British List.

Long-legged Buzzard is polytypic with two subspecies: nominate rufinus breeding in central Europe to central Asia and migrating to winter in north Africa; and cirtensis being a resident breeder in Africa from Mauritania to Egypt and the Arabian Peninsular.

The following subspecies has been added to the British List:

East Siberian (White) Wagtail Motacilla alba ocularis
One, first-calendar-year or older, Westing, Unst, Shetland, 25 October 2020.

Photo (right) © Mark Sutton, Westing, Unst, Shetland, 25 October 2020

The occurrence of an ‘alba’ wagtail with a fine dark eyestripe on a beach in Shetland in late October alerted the observer to the bird’s Eastern Palearctic origin, and was one of two subspecies with this feature: Motacilla alba ocularis or M. a. lugens. Subsequent analysis of photographs revealed a wholly grey rump and uppertail coverts, a very narrow eyestripe not broadening at its rear end, dark bases to the apparently newly-moulted adult-type median coverts and a broad dark bar at the base of the secondaries which, in combination, indicated ocularis and excluded lugens.

M. a. ocularis has been observed as a vagrant in both the USA and Europe and the subspecies is an unlikely escape from captivity. These observations, combined with the location of its discovery in Shetland in late autumn, a prime site and date for a far eastern vagrant, resulted in the record being unanimously accepted by BOURC, and the subspecies being added to the British List.

White Wagtail is polytypic with nine subspecies across Europe, Africa, India and Asia to north-west North America. Some subspecies are highly migratory moving large distances south in winter, with vagrants found as far as South America and Australia, with eastern forms occasionally reaching Western Europe.

Other decisions:

Little Egret Egretta garzetta
New first record: one, adult male, Winkton, River Avon, Christchurch, Dorset, shot, 3 July 1822, specimen now at Horniman Museum, London (Accession Number NH. 83.3.120).

Photo (right): stock image by Chris Paul (Somerset, 2 May 2012), CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

An inspection of the Hart Collection of bird specimens at the Horniman Museum, London revealed the presence of a Little Egret whose date of collection preceded the earliest published record. This prompted an investigation into the BOURC archive and published BOURC reports which indicated that no official first British record for the species had been documented. The Winkton bird was judged against published BOURC criteria for historical records (Ibis 160: 936-942) and found to be acceptable. Thus it becomes the first British record of Little Egret.

Little Egret is polytypic with two subspecies: nominate garzetta from Britain, Europe and Africa across the Palearctic to Japan and the Philippines; and nigripes in the Sundas, Australia and New Zealand.

This change will be published as part of the BOURC’s 55th report due to be published in Ibis in January 2023. Upon publication of these changes, the British List stands at 630 species (Category A = 612; Category B = 8; Category C = 10).

View the British List