More on the Ngor peregrine
A long day of working restricted my birding to an evening on the internet. It is stating nothing new to say that the combination of digital photography, web resources and experts willing to answer email queries is a potent tool for bird identification. My blogging co-author Flemming’s photo of a peregrine on the Hotel Ngor in Dakar persuaded me to look for the first time more closely at the bird, from the photos. You could say “the peregrine”, as what may be the same bird has been perching on the same side of the hotel for at least six years and catching terns over the sea, going on records and older photos on the web here and here. It is the only regular location for sightings of the species, though there are a scatter of records from elsewhere in the country, where people are looking less often.
Of the peregrine sub-species, several could occur in Senegal. Borrow and Demey’s Birds of Western Africa states that most records in the region refer to calidus, the tundra sub-species from above the Arctic circle in extreme north-east Europe and further east. Moving south and west is the nominate peregrinus over Europe south to the Pyrenees, Brookei in the Mediterranean and north Africa and, depending on your taxonomy, pelegrinoides (often separated as Barbary falcon) and maybe an atlantis form in North Africa. Calidus, if the only regular migrant sub-species south of the Sahara, is therefore leap-frogging two or three sub-species. The sub-saharan breeding sub-species minor starts in Sierra Leone. The excellent Go South web site has a table showing the main differences to guide observations in in Morocco, where the possibilities are particularly complicated.
The Ngor bird has no brown on the head or salmon colour on the lower body, though the reflected hotel paint is confusing. It also has fine markings rather than heavy streaking on the lower body and a grey rather than blackish head. All this would make it calidus/peregrinus. Differences then can be slight, as the two species are thought to be a cline (Dick Forsman “The Raptors of Europe and the Middle East”), i.e. although at both ends of the range they are recognisably different, the change over the range is gradual. Calidus adults are rather whiter and more finely marked below and with a narrower moustache and so bigger white cheeck. This whiter example from Djoudj, Senegal in 2008, in the African Bird Club image gallery ( identified as “presumably Calidus”), is a better candidate for calidus on these criteria. So perhaps the Ngor bird is from further west, perhaps Scandinavia, than the Djoudj bird, but this is being more precise than really possible. There is a nice comparison of the three migrant sub sub-species here. Morel reports calidus from feathers dropped from a bird at Djoudj in 1974, so the Ngor bird is, conservatively, the third for Senegal of calidus/peregrinus and other sub-species remain unrecorded, or unpublished. Many thanks to Dick Forsman and Patrick Bergier for answering questions.