Russet Sparrow

Thanks for these responses and particularly to Dave for pointing out the photos on the HK Wildlife website. I have been collecting photos of this year's Long Valley birds as I know the Records Committee will want to review them.

The Records Committee review of Russet Sparrow records started more than one year ago and initially included all historical records of Russet Sparrow to the end of 2010. These, excluding the 2011 LV records, are summarised by month in the attached table

Month        J        F        M        A        M        J        J        A        S        O        N        D
‘Wild’        -        -        1*        1*        -        -        -        -          3          1          2         2*
‘Esc’        2     3(8)     2(3)     1            1        -        -        -        -        -        3(7)        1

The number of records in each month is given with the number of birds in brackets.

As you can see from this table

1. The records are fairly evenly spaced by month over the year, not just in October and November.
2. The majority of records and of birds were originally recorded or subsequently accepted as 'Esc' or ex-captive.
3. The birds marked with a * were subsequently reviewed by the RC and thought likely to refer to ex-captive birds.

So it's fairly clear that, prior to the 2011 Long Valley birds (and now 2012), the overwhelming majority of birds were ex-captive or thought to be. All of the records from 1999 up to the end of 2010 were ex-captive. The 2011 Long Valley birds were also assessed and at least one showed obvious signs of captivity. The Records Committee felt they could not accept a group of birds when at least one was obviously ex-captive.

As a result of this investigation, the RC concluded it could not continue to accept Russet Sparrow as a clear Cat I bird. As everyone knows, it takes a conservative view when looking at the distinction between Cat I and Cat III. In the old Avifauna system, the RC could cop out by using Cat B 'probably wild' but no such category now exists (because it is a cop-out). Russet Sparrow is a well-known species in bird markets and cages, also for mass release.

I think you can see from this analysis that the RC makes a serious attempt to review all past records when taking a decision like this. It is not taken lightly but only after an assessment lasting more than one year. They will no doubt do the same with this year's Long Valley birds, but history indicates that Russet Sparrows which arrive in flocks of this size have previously been ex-captive.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 28/10/2012 22:04 ]