Rufous-tailed Robin admitted to Category A of the British List

Rufous-tailed Robin: Fair Isle, Shetland. (Photo: Deryk Shaw)

Rufous-tailed Robin: Fair Isle, Shetland. (Photo: Deryk Shaw) Rufous-tailed Robin: Fair Isle, Shetland. (Photo: Deryk Shaw)

The British Ornithologists' Union Records Committee (BOURC) has admitted Rufous-tailed Robin (Luscinia sibilans) to Category A of the British List following the occurrence of a first-winter bird on Fair Isle, Shetland on 23 October 2004 (sight record, photographed, trapped).

Rufous-tailed Robin is a long distance migrant breeding in the Siberian taiga from the lower Yenesei valley in the west, across the Russian Far East to Northern Mongolia. It winters largely in southern China and eastern Southeast Asia. Within its known breeding range it is relatively scarce, but breeds within the range of other known vagrants such as Siberian Blue Robin and Pallas's Warbler.

The species is uncommon in the cage bird trade, and is known to be difficult to breed with no breeding reported since 2001. European import bans in place in autumn 2004 due to the Avian Infleunza outbreak in the Far East has curbed the trade of wild birds from the Far East to Europe, so legal channels of import for this and other eastern species were closed before and during the period of this occurrence. Illegal imports into the EU cannot be totally discounted, but the balance of opinion in this case, was firmly in favour of genuine vagrancy.

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This is the first record for the Western Palearctic. One subsequent report: Bialystock, Poland on 30-31 December 2005.

Interestingly, this species was predicted by Ian Wallace as a likely vagrant to occur in Europe in his Palearctic Passerine Predictions paper in British Birds in 1980.

Eric Meek, Chairman of BOURC commented "Siberian vagrants always provide their finders with a special sort of thrill, and the excitement of this particular find has already been well documented. An inveterate skulker of forest floors, most birders, if they have encountered this species at all, will have seen it at one of the Far East's migration watch points such as Beidaihe. That this one turned up on Fair Isle, where forest floors are few and far between, at least gave the observers a better chance of prolonged views. Long considered a possibility for the British List, members of the BOURC were unanimous in their agreement that Rufous-tailed Robin should be added to Category A of the British List".

The British List now stands at 573 species (Category A = 553; Category B = 10; Category C = 10.


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Written by: BOURC/BBRC