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The identification and distribution of the enigmatic Large-billed Reed Warbler Acrocephalus orinus.

Journal article
Authors Lars Svensson
Robert Prys-Jones
Pamela C. Rasmussen
Urban Olsson
Published in Ibis
Volume 152
Issue 2
Pages 323-334
ISSN 0019-1019
Publication year 2010
Published at Department of Zoology
Pages 323-334
Language en
Subject categories Microbiology


We re-evaluate the characteristics of the little-known Large-billed Reed Warbler Acrocephalus orinus based on plumage and biometrical comparisons of 10 newly discovered specimens of A. orinus with a large sample of Blyth’s Reed Warbler Acrocephalus dumetorum, the species most closely resembling A. orinus. Using specimens whose identity was verified by DNA analyses, we found that the most important criteria for identifying orinus are its long and comparatively broad bill, with typically uniformly dark upper mandible, and on average longer tarsi and claws with a thin and pointed hind claw. In contrast, previously suggested differences in wing formula, plumage colour and shape of flight-feathers are very minor, variable and seem of limited use for identification of orinus. Graphical analysis of hind claw length against bill to skull length should assist researchers in locating museum or live specimens of orinus that otherwise might be overlooked as dumetorum, and multivariate analysis unambiguously separates the two species based on our present dataset. A review of the scattered literature and specimen records suggests that the breeding distribution of orinus lies between southeastern Kazakhstan and northeastern Afghanistan, within the breeding range of dumetorum, but that orinus may well winter predominantly east of the main wintering range of dumetorum. Further evidence to support this assessment of the species’ breeding range was obtained in June 2009, with the discovery of a population in the Pamir Mountains of Afghanistan.

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