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Thread: Help Me Identify a Bird

  1. #1
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    Default Help Me Identify a Bird

    I hope you can help me as there is a bird that I see quite frequently which I just cannot identify. I live in Portugal (Santa Iria de Azoia just outside Lisbon in sight of the Tagus estuary and the nearby marshland). We moved here last December (I mean 2017) and several times during the night we witnessed a large bird flying over our house towards the river and back again. It disappeared during summer and we thought it had gone for good but we have seen it again lately. I am at my wits end trying to identify it as wherever I look the only night birds listed in Portugal are various owls and nightjars and I am certain this is neither (we do see owls here sometimes and they are nothing like this, nightjars are simply too small). I wonder if this is something blown off course or a day bird behaving strangely. Below I include the best description we have.

    Size: Largish - bigger than a raven, smaller than a heron
    Shape: Long thick wings, body is slim and shortish with a tail half the length (not wedge-shaped)
    Colour: White/beige underneath, possibly brown on top or maybe beige but we mainly see it from below at night so could be deceived
    Beak: ?
    Legs: Can't see them, presumably not long
    Noise: not sure yet
    Flying style: Flies higher than 4th story (and sometimes much higher), purposefully as though from one place to another. Lots of flapping, no gliding, soaring or hovering
    Habitat: Flies back and forth over our streets several times a night, as though from one place to another, presumably from scrubland behind our flat to the estuary or the riverside and back
    Time seen: So far between 10.30pm until 5am - only in winter so far
    Habits: Always on its own

    Any suggestions you make would be gratefully received. No-one so far has been able to make even a guess. Or even if you know any authority body that might have some answers. I've tried websites that are supposed to identify birds but this doesn't fit any of them which makes me think it must be something that is either not supposed to be where it was or is not supposed to behave like this.

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    it's an ominous cormorant

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    Quote Originally Posted by sufi View Post
    it's an ominous cormorant
    Aaargh, what's that? I'm not getting the joke. Is that a real bird or is it some kind of legendary curse thing like a banshee or what? I don't understand! I didn't think I could become more confused on this....

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    Actually, this thread should be in nature shouldn't it? Can someone move it for me please?

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    It could be Luke's purple heron, last seen in Regent's canal in 2003 (allegedly).

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    it's gotta be, i reckon
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cormorant
    just your description made it ominous!

    I've seen them flying that way over these parts, and i guess your riverine environment is suitable

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    Clearly a psychopomp. Write your will.

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    The funny thing about this thread is Rich has been going on about this cormorant for about a year now on facebook and all his expert twitcher mates tell him its a cormorant but he's just not having it. He's determined to find a sexier explanation. I really admire this refusal to bend to mere facts and the reality principle

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    Hence my own much earlier transformation of a cormorant into the mythical purple heron.

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    it's gotta be, i reckon
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cormorant
    just your description made it ominous!
    No, read the description above, from what we can see of this it is beige or even white while cormorants are dark. Also, cormorants are day birds as far as I know but we only see this during the night. Furthermore cormorants fly low as a rule and flap their wings very fast. This bird flies either high or very high - it does flap its wings a lot but not as fast as a cormorant. Also it's a completely different shape from a cormorant.

    Quote Originally Posted by luka View Post
    The funny thing about this thread is Rich has been going on about this cormorant for about a year now on facebook and all his expert twitcher mates tell him its a cormorant but he's just not having it. He's determined to find a sexier explanation. I really admire this refusal to bend to mere facts and the reality principle
    Nah, you're getting confused here Luka*. There are two birds, one of which I saw the one and only time about a week ago in a tree near a pond in the park on other side of the river. Some guy (dunno who the fuck he was to be honest, could be an expert I suppose) said it was a cormorant and I thought that it wasn't, but then I walked around and saw it from the other side and it was.

    The other bird is something that we saw at night several times last year and for the identity of which no-one has been able to come up with any suggestion at all. We saw it maybe five or six times last winter and it disappeared - we assumed, never to be seen again. The thing is that in Portugal there are only two basic types of nocturnal bird and it's definitely neither of them. We thought it was some kind of thing that wasn't supposed to be here and that it had maybe been blown off course. Once it was gone we thought it had gone for good... but two nights ago, to our huge shock we saw it again (twice) and so last night we went on the balcony again and waited for it again and sure enough we saw it once again. I reckon we'll see it tonight too cos it seems to be a creature of habit and that habit is flying slowly over our street every now and again. In fact, we'll try and take a photo of it tonight - Liza almost got one yesterday - though I guess it will just be a white blob even if we do.
    I've emailed the description above to a few organisations such as the RSPB and others to see if they have any ideas. Anything at all.

    It could be Luke's purple heron, last seen in Regent's canal in 2003 (allegedly).
    We have seen a purple heron in the marsh by the estuary. Lots of wading birds in fact including the following; grey heron, great egrets, small egrets, flamingos, spoonbills, curlews, avocets, stilts and possibly some storks at one point. We've also seen ospreys and ravens, a couple of owls and something that might just have been a vulture although I'm not totally convinced on that one.

    *Oh by the way, I read the book that you kindly sent me through the post the other day - it was really really incredibly shit

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    I'm only joking about the book Luka... I didn't bother to read it.

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    No seriously I really enjoyed the book that I have read, I haven't started on the other yet.
    But the bird thing is driving me crazy. It's weird because it's not the complexity or the large number of options that are flummoxing us, it's the total opposite. When it flies over it's high and relatively slow so we can observe it for quite a long time and make out its details - although sometimes it's quite to hard to picture afterwards (I guess that's something to do with how memory works though, not a function of this type of bird). When I put them into any bird identifier type thing it very quickly gets to a point where none of the options you can enter are correct... it basically boils down to the fact that according to any info I can find there just aren't any birds at all that are anything like this one. Certainly not in Europe or North Africa or at night. Just have to hope that one of the experts I've emailed comes up with something that at least points us in the direction to explore.

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    I was only teasing of course. Twitter was always my furst port of call for these questions. I'd just address them to various experts there and always got my answer in minutes

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    Quote Originally Posted by luka View Post
    I was only teasing of course. Twitter was always my furst port of call for these questions. I'd just address them to various experts there and always got my answer in minutes
    I know. And I meant to withhold discussion of the books later when I have read them in full and made more effort to understand them. I will say that, at the moment though, I love the word choice and the shapes of the sentences, the alliteration and the rhymes and the messing around and so on. So on a micro level I really enjoy it... but I have to admit that, on a larger, macro level, I have no idea what's going on. I don't understand it yet, it's gonna take more than snatched readings on the train into town to penetrate more deeply. But I will enjoy doing that.
    But back to the bird, I think it's something that is confounding those kind of searches you get on the internet cos I think it's something that is in the wrong place or behaving in the wrong way. I bet if an actual expert saw it or even heard a description s/he would most likely nail it straight away. I don't think it's a rare bird as such, it's more likely one that is confused by being blown off course or global warning or the weird chemicals coming out of the factory etc or perhaps it's just a pet escaped from someone's house.
    Last edited by IdleRich; 23-01-2019 at 12:34 AM.

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