A déjà vu moment for me at the Randwick Environmental Centre! Four months ago I saw a Willie Wagtail and a Restless Flycatcher there and this week I saw another Willie Wagtail and Flycatcher darting about. At first, I thought they might be the exact same birds, but then I realised that the flycatcher was smaller, about the size of a spinebill, and that it wasn’t quite so glossily black.
It perched briefly near me while it scanned the area above:
Its broad beak and whiskers were silhouetted against a break in the canopy. Later, it turned towards me, allowing me to see its grey under-tail feathers:
It then turned to face in front, showing its profile with a hint of a crest at the back of its head.
Finally it turned to scan the area beyond:
And then it was off, pursuing its next insect morsel. The insects were mostly in the tree’s upper levels, where it was hard to get a clear view through the branches, so I didn’t get any better photos.
That left me to ponder which flycatcher I had actually seen. I consulted three Australian bird guides and quickly decided it was a male, either a Leaden Flycatcher or a Satin Flycatcher. But which?
Graham Pizzey’s Field Guide points to the Leaden having a colour variation below the eye, which I couldn’t detect in these photos, and a straight line demarcation between the black and white on its chest, which Photo 3 shows. However Photo 2 shows a more curved line like the Satin.
The Slaters’ Field Guide doesn’t distinguish the shape of black/white demarcation line, focusing instead on the blue-grey hue of the Leaden in contrast to the midnight blue of the Satin. But it was a dull overcast day where satin effects wouldn’t have shown, so I was reluctant to rely on that.
The Peter Menkhorst et al Bird Guide also mentions the black/white demarcation and colour differentiation, as well as the Leaden’s wing and tail being brown-grey which shows in Photo 4. But the real decider for me was that this book also shows the Satin’s under-tail area as blackish, unlike the pale grey seen in Photos 2 and 3.
So I’m satisfied that it was a Leaden Flycatcher (Myiagra rubecula), a fairly common species found over the northern and eastern parts of Australia, up to a couple of hundred kilometres inland. The female has a rufous-orange throat, but is otherwise similar to the male.
For comparison, below is the female Restless Flycatcher I saw last time in the tree next door. You can see that she has a white or pale buff throat and chest. She’s also bigger, about 20 cms long, whereas the Leaden Flycatcher is only about 15 cms.
I said earlier that there was a Willie Wagtail around as well. Here it is:
Despite the title of this post, I didn’t consult my venerable 1969 edition of Neville Cayley’s What Bird Is That? Cayley's notes are still very helpful, but the illustrations mostly aren’t up to the later books for differentiating between similar species, and he can’t be expected to include later changes in naming and classification.