North Queensland Naturalist 51: 38-49

Revisiting history: the case of the Wet Tropics Yellow-legged Flycatcher

 

Elinor C. Scambler, Lloyd Nielsen and Ben J. Wallace

Abstract

Unconfirmed field reports of the Australian Yellow-legged Flycatcher Kempiella griseoceps kempi in the Wet Tropics present unresolved issues in some formal and informal publications on north Queensland birds, although there are no verified specimens or photographs south of Cape York Peninsula rainforest. Using published and unpublished sources, we review the basis of records in the Wet Tropics from 1931 to 1987 and consider the materials and experience available to assist observer identifications, and their reliance on prior reports from the region. The descriptions of foraging behaviour, calls, plumage, and bill and leg colours of supposed Yellow-legged Flycatchers are consistent with features of – and arguably were – adult or immature Northern Pale-yellow Robins Tregellasia capito nana. We report the withdrawal of one longstanding Yellow-legged Flycatcher record, and recommend that all remaining records in the Wet Tropics should be rejected and excluded from accounts of their distribution and behaviour. Future field observations in the region would benefit from improved documentation of variations in bill and plumage colours of immature Pale-yellow Robins.