Until recently considered to constitute several species, with splits of althaea and minula (with margelanica), and this may ultimately be more appropriate. Nuclear DNA, however, fails to support clades based on mtDNA, and, although althaea is relatively well marked, characters used to define species (and subspecies) limits prove too weak for taxa to pass tests of diagnosability#R. Treatment of these forms under a single species currently therefore inevitable#R. Geographical variation largely clinal, race halimodendri intergrading widely with nominate in S Siberia. Proposed races caucasica (Turkey, Caucasus and N Iran) and zagrossiensis (SW Iran) barely separable from nominate; similarly, telengitica (Russian Altai and Mongolia) included in margelanica. Proposed race snigirewskii (Turkmenistan) largely inseparable from minula, and jaxartica (S Kazakhstan) falls within range of clinal variation of halimodendri; poorly differentiated chuancheica (upper R Huang He, S of Gobi, in N China) included in margelanica. Birds from Alai and Pamir Ranges E to Tien Shan sometimes separated as race monticola, but not reliably distinguishable from those in rest of range of althaea. Six subspecies recognized.
Food and feeding
Status and conservation
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