aba events

Introducing the 2017 Bird of the Year!

It's the moment that surely dozens of you have been looking forward to for hours now, the announcement… [read more]

Introducing the 2017 Bird of the Year! Introducing the 2017 Bird of the Year!

Photo Quiz: December 2016 Birding

The December 2016 Birding is winging its way to ABA members right now. While we wait for the mail to… [read more]

Photo Quiz: December 2016 Birding Photo Quiz: December 2016 Birding

The Kaufman Challenge, v. 0.5

What could be simpler? Learn the names of fifty plants and animals around your home. That’s all there… [read more]

The Kaufman Challenge, v. 0.5 The Kaufman Challenge, v. 0.5

It’s OK to Talk to Strangers – at Least if They Have Binoculars

I was desperate to find another birder, but generally speaking there are few to be found in the Black… [read more]

It’s OK to Talk to Strangers – at Least if They Have Binoculars It's OK to Talk to Strangers - at Least if They Have Binoculars

Open Mic – The Endangered Species Act and Birds: A Wild Success?

At the Mic: Jason A. Crotty The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is difficult to evaluate, as its success… [read more]

Open Mic – The Endangered Species Act and Birds:  A Wild Success? Open Mic - The Endangered Species Act and Birds:  A Wild Success?

Announcing the 2016 ABA Awards Recipients!

The ABA Board of Directors recently voted to make three presentations of ABA Awards in 2016. The awardees… [read more]

Announcing the 2016 ABA Awards Recipients! Announcing the 2016 ABA Awards Recipients!
Nikon Monarch 7

Rare Bird Alert: February 17, 2017


Continuing rare birds in the ABA Area should all be familiar to those who read these posts regularly. The Pennsylvania Black-backed Oriole continues to be seen into this week. Rose-throated Becard (ABA Code 3) and Golden-crowned Warbler are still in Texas. The Yellow-legged Gull (4) in Newfoundland was seen again this week by many, as was the continuing Streak-backed Oriole (4) in Arizona. In Oregon, the Brambling (3) can still be found with a little effort. And the Bananaquit (4) and at least 2 Western Spindalis (3) continue in Florida. As is typical this time of year, there are a number of Pink-footed Geese (4) and Barnacle Geese (4) scattered throughout the northeast.

For the second straight year, a Redwing (4) was discovered in Victoria, British Columbia. THis bird turned up this week at the exact spot where one spent several months in 2015-2016, and where one was seen briefly in 2013. This represents the 3rd record for the province, though there is suspicion that this is the same bird returning for a second year, and is perhaps the same bird from 2013.

Photo: Gordon Hart

One 1st record to report this week, and it was a doozy. In Colleton, South Carolina, a Great Kiskadee was discovered by a photographer, and has been present for many birders well into the week. This is the farthest east in the ABA Area that this species has been seen before, but a pair of them spent several weeks in South Dakota in the winter of 2015-2016.

Staying in the theme of extralimital birds from the south-central part of the ABA Area, a Crested Caracara was photographed in Delta, Michigan, in the Upper Peninsula.

Wisconsin had a Slaty-backed Gull (3) in Milwaukee.

Good for Nevada was a Eurasian Wigeon in Pahrump, Nye.

As this post was being assembled, a report came of a Fork-tailed Flycatcher  (3) in Texas City, Texas.

In Illinois, a Gyrfalcon was seen in McLean.

Noteworthy for Nova Scotia was a Townsend’s Solitaire at Charlos Cove.

In New York, a Great Gray Owl was seen in St. Lawrence.

A surprising find in the winter, a Magnificent Frigatebird was photographed at Back Bay NWR, Virginia Beach,Virginia, not far from where the massive alcid flock produced an Ancient Murrelet a few days prior, making for what is perhaps one of the strangest birding weeks anywhere.

Florida had a Kirtland’s Warbler in Miami-Dade, this is the 1st record for the county, and likely the first winter record for the United States of the endangered warbler.


Omissions and errors are not intended, but if you find any please message blog AT aba.org and I will try to fix them as soon as possible. This post is meant to be an account of the most recently reported birds. Continuing birds not mentioned are likely included in previous editions listed here. Place names written in italics refer to counties/parishes.

Readers should note that none of these reports has yet been vetted by a records committee. All birders are urged to submit documentation of rare sightings to the appropriate state or provincial committees. For full analysis of these and other bird observations, subscribe to North American Birds <aba.org/nab>, the richly illustrated journal of ornithological record published by the ABA.

THE TOP 10: Craziest ABA Area Vagrants of 2016


The annual Top 10 Vagrants post has been one of our most popular, and most discussed, on The ABA Blog for some time. The time has come to look over 2016 and assemble the following list of notable and unexpected birds that got twitchers across the continent pricing plane tickets and rental cars. Literally this time, as an impressive showing of vagrants made 2016 a record-breaking Big Year for no fewer than four birders.

As we have in the past, instead of simply rehashing the rarest birds of 2016, I tried to mix things up a bit. Sure, rarity plays a role both in absolute terms and in unexpectedness, but we also tried to incorporate factors like the magnitude of excitement among birders of the ABA Area.

Of course, this list is subjective, and being my own personal opinion I encourage you to hash it out in the comments section if you think I’m right on or wildly off base. It’s these kind of discussions among birding friends that make our community so special.

So without further ado….

10. Zenaida Dove – Florida

This little Caribbean dove has turned up in the ABA Area only a few times in the last few years, but the species’s retiring nature and the fact that it used to be a regularly breeding species in the Florida Keys in the 1800s have always made it a little mysterious. In 2016, a Zenaida Dove showed up at Long Key State Park in February, found by Alan Moss, and stuck around for 2 months, allowing many many birders who had missed this often difficult species to finally cross paths with it.

Photo: Christian Hagenlocher

9. Pine Flycatcher – Arizona

It feels a little weird putting a potential 1st ABA Area record so low in the rankings, but Pine Flycatcher in southeastern Arizona was considered by many to be as close to a sure thing as a potential 1st could be. It was only a matter of time, effort, and the right birder with an eye towards weird Empidonax flycatchers, and those three criteria came together in the form of Dave Stejskal, who photographed a weird Empid in the Santa Rita Mountains. Like the Zenaida Dove, this bird put on a show for most birders who made the effort of trekking into the difficult to access canyon, sticking around into July and even building a nest, though it never found a mate to share it with.

Photo: Laurens Halsey

8. Pine Bunting – Alaska

Most of the birding on the Bering Sea outposts in western Alaska takes place in the warmer (relatively speaking) months. By October, most birders have moved off the islands as the encroaching cold and dark moves in. But it helps to have someone there who can recognize birds, as evidenced this past November with Clarence Irrigoo photographed the ABA Area’s 4th record of Pine Bunting at Gambell. Most remarkably, the bird stayed for a few weeks (noticing a theme here?) so that the ABA Area Big Year birders, and others, could make the treacherous journey to St. Lawrence Island to see it.

Photo: Clarence Irrigoo

7. Eurasian Sparrowhawk – Alaska

The story of Eurasian Sparrowhawk in the ABA Area is one of missed chances. Poor photos, no photos, shadowy reports of poorly seen Accipiters on the Aleutians where any Accipiter is unlikely. We finally got confirmation this year when Frank and Barb Haas discovered and photographed a strange hawk on Adak, in the western Aleutians, which was identified as the ABA Area’s 1st Eurasian Sparrowhawk. And in classic sparrowhawk fashion, it was never found again despite serious efforts to relocate it.

6. Ancient Murrelet – Maine/New Brunswick

True, Ancient Murrelet is not an unusual bird in the ABA Area. The little auk breeds throughout the northwest of North America south to British Columbia. And it’s not unknown to wander inland, as well, as records from a few states and provinces around the Great Lakes would attest. The discovery of one in the Atlantic, however, was very strange. It was initially found by researcher Keenan Yakola around Seal Island in Maine in mid-May, where it lingered among nesting Atlantic Puffins before crossing over into New Brunswick waters in June, representing a 1st record for both. It is suspected that the bird crossed over the top of the continent, as climate change affects arctic sea ice and provides easier passage between oceans. And its story may not end there, an Ancient Murrelet reported just last month in Virginia, among a large passage of Razorbills and Dovekies, might well be this bird moving south with the closest things to Ancient Murrelets it can find.

Photo: Keenen Yakola

5. Cuban Vireo – Florida

The jump from Cuba to south Florida can be a tough one for a short-winged, brush-loving songbird, but 2016 was the year that saw Cuban Vireo, one of the more common Cuban endemic species, finally push its way onto our shores. Mark Hedden’s discovery and subsequent fast action saw this one relocated by several birders during its brief stay at Key West, with one notable exception.

Photo: Mark Hedden

4. Great Knot – Maine

I tried to spread the action around to different places in the ABA Area, but it was hard to keep from acknowledging a single birder twice. Not much more than a couple months after his discovery of the Ancient Murrelet, researcher Keenan Yakola turned up another stunner. A Great Knot, known in the ABA Area mostly from western Alaska, on Seal Island NWR was found in July. This represented only the 2nd record of this species in eastern North America, the previous one being an individual in West Virginia, easily one of the strangest single records in ABA Area history.

Photo: Keenan Yakola

3. Amethyst-throated Hummingbird – Quebec

In terms of unexpectedness, Amethyst-throated Hummingbird is perhaps not on the top. The mostly Middle American species comes quite close to the ABA Area in northern Mexico, and one could conceivably expect to end up on the north side of the river at some point. That the river would be the St. Lawrence River, and the place would be Quebec, was a bit more unexpected. But when Annie Lavoie noted the big, unusual hummingbird at her feeder last August she quickly sprang into action, getting excellent photos of a bird that only stayed around one additional day, and was easily one of the highlights of 2016. When another Amethyst-throated Hummingbird was noted on a hummingbird live-cam in west Texas a few weeks later, it made much less of a stir.

Photo: Annie Lavoie

2. Corncrake – Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania may have one of the most bizarre lists of birds of any state or province in the ABA Area. The Black-backed Oriole in the eastern part of the state is getting a lot of attention now, but Pennsylvania has a history of weird birds. The state also boasts Bahama Woodstar, Spotted Rail, and at the very beginning of last year, a Corncrake, taken from the jaws of a cat. Once a semi-regular vagrant to North America, the highly-migratory Eurasian rail has seen significant declines in Europe in recent years, and that, along with the fact that rails can be exceptionally difficult to find even in places where they occur in numbers, suggested that Corncrake records in North America were likely to dry up. But that was not to be, at least with this one. The injured bird was taken to a rehabilitation facility where it was photographed but eventually succumbed to the wounds . Photos were available online for a time, but have since been deleted.

1. Juan Fernandez Petrel – Arizona

Hurricanes stir different responses among birders than they do among the general public. Sure, there’s the worry that a particular storm could be destructive or life-threatening, and this should not be discounted. But there’s also that little bit of excitement in tracking a storm and predicting its landfall and trying to determine what kind of storm birds might be entrained within. For birders, a hurricane is a unopened present, albeit one that might contain something really horrible along with the surprise. It is a crapshoot and we contain multitudes, after all.

When Hurricane Newton charged through the Sea of Cortez and pushed up into southern Arizona in early September, the excitement was palpable. When storm-petrels of various species started turning up in sewage lagoons and golf course ponds, the dial ratcheted up. When Brian Gibbons stepped out of his car in his driveway and spotted, and photographed, a flipping Juan Fernandez Petrel flying over his house it’s fair to say that this one went to 11. There is not likely to be a more unexpected yard bird recorded in the ABA Area and even though the inclusion of Hawaii this year means that this will not represent a 1st ABA Area record (though it did at the time), it doesn’t diminish the mix of serendipity and spectacular that is birding at its best, and thus, the Craziest ABA Area Vagrant of 2016.

Photo: Brian Gibbons

We barely scratched the surface for what was a really great vagrant year in the ABA Area. Birds we considered but which did not make the cut include: Dusky Warbler, Common Pochard, Nazca Booby, Marsh Sandpiper and Ross’s Gull (RIP) in California, Red-flanked Bluetail in Idaho, Kelp Gull and Gray Heron in Newfoundland, Greylag Goose in Rhode Island, Texas’s long-staying Amazon Kingfisher and the short-staying Variegated Flycatcher and Jabiru, the impressive numbers of Western Spindalis in Florida, Common Shelducks in Quebec and New Brunswick, Common Scoter in Oregon, Lesser Sand-Plover in Arizona. Alaska was relatively slower this year but a Pacific Swift was a highlight there. White-winged Tern in Massachusets and a Redwing in New Hampshire, and a Black-tailed Gull in Illinois.

There were just so so many great birds in 2016 that we could have easily done a Top 20.

So that’s my take. What do you think? Did you manage to cross paths with any of these birds last year? And what did I leave off that we should have included?

Let us know in the comments!

I Got The Clap! (a birding tale)

If you bird long enough, you will acquire a nemesis. What’s a nemesis? Mirriam-Webster gives us a few choices, but one definition hits the nail on the head as far as we’re concerned here: a formidable and usually victorious rival or opponent.

We don’t often think of birds as “opponents” when birding, but it happens. [read more…]

Send Us Your Conservation Milestones!

If you didn’t see the Conservation Milestones in the May 2016 Birder’s Guide to Conservation & Community, take a moment to read them atbg.aba.org/i/688884-may-2016/09. You’ll be inspired.

And now it’s time to do it again! If you have a conservation project, or if know someone has gone out of their way to help bird conservation, [read more…]

Blog Birding #307

Most waterfowl are truly gorgeous, particularly in their late winter finery. Bruce Mactavish at The Newfoundland Birding Blog shares his feelings about a real stunner, the male Eurasian Wigeon.

There is something about an adult drake Eurasian Wigeon that I find irresistible. The burnt orange head and silvery gray body must have something to do [read more…]

#ABArare – Redwing – British Columbia

On February 11, Jeremy Gatten found an ABA Code 4 Redwing in a row of trees in a residential neighborhood in Victoria, British Columbia. The bird was actively singing, and was seen that afternoon by many birders. This is the 3rd record for British Columbia.

Photo Jeremy Gatten/Macaulay Library

The bird was found in [read more…]

Rare Bird Alert: February 10, 2017

Things pick up a little this week in the ABA Area. Unanswered, and perhaps unanswerable, questions of provenance have not deterred birders still coming in droves to see the Black-backed Oriole in Pennsylvania, which has shown every day since its presence was announced. Rose-throated Becard (ABA Code 3) and Golden-crowned Warbler (4) continue in Texas [read more…]

American Birding Podcast 01-03: Drew Weber and Cornell’s Merlin App

The next episode of the American Birding Podcast is ready to go!

With the incredible and ambitious Merlin app, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology claims to be able to identify your mystery bird photos. Project Manager Drew Weber joins Nate Swick to talk about how it works and what kind of applications this program has [read more…]

Join the ABA, Renew your Membership, Win Leica Binoculars

The ABA is holding a membership drive between now and the end of February 2017. Purchase a new membership or renew your current membership (no matter when it expires) before February 28, 2017, and you will be entered in a drawing to win a pair of Leica Trinovid binoculars. I was able to try them [read more…]

A Crashless Course in Avoiding Bird Collisions

Window collisions are a serious and often fatal problem for many of our migrant songbirds. But as Heidi Trudell explains in the most recent issue of Birder’s Guide to Gear, not every collision is a fait accompli.

Heidi’s article contains a wealth of information on what are currently understood to be the best methods (and [read more…]

Birders know well that the healthiest, most dynamic choruses contain many different voices. The birding community encompasses a wide variety of interests, talents, and convictions. All are welcome.
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