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Rare Bird Alert: February 3, 2012

As we head into February we see that days lengthen just enough to spur the zugunruhe that sends birds back northward.  After a period with a seeming paucity of vagrants, the dam is slowly starting to break this week, as birds moving means birds showing up in unlikely places and surprising and delighting birders.  And that's just plain fun.   

As with last week, places in italics refer to counties or parishes.

There a few ABA area rarities in the US and Canada this week, and perhaps the most twitchable is a  Streak-backed Oriole (ABA Code 4) in Tubac, Santa Cruz, Arizona. Oddly, the rarer bird for the state is a  Mew Gull  in Mohave.

Next door in New Mexico, a subadult Barrow's Goldeneye was discovered in Taos

In California, a Slaty-backed Gull (4) was recently turned up in San Mateo, and a Sprague's Pipit in Calipatria, Inland.  Always good in the Lower 48 is a Yellow-billed Loon in Monterey, completing the loon sweep on the Cali coast this year. 

A Brambling (3) was reported form a feeder in Poulsbo, Kitsap, Washington.

Not one, but two separate Lesser Balck-backed Gulls were reported in interior British Columbia.  One near Vernon and the other near Kelowna.

Among the most exciting, though mostly inaccessible, birds reported this week was a juvenile Steller's Sea-Eagle (4) photographed on Shemya Island, Alaska. 

More indication of the rapid range expansion of the Great-tailed Grackle comes from Montana, where the state's 3rd record comes from Bozeman, Gallatin.

A Common Crane (4) is apparently overwintering near Hastings, Adams, Nebraska.  Though the state has several records, this is the first for winter. 

Iowa's 5th Bullock's Oriole, an adult male, is visiting a feeder in Wapello.

A fantastic record for the interior of the continent, a Yellow-billed Loon has been well-documented at a reservoir near Manhattan, Potawattamie, Kansas. 

For Texas, notable birds for the week (not including the list over continuing vagrants in the Valley) include a Common Redpoll in Tarrant and a far out of range White-eared Hummingbird on the coastal plain in Live Oak.  

A Say's Phoebe was photographed in Haywood, Tennessee, and in Illinois, a Prairie Falcon was discovered in Champaign.

Two Townsend's Solitaires are reported from the upper Midwest, on in Stearns, Minnesota, and another in Kenosha, Wisconsin. 

The usual mix of gulls are congregating around Niagara, Ontario, with the most exciting recently being a California Gull.

A White-winged Dove near Sydney, Nova Scotia.   The species is more or less annual in the Atlantic provinces these days. 

A Spotted Towhee in Rockport, Essex, Massachusetts, is the latest of many western vagrants to show up in the state this winter.

The farthest south report of Common Redpoll on the east coast so far this winter comes from Virginia Beach, Princess Anne, Virginia.

South Carolina has an amazing three Bullock's Orioles currently in the state.  One in Charleston and two in Williamsburg.

And in Florida, birders attending the Space Coast Birding Festival got to enjoy a California Gull in Volusia and a pair of Vermilion Flycatchers in Orange.


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 <>, the richly illustrated journal of ornithological record published by the ABA.

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Nate Swick

Nate Swick

Editor, Social Media Manager at American Birding Association
Nate Swick is the editor of the American Birding Association Blog, social media manager for the ABA, and the host of the American Birding Podcast. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Danielle, and two young children. He is the author of Birding for the Curious and The ABA Field Guide to Birds of the Carolinas.
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