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Rare Bird Alert: April 13, 2012


The exceptionally early spring of the past couple weeks seems to have slowed in the last few days, with more seasonal temperature returning to much of the eastern half of the continent at least, according to our friends at eBird.  Early arrivals may only be a week early rather than the fortnight many were showing until recently. 

The vagrant report is picking up slowly, but surely, as well.  As the whole of the continent gets in the fun as birds within and without North America begin moving in earnest.

First, a potential first ABA record was reported from Quebec.  A Common Greenfinch, a species never before recorded as a wild bird in North America, was photographed at a private residence in Matapédia, on the Gaspé peninsula just north of Maine.  All of the usual questions of provenance are in play, obviously, but the location and the time of year may suggest potential wild origin.

Western SpindalisOne of the more exciting confirmed ABA Area rarities of the week came from Florida, with a female Western Spindalis (ABA Code 3) discovered and well-photographed in Fort Lauderdale, Broward.  It was first reported on the 8th of April, but not refound subsequently. 

After a long drought of first stat/provincial records, Pennsylvania comes through this week with their first ever record of Lesser Goldfinch, an individual of the 'black-backed' population that visited a feeder in Franklin for no more than two days before vacating.  Congratulations to those Keystone birders able to see the bird before its hasty retreat.

Elsewhere in the eastern part of the continent, a possible California Gull was reported on Grand Manan, New Brunswick, and a Black Vulture was seen soaring over Tantallon, Nova Scotia.

In Vermont, a Tufted Duck (3) was found in Franklin, and in Rhode Island, a Western Grebe near Narragansett, is one of only a few records for the state.

A trio of White-faced Ibis were well-photographed in Atlantic, New Jersey.

Always good on the eastern half of the continent, a Franklin's Gull was seen on the Potomac with Bonaparte's Gulls in Montgomery, Maryland.

A one day wonder in Georgia was a MacGillivray's Warbler  in Chatham.

A pair of Ruff (3) were well-photographed in Prairie, Arkansas.

In Michigan, a Harris's Sparrow was found in Muskegon.

A Black Vulture, Wisconsin's 8th record, was reported from Portage.

An amazing record from the center of the continent, a Brown Pelican spent a few days this week in Goodhue, Minnesota.  This is the state's 3rd record.

A Glossy Ibis was found in Mills, Iowa.

Another midwest Ruff (3) ws found in Sully, South Dakota.

Glossy Ibis in the west include a bird in Montrose, Colorado, and another in Socorro, New Mexico.

In Arizona, a Red Phalarope is present at Sweetwater Wetlands in Pima.

A couple good Old World species in California in a Ruff (3) in Sonoma and a Tufted Duck (3) in Del Norte.

In British Columbia, a Sage Sparrow was reported in Kelowna, in the interior of the province.


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

Nate Swick is the editor of the American Birding Association Blog. A long-time member of the bird blogosphere, Nate has been writing about birds and birding at The Drinking Bird since 2007, but can also be found writing regularly at 10,000 Birds. In the non-digital world, he's an environmental educator and interpretive naturalist. He is also the author of Birding for the Curious. Nate lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Danielle, and two young children, who are not yet aware that they are being groomed to be birders.
Nate Swick

Latest posts by Nate Swick (see all)

  • Muskegon is not just south of the Upper Peninsula, it is just west of Grand Rapids.

  • Thanks, James. It’s been fixed. I got it mixed up with post about a Black Vulture in Emmet County.

  • Skye Haas

    As noted the question of provenance is a perennial concern in discussing birds like Greenfinches and other European finches that pop up in the cagebird trade. To fuel speculation (to whatever direction you like I suppose), I will add that I had a European Greenfinch here in Marquette, Upper Peninsula of Michigan yesterday coming to a nature center feeding station along Lake Superior. Photo here-
    In looking at ebird, it appears there have been two other sightings in the Great Lakes within the last month, 1 near Kenosha, WI on March 11th, and 1 at Montrose, Chicago, IL on March 18th.
    I believe that there are at least 2-3 other Michigan Greenfinch sightings (we also have a couple of Eurasian Siskins, along with many European Goldfinches and a good handful of Chaffinches.

  • From what I gather, european finches reported around the Great Lakes are assumed, fairly or unfairly, to be from escaped populations. And the Quebec bird could be the same, but what makes it interesting is that it was discovered in an area where Euro finches deemed to be wild have been seen in the past.

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