#ABArare - Eurasian Oystercatcher - Alaska
by Nate Swick
#ABArare coordinator and Attu bureau chief John Puschock passes on a second-hand report of an ABA Code 5 Eurasian Oystercatcher from Buldir Island in the western Aleutians. This would be the fourth ever record of this Palearctic species in the ABA Area and a first state record for Alaska.
Eurasian Oystercatcher is the most widespread member of its genus, breeding from Iceland eastward to the Russian Far east and northern China. It superficially resembles American Oystercatcher, but with a black back and a red iris. There are three subspecies, and a bird in Alaska is most likely to represent the Kamchatka breeding ocularis ssp, which some authorities believe is a separate species, sometimes called Korean, or Eastern, Oystercatcher.
Buldir is something of a seabirder's paradise, and is home to 21 species of breeding seabirds, making it the most diverse colony in the Northern Hemisphere. The island's colonies include Crested Auklets and Least Auklets, as well as puffins, storm-petrels and other species. It is one of only four locations in the world where Red-legged Kittiwakes breed.
The island lies smack between the Near Islands to the west, which famously include Attu and Shemya, and the Rat Islands including Kiska and Davidof Islands to the east. Despite being just over 7 square miles in size, it hosts two major, and active, volcanoes. Sadly, this bird is not twitchable as special permission is required to access the island, and for the most part only representatives from the US Fish and Wildlife Service have the ability to obtain it.
The three prior ABA Area records for Eurasian Oystercatcher all come from Newfoundland and all save one in the spring. The first at Tors Cove from 22 to 25 May, 1994, another from Eastport, 3 April to 2 May, 1999 (Dunn and Alderfer, National Geographic Field Guide, 6th ed), and a third near St. John's, 3 August 2006, is the lone autumn record . All three records are presumably of the nominate ssp, which breeds as close as Iceland.
We'll include more information, and photos where possible, in this post as they become available.
Update: Previous incarnations of this post omitted the 2006 record of Eurasian Oystercatcher. Thanks to Ian Paulsen for catching that.