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Rare Bird Alert: September 20, 2013

Remember back in the middle of the summer when it seemed like every state or province with a coastline (and even a couple without) had a Brown Booby show up at some point? While uncommon in the ABA Area, boobies are strong fliers able to disperse widely in search of food during lean years. A small handful turning up in our waters every year is to be expected, but 2013 is rapidly becoming the “Year of the Booby”. Following that significant influx of Brown Boobies, California and the southwest are now seeing an unprecedented invasion of ABA Code 4 Blue-footed Boobies.

After records from Arizona and New Mexico last month, birders in Southern California expected a few reports to begin trickling in. What they did not expect was a full-on Booby-splosion, with multiple birds at a time on Southern California shores and individuals being seen up the coast as far north as Marin county (birders in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia would do well to keep their eyes offshore too!). But the coup de grace thus far came when access was finally attained to the Salton Sea, where a grand total of 18 Blue-footed Boobies were seen at one location. This thing may not be over yet.

An incredible 18 Blue-footed Boobies (15 in this one photo) were spotted at the Salton Sea, CA - photo by Garrett MacDonald

An incredible 18 Blue-footed Boobies (15 in this one photo) were spotted at the Salton Sea, CA – photo by Garrett MacDonald

Aside from the booby show (I considered putting that in the URL just for the google hits), notable finds in California include a Wedge-tailed Shearwater (ABA Code 4) photographed from shore in San Diego and a Hudsonian Godwit in Los Angeles.

Another Great Shearwater in the north Pacific, this time from a boat off of Douglas, Oregon.

Washington had a Ruff (3) in Grays Harbor.

Good birds in British Columbia include a Crested Auklet in the vicinity of Discovery Island, three Great Shearwaters in the Hecate Strait, a Chestnut-sided Warbler picked up on a pelagic boat, and a Ruff (3) at Pantage Lake.

St Paul, Alaska’s great fall continues with a well-photographed Middendorff’s Grasshopper Warbler (4) early in the week. Just yesterday the ABA rarity hunting trip added Gray-streaked Flycatcher (4) and Pacific Swift (4, called Fork-tailed Swift on the ABA Checklist). On Adak, notable birds of late include a Little Stint (4), more or less regular in western Alaska despite being a code 4.

Good for Saskatchewan was a small group of Cattle Egrets near Wakaw.

An Eastern Phoebe near Bozeman is unusual for Montana.

In Nevada, a Painted Bunting was among a flock of Lazulis in Washoe.

In Utah a Black-and-White Warbler was photographed well in Davis.

Great Crested Flycatcher is a nice bird in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

In North Dakota, a Trumpeter Swan was a nice find near Fargo.

Kansas’s second record of Great Kiskadee was discovered this week in McPherson.

An Elegant Tern in Texas is one of only a small number seen in that state, though the location was not more specific than Upper Texas Coast.

A Say’s Phoebe was recorded in Clinton, Missouri.

A second Swallow-tailed Kite in as many weeks was photographed in Illinois, this time in Morgan.

A pair of Cave Swallows were seen in Mississippi, notably in the inland county of Tunica.

A Bell’s Vireo was seen in Ruffner, Alabama.

A very good bird for Florida was a Bar-tailed Godwit (3) seen and photographed in Pinellas.

A Sabine’s Gull on Lake Hartwell, crossed back and forth between Georgia and South Carolina.

North Carolina’s third record of White Wagtail (3) was a one-day wonder in Carteret. A good find, particularly away from the coast, was a Western Kingbird in Mecklenberg.

New Jersey also had a Western Kingbird this week, in Somerset.

What looks very much like New York’s second confirmed Bell’s Vireo was photographed in Queens. A Say’s Phoebe in Suffolk was also good for the state.

Unfortunately relegated to second booby status in the ABA Area, a Brown Booby (3) was still a very good bird in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Other notable birds include a Purple Gallinule in Essex and a Western Kingbird near Yarmouth.

In Quebec, the first Barnacle Goose of the year was seen at lac Saint-Jean. An Eared Grebe in Montréal is an excellent bird in the province and a Northern Wheatear was recorded at Bas-Saint-Laurent.


Omissions and errors are not intended, but if you find any please message blog AT and I’ll 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 <>, 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.
Nate Swick

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