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Rare Bird Alert: September 6, 2013

A pair of fairly remarkable first records highlight this week’s rarity roundup. Remember a few weeks ago, when a Sooty Shearwater and a handful of boobies of a couple species turned up in the southwest corner of the US? These incursions of pelagic species into the desert southwest are not unheard of, and occur in late summer when the temperature difference between the colder Pacific Ocean and the warmer Gulf of California equalizes somewhat. Birds can then sneak into the gulf and end up following monsoonal winds deeper and deeper and, on very rare occasions, end all the way up into the Salton Sea and western Arizona. This phenomenon mostly brings boobies and frigatebirds, who tend to fly higher, inland, but tubenoses get caught in it too, like Arizona’s second Sooty Shearwater in early August.

That bird was cool enough, but absolutely no one expected the Hawaiian Petrel (ABA Code 4) that was found dead in Yuma, Arizona, a couple weeks ago. The story of this bird is just now coming out as it was picked up by hikers aware enough to deliver it to Arizona Fish & Wildlife personnel who reported it to Yuma Audubon, where photos were apparently taken. It’s on the short list of most amazing records for the year.

The other first was less unbelievable, but still pretty fantastic. A European Golden-Plover (4) was found and photographed at Brigantine NWR in Atlantic, New Jersey, earlier this week. This is the third record of this species on the Lower 48 states, though there are several records from the Atlantic provinces and another from Alaska. As of the writing of this post it has not been refound.

UPDATE: Subsequent discussion suggests that the identity of the above plover is in in question. Not that it isn’t a European Golden-Plover necessarily, but that there is sufficient doubt that it can be positively identified as such given the photos available and the inability to refind the individual. This one may go down as a “coulda been”.

Two other Code 4 birds were seen in Alaska, the first a Baikal Teal (photographed below by Aaron Lang) from Gambell, and the second a slightly late report of a European Hobby photographed from a cruise ship in the Gulf of Alaska and originally identified as a Peregrine.

Baikal Teal, Gambell, AK - photo by  Aaron Lang

Baikal Teal, Gambell, AK – photo by Aaron Lang

In British Columbia, a Brown Booby (3), arguably the species of the summer, was photographed on a fishing boat in Hecate Strait.

In Idaho, a Chesnut-sided Warbler was notable in Power.

Grays Harbor, Washington, was the epicenter of that state’s rarities this week, with a Lesser Sand-Plover (3) and several Elegant Terns near Ocean Shores.

Notable eastern warblers in California include a Canada Warbler in Santa Clara and a Louisiana Waterthrush in Shoshone. Craveri’s Murrelets (3) are showing up in good numbers in San Diego waters and a trip offshore in Los Angeles had both a Masked Booby (3) and a Brown Booby (3).

More recently in Arizona, the ABA Area’s 3rd Sinaloa Wren (5) was photographed and, crucially, recorded in Cochise. Also in Cochise, Rufous-capped Warbler (3) and Plain-capped Starthroat (4) have been seen this week.

In Texas, a Red Phalarope was very good at Lake Wichita, in Wichita.

Colorado’s 3rd Curlew Sandpiper was photographed by many in Morgan.

Kansas this week had a Red Phalarope in Miami, and a Gray Flycatcher in Morton.

Impressive for Minnesota was a Mississippi Kite at the Hawk Ridge hawkwatch in far northern St. Louis.

A Swallow-tailed Kite flew by a hawkwatch in Zion, Illinois, and a Roseate Spoonbill was discovered in Alexander.

In Michigan, a White-winged Dove was seen in Chippewa.

Good for Manitoba, a Black Vulture was among a flock of Turkey Vultures near Woodlawn.

A Western Kingbird turned up in Downsview, Ontario.

Newfoundland birders enjoyed a Brown Booby (3) at Grand Banks and a Glossy Ibis near Trinity.

A staggering five (!) Barolo Shearwaters (5, formerly Little Shearwater) were reported from an NOAA vessel in the Gulf of Maine, Nova Scotia. This makes the second year in a row multiple birds of this species have been found in the area.

In Massachusetts, a Swainson’s Hawk near Carver was exciting.

In addition to the Euro Plover, a Say’s Phoebe was photographed at Cape May, New Jersey

One of fewer than 10 records for the state, a Snowy Plover was seen in Onslow, North Carolina.

Offshore out of Charleston, South Carolina, last week had that state’s 3rd Long-tailed Jaeger  and a Masked Booby (3). Additionally, an Olive-sided Flycatcher found near Greenville is the 2nd for the state.

And in Louisiana, a Brown Booby (3, what else?) was seen in Plaquemines.


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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  • Rick Poulin

    The Black Vulture noted above for Alberta was found near “Woodlawn” Manitoba.

    • Thanks Rick, I thought that sounded weird. I believe it was misspelled in the listserv post.

  • Rick Poulin

    The name of the town was a typo on listserv but the main point is the Black Vulture was seen in Manitoba not Alberta.

  • Jack

    Hi, first the Pacific Golden-Plover was found in August at Brig, unless there’s another one that turned up “this week” that nobody is talking about.
    Second, this Euro plover is a little strange. The white under the tail is so pure and so extensive. Wouldn’t there be at least some black, even a little black under there somewhere? Just a touch? This bird has none. And the white on the breast. It’s also so white. Usually the jacketed look of the Euro is filled in a good bit with black and gold, not all pure white like this bird. And the one place where there should be white, it is clearly missing, down all along the flanks. There is a clear break in the white line when there should not be. And then there’s the shape. It’s very back heavy, not pot-bellied enough. Euro golden is a very round, front heavy bird. Other than the small bill, I can’t see why this is not just a molting female black-bellied. The white jacket look is a very common molting pattern for them. Can someone help me out here? What am I missing? Should I be squinting my eyes or something?

    • Thanks for the info on the Pacific Golden-Plover. It was referred to in a post as if it was currently there and it looks like I misinterpreted that post.

      As to the Euro, I don’t have any experience with the species so i don’t know that I’m able to comment except to say that there seemed to be a consensus on its ID at the time of the post, but with the caveat that it’s a difficult call and a not so great photo.

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