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#ABArare – Common Swift – California

There are rarities that are somewhat expected, even when they’re a first for the ABA Area (e.g., Amazon Kingfisher in Texas, Loggerhead Kingbird in Florida). Then there are those that weren’t on the radar. Today we have one of the latter. While not quite at the level of the Rufous-necked Wood-Rail, the Common Swift found by Oscar Johnson in Riverside County, California, on Oct 30 is high on the list of shocking finds.

Common Swift. Photo by Oscar Johnson.

Common Swift. Photo by Oscar Johnson.

Johnson, along with Colleen Buckley and Michael Suttner, observed the swift for three minutes near Desert Center in southern California. It was seen on private property, so the exact location has not been revealed. The bird was not seen again over the next five hours after the initial sighting, so even if the location was open to the public, it would probably not be twitchable (definition: likely to stay and be seen by others).

View of the upperparts. Photo by Oscar Johnson.

View of the upperparts. Photo by Oscar Johnson.

Common Swift. Photo by Oscar Johnson.

Common Swift. Photo by Oscar Johnson.


I should mention that it’s probably best to refer to this bird as an “apparent” Common Swift for now. Swift identification is difficult, and I’m not sure if other species, particularly Pallid Swift, have been conclusively eliminated as possibilities yet. (Feel free to comment on the identification in the comments.) There are three previous records of Common Swift from the ABA Area: two from St. Paul Island, Alaska (1950 and 1986) and one from St. Pierre and Miquelon (1986). There are also five accepted records of swifts accepted only to the genus Apus, which are thought to likely be Common Swifts: Massachusetts (1995, 1996, and 2005), Pennsylvania (1996), and St. Pierre and Miquelon (2006). If the current report is accepted as a Common Swift, it will be the first definite record for the Lower 48. As you can see, the previous records have all come from Alaska and the northeastern part of the ABA Area, so having one show up in southern California was certainly unexpected.

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John Puschock

John Puschock

John Puschock reports ABA rare bird alerts and manages #ABArare for the American Birding Association. John is a frequent participant in rare bird forums around the web and has knack for gathering details necessary to relocate birds. He has been a birder since 1984 and now leads tours for Bird Treks, as well as for his own company Zugunruhe Birding Tours. He has led tours to locations across North America, from Newfoundland to New Mexico and from Costa Rica to Alaska. He specializes in leading tours to Adak in the Aleutian Islands.
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