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Rare Bird Alert: November 15, 2013

There are some vagrants that are exciting because they’re exceptionally uncommon in a given region. There are some vagrants that are exciting because a lot of people get to share in the excitement of seeing them. These things overlap infrequently, but never to the extent that this week’s signature rarity did.

One of the biggest rarities of the year was discovered right in the middle of the continent’s biggest bird festival, setting off what may have been the biggest one-day twitch in ABA Area history. Literal busloads of people were ferried out to an unassuming resaca in Cameron County, Texas, to see the state’s (and the ABA Area’s) second ever record of Amazon Kingfisher (ABA Code 5, of course).

Amazon Kingfisher, Cameron Co, Tx, photo by Jeff Bouton

Amazon Kingfisher, Cameron Co, Tx, photo by Jeff Bouton

The story of the bird is pretty cool, as well. Leica representative and friend of the ABA Jeff Bouton, in town for the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, was traveling with a friend who had yet to see Ringed Kingfisher. He glanced over at a bird off the side of the road, noted it was a large kingfisher but realized something seemed off about it. He returned to the resaca to check it out and thus began the explosion of cell phones and social media not seen in North American birding history. Field trips were changed. Trade shows were forgotten. It was estimated that, at minimum, 700 people saw this bird. Pretty amazing stuff, and the bird is still being seen as recently as Wednesday afternoon.

Also in Texas this week, though not quite on par with the kingfisher, there are two Rose-throated Becards (3) in the valley. One in Hidalgo and the other in Cameron. A Brown Booby (3) was seen from South Padre Island in Cameron, and there’s a tantalizing report of a Roadside Hawk (4) at Bentsen State Park in Hidalgo. More on that last one at #ABArare if it pans out.

There were two firsts this week, both from Canada. The first is a Bean-goose sp looking more confidently like a Tundra (3) from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, a first for the province and only the third in the east of the ABA Area.

Another first comes from Manitoba, where a Calliope Hummingbird was braving sub-zero temperatures this week in Selkirk.

Staying in Canada, Quebec was seen a run of great birds this month, the latest being a Ross’s Gull seen on and off in Chambly. The province’s 8th record of Black-headed Grosbeak was seen this week in red-hot Tadoussec, from whence many great birds have been seen this fall.

Newfoundland’s 2nd record of Virginia’s Warbler was found yesterday near St. John’s, and a Pink-footed Goose (4) is present near Bonavista.

Cave Swallows have been turning up on the east coast this week, and one was seen near Stratford, Connecticut. The state also had a Barnacle Goose (4) near Windsor.

Pennsylvania also had a Cave Swallow this week, near Philadelphia, but the big news was the 2nd record of Black-chinned Hummingbird in Franklin . 

Virginia had, what else, a Cave Swallow in Virginia Beach.

A Snow Bunting on St. Simon’s Island is a notable bird for Georgia.

Noteworthy birds in Florida include an Ash-throated Flycatcher in Okaloosa, a Say’s Phoebe in DeSoto, and a Western Tanager in Monroe.

Louisiana becomes the latest place this fall to nab an extralimital Gray Kingbird, this one in Plaquemines.

Tennessee’s 7th Calliope Hummingbird was at a feeder in Davidson. The bird is wearing a band and looks to be the same individual which spent last winter at the same site.

A Northern Gannet on the lakeshore in Cuyahoga, Ohio, is a great bird for the Great Lakes. Also in the state, a Brant in Perry.

Lake County was the place to be in Illinois this week, with a Violet-green Swallow and a Harlequin Duck seen.

A trio of great gulls were found in Michigan: a Glaucous-winged Gull in St. Clair, a California Gull in Berrien, and a Sabine’s Gull in Allegan.

A Sharp-tailed Sandpiper well-photographed in Tama, Iowa, is that state’s 5th record.

Very nice for Nebraska was a Red Phalarope in Platte.

In Oklahoma, a Pacific Loon turned up on a reservoir in Tulsa.

A Bay-breasted Warbler was recorded in Boulder, Colorado, as well as a Little Gull in the same county. 

A Streak-backed Oriole (4) has been seen on and off near Carlsbad, New Mexico. Also in the state, a Ruddy Ground-Dove (3) was seen in Socorro.

Arizona ‘s 5th American Tree Sparrow was photographed this week in Coconino, and a Black Scoter in Mohave is one of fewer than 20 record for the state

Rusty Blackbirds continue to turn up on the west coast. There were two in California this week, one in Los Angeles and another in Santa Cruz. A Rufous-backed Robin (3) was seen near the town on Zzyzx, in San Bernadino. 

Utah’s 2nd record of Tropical Kingbird, and the second in as many years, was photographed by several in Weber.

Montana’s 5th Red-bellied Woodpecker was recorded at a feeder in Malta.

Idaho’s 2nd Le Conte’s Sparrow, and the first record in over 100 years (!), was seen in Grand View.

Washington had a Tropical Kingbird in Clallam, a Rusty Blackbird in Yakima, and the Slaty-backed Gull (3) in Tacoma seems to have returned for another winter.

A Pacific Loon was in Glenmore, Alberta.

Tis the season in Alaska where vagrants come from the other direction, as evidenced by a very good Nashville Warbler in Anchorage.

In British Columbia, a Brown Booby (3) wrecked on a fishing boat near Ucluelet.


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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  • Carl Bendorf

    Minor note on the Iowa Sharp-tailed Sandpiper in that it’s the fifth accepted record and not the sixth.

  • Ian Paulsen

    Nate: FYI, the spelling of Clallam County, WA.

  • Jared Clarke

    Technically, the Virginia’s Warbler in St. John’s is “Newfoundland & Labrador’s” second record, since the previous record was in Labrador and not on the island. A seemingly minor difference to birders outside the province, but an official list is kept/published for the island of Newfoundland (separate from the mainland component of Labrador).

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