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Rare Bird Alert: January 31, 2014

Once again winter weather ruled the eastern side of the ABA Area, but despite that, birders still got out in the field and found a good number of noteworthy birds. Dry conditions persisted in the western U.S., and Alaska experienced unseasonably warm weather. And in North Carolina, Nate had some family obligations, so I’m filling in for him.

This Ferruginous Hawk is the third for Indiana, and one of two east of the Mississippi River this week. photo by Evan Speck

This Ferruginous Hawk is the third for Indiana, and one of two east of the Mississippi River this week. photo by Evan Speck

Perhaps the best new sighting from the past week is a White-crowned Pigeon in Charleston, South Carolina. Also in South Carolina, a Western Tanager was at Mt Pleasant.

Also vying for the title of best new sighting was a possible Taiga Bean-Goose (3) in Russell, Kansas, a potential first for the state; however, it was seen as an unexpected fly-by and photos were not obtained. Subsequent searches have not refound it.

Just coming to light this week was news that a dead Purple Gallinule was found in McCallum, Newfoundland in mid-January. It’s not clear if the bird was found soon after it died or if it had been hidden by snow since December. Interestingly, another dead Purple Gallinule was found in Iceland this week, the third record for the country.

In New Hampshire, a Spotted Towhee  was found in Rye.

New York  and Connecticut had Mew Gulls. The one in New York was in Brooklyn and identified as the European subspecies, commonly known as Common Gull. The subspecific identity of the one in Southbury, Connecticut has not yet been determined.

Pennsylvania had a Le Conte’s Sparrow in Cumberland.

At Cape May was New Jersey’s third  Smith’s Longspur.

A male Painted Bunting was at a feeder in Chestertown, Maryland.

West Virginia’s third Harlequin Duck was at Parkersburg.

In Ohio, a California Gull was at the Avon Lake Power Plant. Another California Gull was refound at Daytona Beach Shores, Florida. That individual has been present for several weeks.

Indiana had a Ferruginous Hawk  in Gibson, the third record for the state.

Tennessee also hosted a Ferruginous Hawk in Lake along with several other rarities: a Chestnut-collared Longspur (Lake) and a Yellow-billed Loon (Hamilton).

Glaucous Gulls made news at opposite ends of the continent. One was at Tybee Island, Georgia while another was in Arizona in Mohave.

In addition to the previously-mentioned Glaucous Gull, other notable birds found in Arizona this past week include a Winter Wren in Navajo and a sharp-looking Heermann’s Gull at Amado.

In Texas, a Rose-throated Becard (3) was at Sabal Palm Sanctuary (Brownsville), an Evening Grosbeak was in Lubbock, and two Hook-billed Kites (3) were reported from Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park, joining the five Hook-billed Kites found last week at Mission Nature Park in Mission. This species has become much more difficult to see in the ABA Area over the past 10 years or so.

California had a Wilson’s Plover at Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline, Contra Costa.

Washington hosted two Thick-billed Murres. One was found on a pelagic out of Westport, while the other, likely a bird returning from last winter, was at Port Angeles.


Before I sign off, I have one bit of non-bird-related news: This will be my last post for the ABA blog, at least for the foreseeable future. It’s been a fun two years writing #ABArare reports, especially breaking big stories like the Rufous-necked Wood-Rail and Common Cuckoo, but now I would like to devote more time to my tour business so I’m handing over the reins to Nate. I know, I know — It may be hard to believe, but writing for the blog isn’t all glamour. There’s a lot of time spent scanning the internet, waiting for the report of that next rarity, so help Nate out by sending reports and your photos his way.


Omissions and errors are not intended, but if you find any please message blog AT and Nate will 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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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.
  • Anya Auerbach

    A barnacle goose has been in New York County, New York most of the week, first discovered on Saturday.

  • Nate Dias

    Wow – surprised y’all went for the undocumented report of a White-crowned Pigeon so far north in the dead of such a harsh winter…

    • Nate Dias

      PS. The local eBird editor did not validate the White-crowned Pigeon report.

      • Just to play devil’s advocate here, was there anything weird about the report other than the time of year? The species is not one that’s kept in captivity so provenance is probably not an issue. If a Purple Gallinule can show up in Newfoundland in the dead of winter, I don’t see how a strong-flying bird like a pigeon would be any less likely.

        • Nate Dias

          1. Purple Gallinules have an established pattern of winter vagrancy north of the breeding grounds.

          2. White-crowned Pigeons have none whatsoever. I am not aware of any winter records north of South Florida.

          3. Islands off this part of the South Carolina coast are known for wayward racing pigeons. SC DNR staff have encountered multiple racing pigeons in recent years on South Island and Cat Island. Some are skittish and elusive, some are approachable. One allowed itself to be approached and picked up and recovered by its grateful owner.

          4. The observer reporting is known for claims like the flock of 30 Semipalmated Sandpipers from that location entered into eBird this past November.

          Based on these and other factors, the local birding hierarchy considers a wayward racing pigeon more likely than a White-crowned Pigeon. The local eBird editor had his reasons for invalidating the record.

          • Ah, I didn’t realize there were racing pigeons in the area, that sort of answers my biggest questions about the report.

            Thanks for the info, Nate.

  • Rich Laramore

    2 Pink-footed Geese found in Baltimore Co. Maryland today by Benjamin DeHaven.

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