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Rare Bird Alert: February 7, 2014

Thanks to John Puschock for covering the RBA last week. My family recently welcomed a new daughter and the few days in the wake of that milestone were a bit hectic. I appreciate him stepping in.

Now that things have calmed down, let’s have a look at this last week’s tally of notable records. The Polar Vortex continues to have an impact on the continent beyond the system’s epicenter. The mid-west and mid-south has seen in incredible influx of diving ducks, notably White-winged Scoters, Common Goldeneye, and Common Mergansers. While none of these species are unheard of this time of year, the numbers and extent of the invasion have been remarkable. Benjamin Van Doren, writing at Cornell’s Birdcast, got to the bottom of it. As it turns out, the extended cold snap has frozen over much of the Great Lakes, where these species overwinter in numbers, pushing many of them to reservoirs far to the south. Who knows what else may come with them?

Euro geese, particularly Barnacle and Pink-footed, are increasingly expected in parts of the northeast of the ABA Area, but birders farther south still can get excited in the hopes of picking out one of these vagrants. A pair of Code 4 Pink-footed Goose have tucked in with a flock of Canada Geese in Baltimore, Maryland. They’ve been seen regularly over the last week. This is the second record of the species’ occurrence in the state.

These ABA Code 4 Pink-footed Geese in Maryland are the second record for the state, photo by Howard Wu

These ABA Code 4 Pink-footed Geese in Maryland are the second record for the state, photo by Howard Wu

Also in Maryland, a Common Murre was photographed on a pelagic off Ocean City.

In South Carolina, both a Western Kingbird and a Western Tanager were found in Charleston.

A Brown Booby (3) was found wrecked in Chatham, Georgia, and a Calliope Hummingbird is visiting a feeder in Bibb.

In Alabama, a pair of American Tree Sparrows were seen in Lauderdale, where there are only 15 records previously.

The farthest extent of the White-winged Scoter invasion was one seen in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Also in the state, a Black-throated Gray Warbler was seen on Grand Isle.

Noteworthy for Missouri was a Townsend’s Solitaire in Jefferson.

In Oklahoma, a Sage Thrasher is a good bird in Tulsa.

A young Black-legged Kittiwake was well-photographed on South Padre Island in Cameron, Texas.

There have been few Snowy Owls seen in the west during this impressive irruption, so one in Lincoln, Colorado, is notable.

In Utah, a Red-shouldered Hawk was photographed in Washington.

Excellent for California, a King Eider was reported in Humboldt this week, though the bird has apparently been present for just over a week.

One of the more intriguing reports this week comes from Oregon, where an Eastern Yellow Wagtail, very rare away from Alaska, was reported in Linn.

Both a Barrow’s Goldeneye and a King Eider were seen at the same site in Muskegon, Michigan.

A Yellow-headed Blackbird was among a flock of blackbirds in Stark, Ohio.

In Ontario, a Spotted Towhee is visiting a feeder in Glen Williams.

A nice bird so far north, a Red-bellied Woodpecker was seen in Montreal, Quebec.

In Maine, a Thayer’s Gull was recorded in Portland.

Much less common on the east coast than the west, a Tufted Duck (3) was seen in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

Pelagic birders out of Freeport, New York, had a skua that was most probably Great Skua (3) this week.


Omissions and errors are not intended, but if you find any please message blog AT and I 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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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.
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