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#ABArare – Northern Wheatear – New Mexico


On April 7, Brenda Wright and Coen Dexter found a female Northern Wheatear in DeBaca County, New Mexico. The finders were birders from Colorado passing through New Mexico who had stopped at Bosque Redonodo Lake where they came across this stunner. Pending acceptance, this is a first state record for New Mexico and one of only a few records for the southwest.


photo by Nick Pederson, used with permission

The wheatear was originally seen near Fort Sumner, about 158 miles east of Albuquerque. More specifically, it was seen 1 mile east of Motel 8 on US-60. It was refound two days later (4/9), 200-250 yards south of the original location, just north of where the road turns east. It is west of the road about 150 yards in a grove of cottonwoods and olives, per Nick Pederson on the AZ-NM listserv.

Northern Wheatear is almost unique among North American breeding birds in that it migrates to the eastern hemisphere, over-wintering in sub-Saharan Africa. The population in Alaska and northwestern Canada and that in Nunavut consist of two different subspecies which share wintering grounds but reach it by two separate, but equally impressive, routes. There has been no speculation as to which subspecies this individual represents, but both seem to be equally likely.

Northern Wheatear is uncommon throughout the rest of the ABA Area, though somewhat more regular in the northeast United States and Atlantic Canada. Records elsewhere are very rare indeed, and the NM bird is preceded in that corner of the continent only by records in Arizona (1996), Southern California (1994, 2001, 2011), and one exceptional record from Baja California Norte (2008).

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Nate Swick

Nate Swick

Nate Swick is the editor of the American Birding Association Blog. A long-time member of the bird blogosphere, Nate has been writing about birds and birding at The Drinking Bird since 2007, but can also be found writing regularly at 10,000 Birds. In the non-digital world, he's an environmental educator and interpretive naturalist. He is also the author of Birding for the Curious. Nate lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Danielle, and two young children, who are not yet aware that they are being groomed to be birders.
Nate Swick

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  • Ted Floyd

    Here’s earlier coverage on the remarkable migration of North America’s breeding wheatears:


  • Ted Floyd

    And here’s Wheatear migration coverage in Birding magazine:

    “News and Notes: Trans-Atlantic Travelers,” by Paul Hess. Birding, September 2012, p. 28.

    The basic gist of Paul’s piece is that North America’s Northern Wheatears are the only passerines that regularly cross the Atlantic Ocean.

  • Pingback: Rare Bird Alert: April 11, 2014 « ABA Blog()

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