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#ABArare – Willow Ptarmigan – New York

Adding to the flood of late April rarities, a Willow Ptarmigan was found by Eugene Nichols in Jefferson County, New York. Pending acceptance, this would be a first state record for New York and only the 2nd record for the Lower 48 in the last 100 years.

Photo by Alex Lamoreaux, Used with permission

Photo by Alex Lamoreaux, Used with permission. More photos and video available at The Nemesis Bird

The bird was seen on Point Peninsula, on the shore of Lake Ontario, west of Watertown, New York. The nearest major city is Ottawa, Ontario, on the other side of the international border, and New York City is the better part of six hours away. A Google map of the bird’s location is here.

A more specific account comes from Jeff Bolsinger on the Northern New York listserv as follows:

According to reports, the bird The location is on South Shore Road 3.5 miles south of the intersection with Pine Woods Road (this road is in Point Peninsula Village, known locally as Shangri-La). When you reach the location you will come to a highway sign indicating a sharp curve ahead, with a real estate sign just beyond, and the curve about 100 yards ahead. We saw the ptarmigan in the woods on the lake side of the road opposite the highway sign. During the 90 minutes that we watched it the ptarmigan roosted on a pile of ice at the lake’s edge for about an hour, and then flew up into a tree and ate buds… All of the land along the road here is private, so please respect private property and stay on the road. Based on the bird’s behavior today it seems that if present, it will eventually show itself if you are patient

Willow Ptarmigan is the largest of the North American ptarmigans, and is generally a bird of northern Canada and Alaska. There are a handful of historic records for the Lower 48 from Montana, North Dakota, Wisconsin (1846), Massachusetts (1859), and Minnesota (1914), and only one relatively recent record from Maine (2000). In 2011, a Willow Ptarmigan spent the better part of 6 months at a power plant in Darlington, Ontario, in the southern part of the province.

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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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