Nikon Monarch 7

aba events

#ABArare – Common (Siberian) Chiffchaff – Alaska

I mentioned this bird in last week’s Rare Bird Alert as one of the highlights of a good week in western Alaska. The report may be a little stale, but I figure the photos that have surfaced are good enough to give this very rare bird it’s own spotlight.

On June 9, a group of birders at Gambell, on St. Lawrence Island, found an ABA Code 5 Common Chiffchaff. This would be the third ABA Area record of the species, all from Gambell and all in the past 24 months.


Photo by Bob Dittrick

This exceptional photo shows the noteworthy characteristics distinguishing this species from Willow Warbler, also very rare but a number of Alaskan records. Note the short primary extension, blackish legs and feet, and the gingery wash to the lower auriculars.

Common Chiffchaff was first documented in the ABA Area in June 2012 in Gambell. Another was seen in September of the next year. A Phylloscopus on St Lawrence Sept-Oct 2011 was not accepted but was also a good candidate for chiffchaff.

Common Chiffchaff is a wide-ranging breeding bird in the Palearctic, with three known subspecies that some authorities consider good candidates for future splits. The nominate subspecies breeds in Europe east to Poland, while the subspecies tristis, known by many as Siberian Chiffchaff, breeds from Siberia east to eastern Russia. The two subspecies do not recognize each other’s songs, but field identification is very difficult and may be impossible. Chiffchaffs in the far eastern part of their range tend towards being duller than those in the west, and perhaps not surprisingly, the Alaskan records are thought to be these dull tristis birds.

The following two tabs change content below.
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

Latest posts by Nate Swick (see all)

  • Catherine Carroll

    Hey guys, this goes to my belief that birders do not actually read blogs. Look at this blog title “common chaffinch” (a completely different bird), and then look at the photo of the bird and the name of the bird actually discussed.

    Secondly, tt could be a common chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita). But the bird in the photo also looks potentially like a caucasian chiffchaff (P. lorenzii). If the bird was singing it’s singsongy chiff chaff, chiff chaff, chiff chaff then it’s clear. But, vocalization is not mentioned in the report.

    Cathy Carroll

    • My mistake. I shouldn’t write these late at night…

      Sent from my phone

      • Catherine Carroll

        Hi Nick, no problem. I have just returned from trip to Hungary and these birds are fresh on my mind. Since the title was easy to change, you might also change in the body of the report – 2nd paragraph. Anyway, it’s a good bird and it will be interesting to know the review committee’s thoughts on the bird. Please post that too, when available.

  • Katie Walsh

    Wow! It looks so beautiful, I just love this bird. Hope I can see it! Anyway, thanks for sharing, I am so glad that I visit this post & got the chance to see such a beautiful bird.


American Birding Podcast
Birders know well that the healthiest, most dynamic choruses contain many different voices. The birding community encompasses a wide variety of interests, talents, and convictions. All are welcome.
If you like birding, we want to hear from you.
Read More »

Recent Comments




ABA's FREE Birder's Guide

If you live nearby, or are travelling in the area, come visit the ABA Headquarters in Delaware City.

Beginning this spring we will be having bird walks, heron watches and evening cruises, right from our front porch! Click here to view the full calender, and register for events >>

via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • Open Mic: Young Birder Camp at Hog Island: Coastal Maine Bird Studies for Teens September 11, 2017 3:07
    At the mic: Dessi Sieburth, an avid birder, photographer, and conservationist, is a 10th grader at Saint Francis High School in La Canada, California. He is a member of the Pasadena Audubon Young Birder’s Club and Western Field Ornithologists. Dessi enjoys birding in his home county of Los Angeles. Last summer, Dessi attended Camp Colorado, […]
  • Introducing the Whimbrel Birders Club! September 7, 2017 2:33
    Whimbrel Birders Club was established at the first annual Illinois Young Birders Symposium in August 2016. We are a birding club truly meant for everyone, no matter your age, disability, or ethnicity. […]
  • Open Mice: Kestrels–An Iowa Legacy May 16, 2017 6:29
    A few years ago, a short drive down my gravel road would yield at least one, if not two, American Kestrels perched on a power line or hovering mid-air above the grassy ditch. Today, I have begun to count myself lucky to drive past a mere one kestrel per week rather than the daily sightings. […]

Follow ABA on Twitter