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Rare Bird Alert: December 19, 2014

Christmas Bird Count season kicked off this week, and it was this annual census that formed the background for much of the rarity-finding this week. Nearly every significant find reported since last weekend was found on a CBC, just going to show that when you get enough birders out in the field, paying exceptionally close attention to every single bird they see, then you’re going to find some good stuff. The rarities are always out there, it seems, but sometimes that little extra effort is needed to really dig them out.

One of the more interesting records to come out of this week is that case of the Brown-capped Rosy-Finches in Utah. Brown-capped is the most range-restricted of the three North American rosy-finches, and the least likely to stray far beyond it’s core Front

But close attention to flocks of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches found one Brown-capped Rosy-Finch near Salt Lake City, a bird I mentioned in last week’s roundup and only the 2nd record for the state. Subsequent searches for that bird proved fruitful when another individual, the state’s 3rd, was discovered as well. Could this be a false vagrant, present most years but easily overlooked? Or is this merely an exceptional year for the species in the Great Basin (in which case, surrounding states should be parsing those finch flocks). Time will tell, but it’s certainly an interesting coincidence.


Two Brown-capped Rosy-Finches were found in Utah in the last 10 days, the 2nd and 3rd ever for the state. Photo by Ryan O’Donnell

No first records this week so we’ll stay in the west. Montana had a Red-throated Loon this week in Fort Peck.

Quite rare away from the coast, a Eurasian Wigeon was seen in Boise, Idaho.

In Oregon, Indigo Bunting was photographed in Clatsop.

A pair of Acorn Woodpeckers took up residence at a park in Reno, Nevada.

Birders on a CBC in Houston, Texas, had a Great Black-backed Gull at a local landfill.

A number of great birds were discovered in Louisiana this week, including a Mountain Bluebird in Washington, a Spotted Towhee in Orleans, and a dark-phase Ferruginous Hawk in Jefferson Davis.

In Florida, a MacGillivray’s Warbler was found in Palm Beach, potentially the same individual found there last winter.

In Miller, Georgia, a Say’s Phoebe and two Ash-throated Flycatchers were found in relatively close proximity.

A Tufted Duck (ABA Code 3) was found in Anne Arundel, Maryland.

A pair of Barnacle Goose (4) were seen by many Pennsylvania birders in Monroe.

In Ohio, a Golden-crowned Sparrow has returned to a Hancock feeder for the 6th consecutive year.

A Eurasian Tree Sparrow found on the Winnipeg, Manitoba, CBC is the 2nd for the province and yet another record of this non-native species away from its upper Mississippi River core range in the last year.

In Ontario, a Painted Bunting was found near Oakville and a Western Kingbird near Chippewa.

New Jersey also had a Barnacle Goose (4), one near Ramsey.

A well-photographed Le Conte’s Sparrow was a highlight in Eastham, Massachusetts, this week, and a Tufted Duck (3) was found near Falmouth.

In Nova Scotia, an Ash-throated Flycatcher was seen near Dartmouth, but the real highlight was the eventual identification of a mystery Empid in Kings, present since early in the month, as a Dusky Flycatcher, the province’s 4th record.

In Quebec, the 2nd Yellow-throated Warbler of the season was found at the port of Montréal, a White-winged Dove was in Îles-de-la-Madeleine, and a Townsend’s Solitaire in Chicoutimi-Jonquiere.


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.
Nate Swick

Latest posts by Nate Swick (see all)

  • Mike Patterson

    I’m not sure where the “female-type” part came from in describing the Seaside bunting. When first found, we figured hatch-year, working from fuzzy initial images, but nothing more specific. The next day in better light and with a better camera (mine), we could see the bright blue feathers molting in on the breast. So, first winter male, not “female-type”.

  • Bridget

    Just making sure, Eurasian Wigeon is a Code 2, isn’t it?

  • Bill

    Falcated Teal, Brambling, Rustic Bunting…California has quite the collection of overlooked rarities at the moment.

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