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Rare Bird Alert: December 18, 2015

It’s CBC season, that time of year when birders around the continent, and increasingly the world, set out to dig deep into their own little 15 mile circles. With all the impressive coverage, it’s also a great time to turn up rarities. Also the colder weather is sending birds towards feeding stations across the ABA Area, and many of the vagrants this week are birds that were first noted at private residences.

Notable continuing rarities in the ABA Area include the Kelp Gull (ABA Code 4) in Ohio, the Western Spindalis (3) in Florida, one of the Santa Ana Northern Jacanas (4) in south Texas, and the Streak-backed Oriole (4) in New Mexico.

One of the more interesting reports of the week comes from New Hampshire, where a Whooper Swan (4) was found in Rockingham. Previous reports of this species in the state were passed off as likely vagrants, but you can never be too sure about that without clear cut evidence that it came from a local breeder (like the banded Common Pochard in New York some years back), and just because previous records may well have been escapees doesn’t mean future reports are by fiat. While the timing is certainly in favor of wild provenance, we trust birders in New Hampshire are getting to the bottom of it.


Escapee or natural vagrant? It’s the question that always hangs over Eurasian waterfowl, like the Whooper Swan in New Hampshire this week, in the ABA Area. Photo by Zeke Cornell.

Another potential first comes from Ohio, where a  “Western” Flycatcher was discovered in Washington. Either option would be a potential 1st for the state. While consensus at first was heading towards Pacific-slope, recent rumblings have the bird pegged as “too close to call”, which is just as well if the long-anticipated lump comes to pass.

In Illinois, a Mottled Duck was photographed in De Witt, in the southern part of the state.

Missouri had a Say’s Phoebe in Dade, one of fewer than 12 records.

A sharp Sabine’s Gull was a nice find well-inland in Wayne, Kentucky.

In Tennessee, a Black-chinned Hummingbird was banded at a feeder in Montgomery.

Alabama had a Little Gull (3) near Florence and a Buff-bellied Hummingbird at a feeder in Foley.

Mississippi’s 3rd record of Brown Booby (3), and its first away from the coast, was at Grenada Lake.

In South Carolina, an Ash-throated Flycatcher was a nice find on Hunting Island.

North Carolina also had an Ash-throated Flycatcher this week, in Washington, and a Ruff (3) in Dare.

A Black-headed Gull (3) was at Chincoteague NWR in Accomack, Virginia.

In Maryland, a Western Kingbird was photographed at Anne Arundel.

A young Swainson’s Hawk was a great bird on Staten Island, New York, and a Tufted Duck (3) was found in Suffolk.

New Hampshire had a Bullock’s Oriole at a feeder in Hampton.

Increasingly found up the coast but still notable, a White-winged Dove was good in Waldo, Maine.

In Nova Scotia, a Hermit Warbler, certainly one of the rarest of the western warblers to show up in the east, was found in Pictou.

In Ontario, both a Smew (4) and a Pink-footed Goose (4) were found near Stormont.

Manitoba had a Spotted Towhee, well-photographed at a feeder near Warren.

In Saskatchewan, a Pine Warbler in Saskatoon was the first in the province in many years.

Washington’s 3rd record of Yellow-throated Warbler was photographed in Cowlitz,

Oregon had a Red-legged Kittiwake onshore near Newport, and a repositioning cruise in Oregon waters had multiple Laysan Albatrosses (3) and Mottled Petrels (3).

California has seen a handful of Common Redpolls in the north this winter, but one in SE Farallon Island in San Francisco set a new southern extreme for the season.

In Nevada, both a Glaucous-winged Gull and a Lesser Black-backed Gull were in Clark.

And Arizona’s 4th Carolina Wren was visiting a feeder in Navajo.


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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