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Rare Bird Alert: December 30, 2016

This is your last RBA of 2016, a year that has been pretty remarkable in terms of rarities. It ends appropriately, with a number of notable ABA Area vagrants hanging on week to week. Those birds include the Common Pochard (ABA Code 3) in California, the Streak-backed Oriole (4) in Arizona, the familiar Amazon Kingfisher (5) in Texas, at least one Western Spindalis (3) in Florida, the three Common Shelducks (no code) in New Brunswick, and far too many Pink-footed (4) and Barnacle Geese (4) throughout the northeast to count individually. Rhode Island’s interesting Graylag Goose (5) has also been hanging around.

A fine addition to that crew of remarkable birds came from Idaho this week, when a Red-flanked Bluetail (4) was discovered in Nez Perce. This is a 1st for the state, but Idaho has a history of seemingly unbelievable rarities, as the state famously hosted one of the first Siberian Accentors ever seen in the ABA Area away from Alaska back in 1996.

This Red-flanked Bluetail is a 1st for Idaho, and one of only a few away from Alaska. Photo: Christian Hagenlocher/Macaulay Library (S33236591)

There were at least two other 1st records this week, both on the eastern side of the continent. A Smith’s Longspur in Monroe was a long awaited 1st for Florida. The bird unfortunately did not linger. Groove-billed Ani was also noteworthy in the state, in Miami-Dade.

Newfoundland also looks to have a likely 1st record with the incredible find of a Kelp Gull in St. John’s. This is potentially the 2nd record for Canada in addition to the 1st for the province, and the farthest north the species has ever been recorded. I cannot recall precisely how many species of gulls St. John’s has had this year, but it would probably be easier to list the ones that haven’t been seen there.

Elsewhere in the east, Massachusetts had a good candidate for Long-billed Murrelet (4), seen in Barnstableand a Slaty-backed Gull (3) was photographed in Bristol.

New Jersey’s 2nd record of Rock Wren was seen by a great many birders in Somerset this week.

Pennsylvania had a Bullock’s Oriole in Lancaster.

Delaware’s 2nd Crested Caracara was photographed near Rehobath, and birders looking for it a couple days later found an Ash-throated Flycatcher as well.

In South Carolina, a Golden Eagle was photographed on a game camera in Jasper

An exciting find in Delaware, Ohio, just yesterday was an Ivory Gull, the state’s 2nd record.

Wisconsin had a Black-billed Magpie in Douglas

A Blue Bunting (4) was found at Santa Ana NWR in Hidalgo, Texas, and a Rufous-backed Robin (3) was seen by quite a few birders Val Verde.

Good for New Mexico was a Purple Finch in Sierra.

In Arizona, a young Black-legged Kittiwake was seen on Lake Havasu.

And in British Columbia, the 2nd Red-flanked Bluetail (4) in the ABA Area in only a few days was seen near Comox, though apparently it had been present for about a week. Also in the province, a Black-headed Gull (3) was photographed in Delta, the 3rd in BC this year.


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

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  • Andy Kratter

    The Smith’s Longspur in Florida was in Monroe County, not Miami-Dade.

    • Fixed. Thanks, Andy.

  • Tim H

    Rhode Island’s promising Graylag Goose (potential 5) was still hanging around until at least yesterday. More birders getting out there to document this bird wth photos and field notes would no doubt help the records committees.

  • Patrick Maurice

    Does the continuing Rufous-backed Robins at the Santa Cruz Flats in Arizona not qualify for the rare bird alert anymore?

    • That’s a good question. The last few years have seen them occur so regularly in Arizona that at some point I stopped including them in the continuing section. They’re increasing akin to Clay-colored Robins in south Texas, sort of always there.

  • Melissa H

    A Red-flanked Bluetail was found yesterday in Comox, BC. This is the second record for BC and second record for Canada. You can read more about this sighting at the BC Rare Bird Alert


  • Jeoffrey Katt

    The Long-Billed Murrelet possibility in Massachusetts was in Barnstable County-Provincetown/Race Pt., not Essex.

  • Rob

    A Black-throated Gray Warbler was discovered this afternoon in Washington, DC.

    • Rob

      This is the first report from DC.

  • Melissa H

    RFBL continues in Comox, BC today

    BHGU continues as well in Delta, BC

  • Melissa H

    The RFBL was finally photographed today in Comox, BC-Canada
    Photo can be viewed here:

    Also we have a probable Purple Sandpiper in Victoria, BC, Canada. If confirmed this would be the first record for BC and the second confirmed record for the Pacific Coast.

    Info and photos here and more photos will be posted shortly


  • Andrew Keaveney

    Ontario has 2 accepted records of Kelp Gull, potentially the same bird, but at least a year apart.

  • Kirsten Mills

    There’s a purple sandpiper in Victoria bc. 1st record for bc 2nd record for pacific coast of aba.

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