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#ABArare – Common House Martin, Gray Bunting – Alaska

Reports are coming in hot and heavy from Alaska, with the Aleutian and Bering Sea outposts well-manned to take advantage of overshooting Asian vagrants. This post will draw attention to two of the most notable sightings so far but is not meant to be a full account of the season so far. The best place for that continues to be the ABA Rare Bird Alert Facebook groups where birders in the region have been diligent about announcing noteworthy finds.

Best find so far, in as much as rarity is concerned, is likely an ABA Code 5 Gray Bunting on far Attu, found by John Puschock and crew on their annual trip to the storied island at the end of the Aleutians. The bird, an immature male, was photographed but internet access is sketchy on the boat used to access Attu so not available at the moment.

The Gray Bunting is the highlight of a trip that has also included several ABA Code 4 birds like Gray WagtailGray-streaked FlycatcherEurasian Bullfinch, and Hawfinch.

Gray Bunting has been recorded three times previously in the ABA Area, all from Attu or Shemya Islands in the western Aleutians, and all from the last half of May.

On Gambell, St. Lawrence Island, Aaron Lang discovered an apparent ABA Code 4 Common House Martin, though it’s not clear whether Asian House Martin, which has not been recorded in the ABA Area, can be eliminated.

Photo: Aaron Lang/Macaulay Library

Common House Martin is rare in western Alaska, and has been recorded both in the western islands and on the mainland. There is also a single record in the east, from St. Pierre et Miquelon.

Identification is tricky due to the likelihood of the aforementioned Asian House Martin, which breeds as close to Alaska as the Kuril Islands north of Japan. Howell et all suggest that some records of Common House Martin in the ABA Area may, in fact, be Asian House Martin, but that birds in the Bering Sea are more likely the former.

Also notable on Gambell in recent days, a Code 4 “Siberian” Stonechat was seen.

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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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