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#ABArare – Stygian Owl – Florida

The turn of May and June has been an exceptional time for rarities in the ABA Area. Things are still showing up in Alaska and the Gulf Stream continues to put on its annual show. Barely having recovered from the shock of a wayward Tahiti Petrel in North Carolina, the birding world’s jaws dropped once again for a one-day wonder ABA Code 5 Stygian Owl found by Mark Hedden at a private residence in Key West, Florida. This is the 3rd record for the ABA Area, and the 1st for Florida.

The bird was found in the center of Key West, roosting in the yard of a private residence. It did not return the following day and, despite great effort, was not found again though it is certainly possible it is still in the area.

Stygian Owl is widespread throughout the neotropics, with several highly disjunct populations in Middle America, the Caribbean and South America. There are two previous records in the ABA Area, both found on day roosts at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Hidalgo County, Texas (1994, 1996). Howell, et al, in Rare Birds of North America notes that those records could conceivably represent the same long-staying, but easily overlooked, individual.

Stygian Owl is made up of 4 to 6 loosely defined subspecies. The Texas birds were likely of the Middle American robustus group, but this Florida bird is almost certainly of the siguapa group of Cuba and Hispaniola (the latter are sometimes described as distinct subspecies themselves). Some authorities suspect that these may represent a good species on their own, making this bird a potential 1st ABA record should Stygian Owl systematics ever be worked out.

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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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