American Birding Podcast



#ABArare – Common Ringed Plover – Massachusetts

Those much vaunted ABA rarity codes, created way back when to quickly judge the relative scarcity of a given vagrant to our shores, are not perfect. For starters, birds that breed in Canada or the US, regardless of their rarity anywhere else in those two nations, are given codes 1 or 2 with only a disclaimer admitting that some code 2 birds are harder to find that many of those with code 3 or even 4  suggesting that there is more to the story. This is why a bird like Common Ringed Plover, despite nesting on Baffin Island in a remote part of arctic Nunavut, is a mere code 2.

That’s a roundabout way of saying that the Common Ringed Plover discovered by Suzzane Sullivan in Essex, Massachusetts, on May 20th is a much bigger deal than its ABA code would indicate.

Common Ringed Plover JF

photo by Jason Forbes

The bird was seen at Parker Island NWR, often referred to as Plum Island, which is east of Newburyport and just over an hour north of Boston on the Newburyport Turnpike. More specifically, the bird was seen amongst Semipalmated Plovers on Sandy Point near the Piping Plover enclosures, which is the extreme south end of the island and refuge.

Please note that due to a road improvement project at Parker Island NWR, Sandy Point has limited access. Monday through Thursday the road is closed to ALL traffic. On Friday, the road is one-lane until noon, when it is fully open through the weekend. More information is available here.

UPDATE: My mistake. The construction was completed last week and the road is completely open.

Common Ringed Plover is primarily a Eurasian species, but as mentioned earlier is fairly common in its restricted North American range including the northeastern coast of Baffin Island and Ellesmere Island in the ABA Area. The nominate subspecies, C. h. hiaticula, breeds from northeastern Canada to Western Europe.

Records for Common Ringed Plover on the east coast are few and far between and this is apparently only the sixth such record south of Canada. It has been recorded from Massachusetts at least twice before (1990, 2010), and also from Rhode Island (1991), Maine (2003), and New York (2008). There are several records from eastern Canada in Quebec, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia. Additionally, the species has been recorded for the Pacific Coast from Washington (2006) and California (2011).

Given the species’ identification challenges, particularly its similarity to Semipalmated Plover, this may be one that is more regular than the records would suggest.