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#ABArare – Chiffchaff and Red-flanked Bluetail – Alaska

A few rare vagrants visited Gambell the past several days. The first one found was a Chiffchaff (Code 5), discovered by Paul Lehman on Sep 22 and present until Sep 23. This is the third sighting of one in the ABA Area, with the previous two also from Gambell.

Chiffchaff is similar to several other Phylloscopus warblers, and the previous two sightings presented identification challenges. The first was seen Sep 30-Oct 3, 2011, but photographs did not definitively establish the identification, and it was not accepted onto the ABA Checklist at the time. The second was found Jun 6, 2012. Observers initially considered Chiffchaff, then thought it was likely a Willow Warbler (note the title of my blog post at the time; I really should update it), before settling on Chiffchaff. This bird was then accepted and added to the ABA Checklist.

Chiffchaff. Photo by Clarence Irrigoo.

Chiffchaff. Photo by Clarence Irrigoo.

The Chiffchaffs at Gambell have been of the subspecies P. collybita tristis. Some authorities consider it to be a full species, Siberian Chiffchaff. In comparison, the species which it’s most likely to be confused with, Willow Warbler, shows stronger green and yellow tones, pale feet, and a longer primary extension. Compare and contrast them in the two photos below.

Willow Warbler. Photo by Clarence Irrigoo.

Willow Warbler. Photo by Clarence Irrigoo.

Chiffchaff. Photo by Clarence Irrigoo.

Chiffchaff. Photo by Clarence Irrigoo.

On Sep 23, Clarence Irrigoo found Gambell’s second Red-flanked Bluetail. The first was in 2006. Most ABA Area records of this species come from the western Aleutians, but there are several from the Pribilofs, two from California (including one that ended up as dinner for a Loggerhead Shrike), and the crowd-pleaser near Vancouver, BC last winter.

Red-flanked Bluetail. Photo by Clarence Irrigoo.

Red-flanked Bluetail. Photo by Clarence Irrigoo.