American Birding Podcast



Rare Bird Alert: November 1, 2013

It’s November, and across the continent that means one thing: rarity season. Sure the sparrows are still moving in and the waterfowl are starting to arrive farther south, but all sort of unusual things can pop up in unusual places this month, more than most it seems. And while the winds that precipitate those most exciting days haven’t been quite on the mark just yet, when birds are moving just about anything is possible.

The biggest news of the week came just a couple days ago, when birders in California spotted a large swift on private property in Riverside. Excellent photos were obtained and it appears as though this is a very good candidate for California’s first record of Common Swift (ABA Code 5) a species found only a bare handful of times in North America and never before in the lower 48 states.

Due to issues involving access (private property) and identity (being a fast-moving aerial species), this is not a chase-able bird, but it’s a phenomenal record, one that will go on the shortlist of best of the year without doubt.

Common Swift. Photo by Oscar Johnson.

Common Swift. Photo by Oscar Johnson.

The swift was not the only first we saw this week, and oddly enough not the only potential first for California. And even more odd, not even the only potential California first in Riverside County.  A Marsh Sandpiper (5) was also reported from the north end of the Salton Sea not more than a few days before the swift was photographed. Unfortunately, that bird was not refound either.

As if that is not enough, a remarkable three additional states and one province racked up new species in the past seven days, proving that its rarity season, indeed.

A hummingbird in Manchester, New Hampshire, left unidentified for a couple weeks, turned out to be that state’s first  Calliope Hummingbird. The bird is still visiting the feeder as of the writing of this post.

Quebec became the latest northeastern state/province to add Hermit Warbler to its list, as one was discovered and subsequently banded at Tadoussac Bird Observatory near The Bergeronnes.

And Oregon checks in with one from the “everything is rare somewhere” department with the state’s first confirmed record of Red-bellied Woodpecker, an individual visiting a feeder in LaGrande.

And in breaking news I learned in the comments that the Laughing Gull in Power, Idaho, is a potential state first as well.

Checking back in with California, non-swift-or-Marsh-Sandpiper notables include a LeConte’s Sparrow in San Diego and a Canada Warbler in Santa Cruz.

Another species indicating how weird of a week it was for rarities, was a reported Jack Snipe (4) seen briefly by a couple individuals in Maryville, Washington. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this bird has not been seen well yet, and identification of snipe are difficult for many reasons, but it’s something to keep an eye on should any additional reports surface.

In British Columbia this week, an Ash-throated Flycatcher was in Chilliwack and a Chestnut-collared Longspur was well-photoed near Victoria.

Nevada’s 2nd record of Little Gull (3) was a subadult bird in Washoe.

Not one but two Heerman’s Gulls were found this week in southern Arizona, both in Pima, and a Blue Jay is present in Santa Cruz.

In Utah, double Zonotrichia‘s were the order of the day when both a Harris’s Sparrow and a White-throated Sparrow were found in Utah.

In Colorado, a Sedge Wren is a good one in Larimer, and an “Atlantic” Brant was photographed in Loveland

Always a notable bird inland, a Pacific Loon was discovered in Hastings, Nebraska.

Another unconfirmed record of a continental rarity this week came from Texas, where a Roadside Hawk (4) was reported from Bentsen State Park in Hidalgo. It has not been confirmed, but there are no questions about the Brown Booby (3) in Galveston Bay.

In Louisiana, it’s hummingbird season, as a Broad-tailed Hummingbird was visiting a feeder in Lafayette. Three Brown Boobies (3) were visible from shore in Cameron this week.

An Ash-throated Flycatcher, perhaps the quintessential rarity season species, was found on Dauphin Island, Alabama.

Tis the season for flycatchers in Florida, and this week a Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher was discovered in Monroe.

In Georgia, a Franklin’s Gull was notable in Clayton.

Good birds in Tennessee include a Black-legged Kittiwake in Johnson and a Harris’s Sparrow in Rutherford.

In North Carolina, a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher turned up in New Hanover, and a Common Ground-Dove was found in Mecklenberg.

A Brewer’s Blackbird in Suffolk, New York, is a good bird anywhere on the east coast.

In Connecticut, a Swainson’s Hawk was seen near Torrington.

An “Audubon’s” Yellow-rumped Warbler was photographed in York, Maine.

Nova Scotia’s 2nd provincial record of Ross’s Goose was found in Windsor this week.

In addition to the Hermit Warbler, Quebec had a Yellow-throated Warbler in Gaspésie.

Ontario also picked up an Ash-throated Flycatcher this week at Long Point, but the big news is that the province’s first Brown Booby (3), first reported a couple weeks ago near Fort Erie, has also made its way westward to Long Point.

In Michigan, notable species include a King Eider at Pt Huron and a Red Phalarope in Ottawa.

A Fork-tailed Flycatcher (3) was reported this week in Vermilion, Indiana, but as par for the course for this species, it was apparently a one-day wonder.

Good ducks in Illinois include a “Common” Green-winged Teal in Clinton and a Mottled Duck in DeWitt.

In Wisconsin, a gorgeous Whooper Swan (3) has been present in Columbia  for the week but, rightly or wrongly, issues of provenance have dogged it. The bird is without bands or evident wear. A pair of Brant at Steven’s Point elicit no such concerns.


Omissions and errors are not intended, but if you find any please message blog AT and I’ll 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.