American Birding Podcast



#ABArare – Common Shelduck – Newfoundland

Earlier today (4/2), Tony and Yvonee Dunne photographed a Common Shelduck near the town of Renews, Newfoundland. Pending acceptance (a big “if” when referring to vagrant waterfowl), this would be a first provincial record and potential first for the ABA Area.


Photo by Tony/Yvonne Dunne, more photos available here

The town of Renews is in the southeast of Newfoundland, approximately 96 km south of St. John’s (1.5 hrs by car per Google maps). The bird was seen on the north side of the harbor, feeding on the beach at low tide. It was reportedly very wary so birders should be cautious not to unnecessarily spook the bird.

Reports of Common Shelduck in the ABA Area are not uncommon, and most are considered to be escapees out of hand and greeted with something resembling indifference by local birding communities. While many of these reports are probably rightly considered to be human assisted in some capacity (particularly those in Florida or west of Mississippi), a number of observations in the northeast could be indicative of a pattern of natural vagrancy, as we’ve seen with the now annual records of European geese in the ABA Area. Indeed some authorities have looked to an increase in the population of the species in Iceland in recent years as a possible source of birds on our side of the Atlantic (Howell et al 2014), arguing that it is not only a plausible vagrant but potentially a likely one.

Editor Ned Brinkley, in North American Birds, took a look at known observations of the species in North America(.pdf) in the wake of a pair of notable, but unaccepted, reports – in eastern Newfoundland and in Essex, Massachusetts, both in fall/winter of 2009 .  Brinkley found that records of the species have increased in recent decades, concentrated near their expected landfall in the northeast (Brinkley 2010). Whether this pattern suggests anything that birders have been missing over the years is unclear, but needless to say the fact that this individual has not been considered an escapee out of hand suggests that birders are now, more than ever, open to the possibility of natural vagrancy for Common Shelduck in the ABA Area. The behavior of this individual certainly suggests they might be right to do so.


Brinkley, E.S. 2010. The changing seasons: Provenance. North American Birds 64:20-31

Howell, Steve N. G., Ian Lewington, and Will Russell. 2014. Rare Birds of North America: Princeton UP.