American Birding Podcast



#ABArare – Yellow-breasted Bunting – Newfoundland & Labrador

On October 16, Vernon Buckle photographed an ABA Code 5 Yellow-breasted Bunting at his feeder in Forteau Bay, on the mainland (Labrador) part of Newfoundland & Labrador. This is a 1st record for the province and for Canada. All previous records of this species come from western Alaska.

Forteau Bay is the southernmost point of mainland Labrador, just across the border from Quebec. Unfortunately for birders, it is not an easy place to get to. One could fly to Goose Bay, Newfoundland and drive the 8 hours south, or fly to Blanc-Sablon, Quebec, and make the short drive across into Labrador. Alternately, there is regular ferry service from St. Barbe on the island of Newfoundland to Blanc-Sablon. In any case, there are few places anywhere in North America as difficult to visit.

Yellow-breasted Bunting is a widespread species, breeding across the entirety of Russia and wintering in southern China and southeast Asia. It was formally thought to be quite common but has, in just the last decade, been discovered to be under intense pressure from hunting and trapping on its wintering grounds and is declining rapidly.

There are a small handful of previous confirmed records of this species in the ABA Area, all from Alaska and all but one in spring. Notably, there are 2 unaccepted records from California (Los Angeles 2000, Southeast Farallon 2009) that were insufficiently documented for acceptance in that state but could represent valid records. Alaska records likely represent the east Asian ornata subspecies. This Newfoundland record may represent the nominate subspecies, though the two are not known to be recognizable in the field.