American Birding Podcast



#ABArare – Willow Warbler, Taiga Flycatcher – Alaska

Rarity season in western Alaska is shifting into gear, with reports of nice Asian landbird vagrant in the Bering Sea, one each from Gambell and St. Paul, a Code 4 Willow Warbler on the former and a Code 4 Taiga Flycatcher on the latter.

Greg Schyphers and crew, stationed at Gambell, had the Willow Warbler on September 1st. Since the first ABA Area record in 2002, St. Lawrence Island has hosted an impressive 18 individuals of this widespread Old World Phylloscopus. 

Photo: Greg Scyphers

Identification of Phylloscopus warblers is notoriously difficult, and the species Willow Warbler is most likely to be confused with – Common Chiffchaff – has been recorded in the Bering Sea in recent years. In comparison, Willow Warbler shows stronger green and yellow tones, pale feet, and a longer primary extension. Vocalizations of the two species are also diagnostic.

And on St. Paul Island in the Pribilofs, Sulli Gibson and others had a Taiga Flycatcher on September 3rd. This is the 8th island record.

Taiga Flycatcher known in the ABA Area almost exclusively from western Alaska where there are multiple records, particularly in the spring – Howell et al note a maximum of 14 from Attu, in the Aleutians, in June 1987. Records in the fall are far fewer, however. In addition to the Alaska accounts, there is a single record for Yolo/Solano County, California in October 2006.