Rare Bird Alert: September 9, 2016


Continuing rarities include Tufted Flycatcher (ABA Code 5) and Plain-capped Starthroat (4) in Arizona, Marsh Sandpiper (5) on St Paul in Alaska, and the long-staying Little Egret (4) in Maine.

This past week was a tale of two hurricanes, one on either side of the continent. Both Atlantic and Pacific birders anticipated the bounty of storm waifs that occasionally accompanies these tropical storms, and both birders in the field and those of us watching from the sidelines had much to be excited about. In the Atlantic, Hurricane Hermine made landfall along the Florida panhandle, crossed Georgia and South Carolina. It brought along the classic storm waifs, Sooty Terns and Magnificent Frigatebirds and little else until it touched the Atlantic again and spun some birds into the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. I’ll touch on some of the highlights later in this post, but Hermine took a backseat this week to the wonder that was Newton.

Hurricane Newton, in the Pacific, made landfall in Baja California, scooping up birds from the Sea of Cortez on its way north and dropping the entire load around Tucson, Arizona. And that haul was nothing short of extraordinary.

I’ll pause for a second to note that Arizona was enjoying a potential state 1st before the storm even arrived. An apparent California Scrub-Jay that had visited a feeder in Yuma was a result of the recent scrub-jay split accepted by the AOU earlier this summer. It was a fine bird in its own right. But Newton had other plans.

The total tally from the storm is still coming, but it seems we can at least confirm that birders found an Arizona 1st Wedge-tailed Shearwater (4), and ABA Area 1st Juan Fernandez Petrel (incredibly photographed from a driveway) and confirmation of at least 3 species of storm-petrel, Least Storm-Petrel, Leach’s Storm-Petrel, and a great many Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrels (4), the last another Arizona 1st. Most birds were in Pima, but one Wedge-rumped was seen as far north as Maricopa.

In the uncomfirmed category, we have to place Townsend’s Storm-Petrel (5), as at least two were reported from Pima. The species is one of the recently split Leach’s Storm-Petrel complex, and ID is difficult at best.


This apparent Juan Fernandez Petrel, and ABA Area 1st, has to go down as one of the greatest yard ticks in birding history. Photo: Brian Patrick Gibbons

Aside from the scattered Sooty Terns and random inland Magnificent Frigatebirds, Hurricane Hermine saw most of its notable birds end up in Virginia, likely waifs disturbed by the storm’s periphery and spun westward as Hermine skirted the coast. Neither Black-capped Petrel nor White-tailed Tropicbird (3) are particularly rare in Virginia waters, but they are particularly notable when seen from shore, as they were from the Bay Bridge Tunnel this week.

The only other hurricane bird of note this week came from Mississippi, where a Brown Noddy was found in Jacksonshortly after Hermine’s arrival.

In non-storm news, a Bell’s Vireo was captured by banders in Charleston, South Carolina.

In New York, a Brown Booby (3) was seen flying offshore from Suffolk.

Nova Scotia had a European Golden-Plover (4) this week in Kentville.

In Newfoundland, a Common Ringed Plover was a nice fine in Biscay Bay, and a Hooded Warbler was noteworthy in Cape Spear.

Quebec becomes the latest place to host a Swallow-tailed Kite, and also sets the farthest extreme for the species at Haute-Côte-Nord.

Michigan had yest another frigatebird sp, the second in two weeks, seen briefly in Berrien.

Notable for Minnesota was a Sabine’s Gull in Stearns.

In Missouri, a Neotropic Cormorant was seen in Boone.

Texas’s first Crimson-collared Grosbeak (4) of the season was an early arrival in Cameron.

New Mexico had a Blue-winged Warbler in Hidalgo.

A Little Gull (3) was a nice find in Douglas, Colorado.

Good for Utah was a Canada Warbler photographed in Salt Lake.

Nevada had multiple Parasitic Jaegers seen in Washoe this week.

California’s 3rd Bar-tailed Godwit of the season was found near Oakland. Interestingly, every record of this species in California this fall has been from the Bay Area.

An NOAA ship in British Columbia waters had some Scripp’s Murrelets this week, and  Chestnut-sided Warbler was photographed near Golden.

And in western Alaska, passerine migration heats up with a Siberian Accentor (4) seen in Gambell.


Omissions and errors are not intended, but if you find any please message blog AT aba.org and I will 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 <aba.org/nab>, the richly illustrated journal of ornithological record published by the ABA.


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