Rare Bird Alert: December 23, 2016


With the solstice behind us, it’s only a matter of time before birds start heading northward again, but we’re still deep in the middle of Christmas Bird Count season and, as expected, CBCs have driven a lot of the rare bird finding this past week. Most of the long-staying ABA rarities have moves on now, leaving only the Amazon Kingfisher (ABA Code 5) in Texas (which did make it on to the local CBC) and the Streak-backed Oriole (4) in southeast Arizona as the remaining continental rarities that we’ve mentioned here before.

California comes through with this week’s highlight in the form of a drake Common Pochard (3) in Humboldt

in the far north of the state. While there’s been some confusion as to which record this bird potentially represents (as it’s the 4th individual for California but the 3rd record by virtue of a previous one consisting of a pair of birds). In any case, there are precious few accounts of this species in the lower 48, and only 2 more if you include Canada. Nearly all records of Common Pochard from the ABA Area come from Alaska.

This Common Pochard is the 4th individual bird for California and the Lower 48. Photo: Michael Park/Macauley Library (S33143716)

On the short list of remarkable finds for 2016, a Purple Sandpiper in Summit, Colorado will represent a 1st for that state. The circumstances of the find make it all the more amazing. A pair of teenage brothers found the bird in the middle of a driving blizzard. Incredibly, the bird has stuck around for several days since the discovery.

Good birds in British Columbia recently include a Rock Wren in Vancouver and a Lesser Goldfinch in Merritt.

Oregon had a Brambling (3) in Lane this week, the third in recent weeks in the ABA Area.

In Hawaii, a Marsh Sandpiper (5) was photographed on Maui.

Arizona had both a Brown Thrasher in Cochise, and a Rufous-backed Robin (3), one of several in the state this year, in Yavapai.

Missouri’s 8th record of Lesser Goldfinch was visiting a feeder in Jackson.

In Mississippi, a young California Gull was photographed at Enid Lake.

Alabama has had a Eurasian Wigeon in Decatur for a few weeks now.

Florida has had rarities from both directions this winter, with the latest a Common Eider in Miami-Dade.

In North Carolina, an Ash-throated Flycatcher was photographed in New Hanover.

Virginia had a Western Grebe in York.

Maryland’s 2nd record of Pink-footed Goose (4) was photographed in Kent, suggesthing this might be the year an individual is found even farther south.

New Jersey had a pair of Barnacle Geese (4) in Mercer.

In Rhode Island, an interesting looking Graylag Goose (5) in Providence, is being treated is a potential natural vagrant. The species should not be completely unexpected in the ABA Area, but its prevalence in domestic collections makes finding a truly wild bird very difficult.

In Massachusetts, a pair of White-winged Doves were present in Boston, a Calliope Hummingbird in Harwich. and a Tufted Duck (3) in Haverhill.

New Hampshire had a Townsend’s Solitaire this week in Windham.

Quebec had a Townsend’s Solitaire as well, this one in Rimouski.

In New Brunswick, three Common Shelducks were present in Tadorne de Balon for a couple days this week. This is the second incidence of this species in eastern Canada this month.

And in Newfoundland, a sharp “Sooty” Fox Sparrow was seen at Portugal Cove.


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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