One truly amazing hummingbird, the Gulf oil spill, check-list changes, and a photo gallery of recent rare-bird sightings
Birding Briefs -- October 2010
Published: August 20, 2010
Amazing Rufous Hummingbird makes cross-continent migration
RECORD BREAKER: A female Rufous Hummingbird rests in the hand of bander Fred Dietrich of the Hummer/Bird Study Group of Clay, Alabama, on January 13, 2010. Dietrich banded the second-year bird in Pam Flynn’s backyard in Tallahassee, Florida. The bird visited the yard for only a few weeks and then disappeared. When it was seen again, on June 28, it surprised everyone. It turned up in a bander’s net in Chenega Bay, Alaska — more than 3,500 miles from Tallahassee. The distance is a new record for migration distance by a hummingbird.
Fall migrants face an oily winter in the Gulf
Federal and state wildlife managers are planning to flood fields and create mudflats 50 to 100 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico in hopes that migratory birds will stop short of the waters polluted by the BP oil disaster this fall.
Millions of individuals of more than 100 species of shorebirds, waterfowl, seabirds, waders, and rails rely on Gulf waters or shores for winter habitat. They include:
Blue-winged Teal — Adult males are expected to be among the first migratory ducks to arrive in the region, sometime in mid-August. The population is estimated to number 6.3 million, down 14 percent from 2009.
Common Loon — Half of the population that nests in the Midwest winters in near-shore waters no more than 150 feet deep, especially along the coast of Alabama and the Florida panhandle. Sub-adults remain in the Gulf for two to three years as nonbreeders; at least a dozen oiled sub-adults were cared for by rehabilitators last summer.
Dunlin — The arctic-nesting shorebird winters along the Pacific, Atlantic, and Gulf coasts. In recent years, as many as 2,000 individuals were reported in November along the now heavily oiled southeastern Louisiana coast.
Piping Plover — Approximately 35 percent of the total breeding population winters along the coast from Florida to Texas, representing more than 50 percent of the endangered Great Lakes-Great Plains population.
Black-necked Stilt — The long-legged bird breeds and winters along the Louisiana and Texas coasts. Birders often report dozens to hundreds of stilts in fall and winter from the mouth of the Mississippi River west along the coast.
The oiled coasts, scientists say, should not affect migratory songbirds and hummingbirds, which refuel at inland sites before crossing the Gulf in one flight.
Changes to scoters, whips, and wrens
The American Ornithologists’ Union, the body responsible for English bird names and scientific nomenclature, has announced the addition of 4 orders, 11 families — including Pandionidae (Ospreys) — 6 genera, and over a dozen new species to its Check-list of North American Birds.
• Black Scoter was recognized as distinct from Common Scoter of Eurasia.
• Whip-poor-will was split into Eastern Whip-poor-will and Mexican Whip-poor-will.
• Pacific Wren was split from Winter Wren; both were split from Eurasian Wren.
• Kauai Elepaio and Oahu Elepaio were separated from Hawaii Elepaio.
The AOU considered but did not accept a proposal to split the Western Scrub-Jay into three species. Kenn Kaufman explained differences between coastal “California” and interior “Woodhouse’s” scrub-jays in “ID Tips” in April 2009.
Also rejected was a proposal to recognize the South Hills Crossbill as a new species of Red Crossbill. We described the bird, found in south-central Idaho, in “Birding Briefs” in June 2007.
Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Red-necked Stint, and more rare bird sightings.
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