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Important bird news from the beginning of November

Sagebrush Sparrow made bird news recently. This one was near Phoenix, Arizona.
Sagebrush Sparrow made bird news recently. This one was near Phoenix, Arizona, January 2015. Photo by Laure Wilson Neish.

Here’s a roundup of the latest bird news. In chronological order below are the 10 most important stories that we followed over the past two weeks. Follow us on Twitter.

1. Firsts for Tennessee and Alaska: A Northern Wheatear was photographed in Tennessee for the first time, and a Lewis’s Woodpecker was recorded in Alaska for the first time. The wheatear was in Loudon County. The woodpecker was in Petersburg, south of Juneau. November 13

2. A first for the western Palearctic: An American Tree Sparrow, a familiar North American species, was recorded in the western Palearctic for the first time. The sparrow was photographed at Skåne, north of Karlstad, in southern Sweden. November 12

Lewis’s Woodpecker made bird news recently. This one was at Crane Creek Regional Park, east of Rohnert Park, California.
Lewis’s Woodpecker made bird news recently. This one was at Crane Creek Regional Park, east of Rohnert Park, California, by Ron Storey.

3. A first for Michigan: A Sagebrush Sparrow, the bird pictured above, was recorded in Michigan for the first time. The bird was photographed at Whitefish Point, on the Upper Peninsula. The species is normally found only in the western United States. November 11

Note: Kenn Kaufman will address the challenge of identifying Bell’s and Sagebrush Sparrows in “ID Tips” in the January-February 2017 issue of BirdWatching Magazine. The issue will appear on newsstands January 10.

4. Global Big Year Record broken: The world Big Year mark set in 2015 by American Noah Strycker was broken by Dutch birder Arjan Dwarshuis. A Northern Jacana recorded in Costa Rica was Dwarshuis’s 6,119th species this year. “We’ll see how far I get,” he said. “But I think 7,000 is doable.” November 10

5. A close relative: Scientists announced that a fossil found four years ago in the region of Ganzhou, China, is a new species of dinosaur that was a close relative of birds. The dinosaur, an oviraptorosaur, was the size of a donkey and had feathers and a beak. It did not fly. November 10


6. Tufted Puffins are starving: Since mid-October, hundreds of Tufted Puffins have been washing up dead on islands in the Bering Sea, off the coast of Alaska. The birds aren’t sick, scientists say, but in an “advanced state of starvation.” November 9

7. Almost 700 species: Birders in Ecuador recorded 5,454 birds of 693 species over two days in late October during Bird Blitz 2016, an annual event held on reserves managed by the Jocotoco Foundation. Participants during Bird Blitz 2015 counted more individuals (6,865) but fewer species (620). November 8

8. Three new forest robins: Scientists working in lowland forests in Benin, Ghana, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo discovered three new species. All are forest robins in the genus Stiphrornis. “The discovery of these three new species is a good example of the amount of potentially hidden diversity living in Afrotropical forests,” said the leader of the research team. November 7


9. A long flight over water: Researchers who attached satellite-tracking devices to migrating Peregrine Falcons and Merlins on Block Island, Rhode Island, reported that the birds hug the coast to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and then fly overwater to Florida and the Bahamas. Almost all of the birds captured on Block Island are young birds migrating for the first time, and almost all are of a subspecies that breed in the Arctic. November 2

10. Botulism in Lake Michigan: Hundreds of dead birds washed ashore in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and on the Leelanau Peninsula, in northwestern Michigan. According to the leader of a botulism-monitoring project, the birds “almost certainly” died of type E botulism. November 1

— Chuck Hagner, Editor


Ten most important news stories from the end of October.

Important bird news from early October.

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