Friday 8 July 2011

The next 20 birds added to the Ontario list

Disclaimer - none of these photos were taken by me. Link to original photo provided. I hope that's not illegal?!?

To me, there is very little in the birding world that is more enjoyable than finding a rare bird. Finding a bird that is the first record for your respective state/province seems to be the ultimate thrill for many birders. I’ve spent a lot of time (too much, probably!) over the past couple years contemplating what would be the next bird added to the Ontario list. Two of my top choices, Anna’s Hummingbird and Roseate Spoonbill, were found last year and (pending acceptance from the Ontario Bird Records Committee) will be added to the provincial checklist. Below, I’ve outlined what I think may be the next 20 birds added to the Ontario list, ranked from least likely to most likely. I have also gone a step further and tried to guess the time of year that one will show up. Chances are good that I will be proven wrong, but hey, maybe I will get a couple right! Without further ado, the list:

20. Little Egret

Little Egret (from Wikipedia Commons)
Little Egret may be a surprising choice seeing as it is an ABA code-4 bird – or a species that is not annually found in North America. However, Little Egret numbers are increasing in Europe and so is the frequency in which we are getting them in North America. Its only a matter of time before one wanders too far and ends up in Ontario! 

When? late July/early August

19. Pacific Wren
Pacific Wren (taken from
The familiar Winter Wren was recently split into three species – the western N.A. species (Pacific Wren), eastern N.A. species (retaining the name Winter Wren), and European species (Eurasian Wren). While we are familiar with Winter Wren, I would assume that most of Ontario’s birders aren’t too familiar with Pacific Wren, or certainly weren’t, prior to the split. There are no records that I am aware of for Pacific Wren in eastern N.A., but that may be because most of the birders out here aren’t familiar with the species. Who knows, with birders now being more informed, a Pacific Wren will have a harder time slipping past...

When? April (not a great time for vagrants, but birds are singing then, possibly making it easier to pick out)

18. Hammond’s Flycatcher
Hammond's Flycatcher (taken from
It seems that every year Ontario gets hit with some warm weather systems from the US southwest in October and November. The annual “flight” of Cave Swallows seems to occur almost every year, and many of Ontario’s rare flycatcher records have come then. It doesn’t seem implausible that a species such as Hammond’s would make its way across on one of these weather systems. Heck, there are already records for Michigan (Oct 24, 1990) and Pennsylvania, among other northeast locations. The trick is to be able to identify this small, drab empid. This shouldn’t be a huge problem since any Empidonax flycatcher in late fall is a big deal and warrants a second look.

When? late October/early November

Bridled Tern (taken from
17. Bridled Tern

Ontario has had a number of interesting “hurricane birds” – those that get caught up in a hurricane and blown halfway across the continent. The last recent event was in September, 2003 when Hurricane Isabel passed through. Rarities found in Ontario include Black-capped Petrel, Wilson’s Storm Petrel, Least Tern, Sooty Tern, many jaegers, etc. Additionally, New York had a number of interesting birds, including a Bridled Tern. Maybe the next big hurricane will bring one into Ontario!

When? September

White-throated Swift - taken from Flickr (Jerry Ting)

16. White-throated Swift
Maybe not very likely, but who knows – Michigan had a record (though it was in 1926). Birders keeping their eyes to the skies during migration just may luck out and see this distinctive species. The Michigan record was from August but I think that it is just as likely to have one show up at Pelee or Long Point during spring migration.

When? mid May

Common Murre (taken from

15. Common Murre
Ontario has all of the eastern Alcids on its list already, with one glaring hole – Common Murre. The problem with these is that they don’t really move around much outside of their normal range. Contrast that to the Thick-billed Murre, a species that has exhibited vagrancy up and down both coasts, as well as with a few records being found mid-continent! I am still confident that a Common Murre will show up in Ontario eventually, though.
 When? early December

Northern Lapwing (taken from

14. Northern Lapwing
Just about every year it seems, Northern Lapwings have a winter incursion into the Northeast from Europe. Last year was a particularly good one – Newfoundland had several, Nova Scotia had one, and a few states in the northeast had one or more. I think it’s high time for Ontario to get one! Winter seems like the best time for them to show up.

When? January

Cory's Shearwater (taken from
13. Cory’s Shearwater

Here is another species that I might associate with the passing of a hurricane. Sometimes shearwaters get thrown into the mix so I think its possible for Cory’s to be the next Atlantic species of shearwater to be seen in Ontario. Or who knows, maybe one will wander up the St. Lawrence River and show up in western Lake Ontario! There are a few inland North American records and a few up and down the coast well past its normal range.

When? September

12. Great Skua
Great Skua (taken from
Ontario’s north shore is a magical place, and one rarely visited by birders. The few that have made the trek seem to always come back with tales and photos of rare birds. The most recent trip was undertaken by Alan Wormington and Brandon Holden last fall to southern James bay. In a few weeks of sea-watching they had quite a few good birds including Dovekie, Sooty/Short-tailed Shearwater, many jaegers, Black Guillemot, Pacific Loon, etc. If you look at a range map of Great Skua, you can see that it wouldn’t take much for one to be blown into Hudson’s Bay. I am sure that if the north coast of Ontario received as much attention for sea-watching as Van Wagner’s Beach in Hamilton or the Point Pelee tip, then Great Skua would already be on the list. Alas, it is not, but maybe it will be added when the next group of crazy birders head up to the Great White North for a few weeks of sea-watching.
When? early November

Pink-footed Goose (taken from
11. Pink-footed Goose
Pink-footed Goose is another rare vagrant to North America – a code 4 bird. Recently though, it has become much more common with most of the records occurring in the last 25 years. In fact the Greenland and Iceland breeding population increased from 10 thousand to 270 thousand birds in just 16 years! With the higher numbers, more will be spilling over into North America from time to time. Check all those geese flocks you see in the fall!!!!

When? November

I'll put the rest of the birds in a different post. Let me know if you think I am way off, or what your thoughts are...

1 comment:

Brandon Holden said...

It will be easier to comment on the list when we know 10 - 1!!! Looks pretty good so far though!