Québec: Fall 2020

Fall 2020: 1 Aug–30 Nov

Pierre Bannon


Olivier Barden

Normand David

Samuel Denault

Recommended citation:

Bannon, P., O. Barden, N. David, & S. Denault. 2021. Fall 2020: Québec. <https://wp.me/p8iY2g-9Io> North American Birds.

The July heat lasted into August, but the end of the month was marked by a clear break in this trend. September exhibited normal temperatures and precipitation, while October was cool and wet. Finally, November was very mild and dry, especially during the first half of the month. Highlights of the season involved a high number of western vagrants and a spectacular shorebirds migration in Missisquoi Bay. Vagrants of greatest interest included Tundra Bean-Goose, Slaty-backed Gull, Magnificent Frigatebird, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Vermilion Flycatcher and Golden-crowned Sparrow


A very early Ross’s Goose visited Saint-Lazare 16 Sep (J. Coté, ph.). An adult Tundra Bean-Goose found at Masson, in the Outaouais region 8 Nov sparked an interesting debate on the identification of the different forms encompassed within the Bean-Goose complex (R. Dubois, D. Gélinas, ph.). A detailed report written by Michel Gosselin greatly contributed to the confirmation of this second record for the province. A Pink-footed Goose delighted observers at Percé 31 Oct–7 Nov (A. Couture et al.). A Barnacle Goose, possibly an escapee, stopped briefly at Masson 12 Sep (R. Dubois, D. Dallaire), as did two legitimate vagrants at Victoriaville 16–17 Oct (C. Roy et al., ph.). Two Barnacle Goose x Canada Goose hybrids photographed together at Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague 12–24 Oct astounded observers (W. Grubert, J. Coté et al.). The pairs of Trumpeter Swan at Saint-Étienne-de-Beauharnois and at Saint-Fulgence—both present last summer—lingered until 25 Oct and 28 Oct respectively. A single bird was also located at Rimouski 20 Sep (L. Saint-Laurent). Four Tundra Swans in Missisquoi Bay 22–23 Nov (T. Jobin) and one at Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu 29–30 Nov (G & R. Boulet) delighted local observers. A female King Eider was noticeable at Châteauguay 1–5 Nov (M. Pelletier, P. Beaudoin et al., ph.).

Single White-winged Doves at Neuville 22 Aug (G. Poisson), and at Tadoussac 20 Oct–3 Nov (L. Desbordes, m. ob.), brought the total for the year to five records. The influx of Yellow-billed Cuckoos noted last summer in southern Québec continued into the fall, but with a shift towards the northeast as far as the Gaspé Peninsula. More precisely, about 10 birds were detected in southern Québec in late Aug–early Sep, but as many as 30 in eastern Québec in late Sep–early Oct, including a high count of five in Forillon NP 3 Oct (D. Jalbert, A. Gagnon).


A flock of 50 Sandhill Cranes flying over Hudson 8 Oct was noteworthy (fide W. Grubert). The number of Hudsonian Godwits culminated with 54 individuals in Missisquoi Bay 3–6 Oct (T. Jobin, m. ob.), probably a record number for southern Québec. One bird still there 24 Nov provided a new record late date for the province (R. Boulet). Single Marbled Godwits were spotted at Ile Fryer (Carignan) 13 Aug (G. Riel, F. Perrera), Gatineau 17 Aug (G. Seutin), and Rimouski 26 Aug–3 Sep (G. Bouchard et al.). A juvenile Ruff stopped at l’Anse au Lard (Rimouski) 17–20 Sep (B. Arseneau, ph.). Single Purple Sandpipers at Réservoir Baskatong 12 Oct (MA. Montpetit, S. Lépine) and in Missisquoi Bay 12 Nov (M. Pelletier) were noteworthy inland records. Buff-breasted Sandpipers were reported in 10 localities, including one bird in Missisquoi Bay 12 Sep (N. Oborne et al.). Long-billed Dowitchers were noted in seven localities, with a maximum count of 26 birds in Missisquoi Bay 27 Oct (M. Asselin). The latest bird was seen in Missisquoi Bay 17 Nov (M. Pelletier). Red Phalaropes were spotted in seven localities, including a bird seen by many 14–16 Sep in Missisquoi Bay.

Single Pomarine Jaegers reached inland localities, namely Gatineau 22 Sep–5 Oct (G. Seutin et al.), and perhaps the same at Sainte-Catherine 15–18 Oct (J. Gagnon, A. Sylvain et al.). Three to four Parasitic Jaegers appeared in the Montréal area 14 Sep–15 Oct (m. ob.). A Long-tailed Jaeger was at Gatineau 27–29 Aug (G. Seutin, R. Dubois). A high count of 20 Thick-billed Murres off Les Escoumins 13 Nov was noteworthy (R. Pintiaux). A Razorbill at Pointe Yamachiche 29 Sep (M. Bourassa, ph.) and another one found alive along a Longueuil street were out of place (fide G. Vine).


Rare in Lanaudière region, a Sabine’s Gull was encountered at Saint-Donat-de-Montcalm 9 Sep (P. André, J. Filiatrault). The Upper St. Lawrence region was also visited by single birds at Ile des Soeurs 17 Sep (O. Barden), Pointe aux Trembles (Montréal) 17 Sep (Y. Gauthier), Saint-Stanislas-de-Kostka 4–12 Oct (L. Falcon, M. Manolova), and Ile Perrot 11 Oct (M. Chalifoux, L. Grenier). Single Franklin’s Gulls were discovered at Pointe aux Outardes 8 Aug (E. Hains), in Missisquoi Bay 4–6 Oct (D. Ouellette et al.), and at Victoriaville 24–25 Oct (C. Roy). An adult Mew Gull belonging to the nominate subspecies was nicely photographed at Les Escoumins 10 Nov and again 20 Nov (D. Turgeon et al, ph.). An adult Slaty-backed Gull was photographed at distance on Lake Osisko (Abitibi) 16 Nov, revealing sufficient field marks to confirm a third record for the province (M. Marsan). A tally of 49 Caspian Terns made in Missisquoi Bay 5 Aug represented the largest count recorded in the province since 1955 (O. Barden). A Forster’s Tern was identified in Missisquoi Bay 3–6 Oct (JG. Papineau et al., ph.).

Two Wilson’s Storm-Petrels were carefully identified at Québec City 5 Aug (R. Besançon et al.) while a Leach’s Storm-Petrel was well described at Lévis 28 Aug (G. Lemelin). An adult female Magnificent Frigatebird was nicely photographed at La Malbaie 10 Sep, providing a third record for the province (C. Lepage, M. Robert). Hurricane Laura could have been a legitimate hypothesis to explain the presence of this seabird here. A weak Northern Gannet was found in a parking lot at Louiseville and brought to a rehabilitation center in late Nov (M. Descôteaux). A large flock of 5,000 Double-crested Cormorants in Missisquoi Bay 5 Oct was noteworthy (P. Bannon, S. Labbé). Two American White Pelicans lingered at Drummondville 10–30 Aug (J. Verville), and possibly the same two were at nearby Notre-Dame-de-Pierreville 15–29 Aug (P. Messier et al.). A juvenile Little Blue Heron was spotted at Saint-Bonaventure 12–25 Aug (F. Bourret et al.), two more at Sainte-Anne-des-Monts 14 Aug (M. Daudelin), and finally one at Maria 20 Oct (C. Lamarre, ph.).

About 12 Black Vultures were reported in the province, including a pair hanging around the Saint-Armand area for the last two weeks of Aug (m. ob.), as well as single late birds at Dundee 20 Nov (D. Harvey, S. Harvey, ph.), and at LaPêche 25–30 Nov (C. Detellier, ph.). Also, possibly up to six birds hung around the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula throughout the period. A juvenile dark-morph Swainson’s Hawk was nicely photographed at Saint-Maurice-de-l’Échourie (Gaspésie) 22 Sep (V. Cotton), and most probably the same bird in Forillon NP 25 Sep (S. Robert, P. Berthe). Furthermore, a very high-flying hawk photographed 20 Oct at Sainte-Catherine (L. Lemay) was suspected to be a Swainson’s Hawk (S. Denault), and later confirmed to be a juvenile dark-morph Swainson’s Hawk (Bryan Sullivan, coauthor of The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors).


After a welcomed influx of adult Red-headed Woodpecker reported last summer, fall was enlightened by an amazing number of juveniles: one at Ayers Cliff 28 Sep (S. Norrie), one at Saint-Donat 28 Sep (M. Roy), two at Dollard des Ormeaux (Montréal) 2–3 Oct (L. Alarie), one in Mount Royal Park 9 Oct (S. Coté Bourgoin), one at Saint-Alphonse-de-Caplan (Gaspésie) 19 Oct (H. Cyr, J. Lamarche), and one at Côteau-du-Lac 13 Nov (M. Jackson). Were these birds born in the province, where the species has not been confirmed nesting for about a decade? Red-bellied Woodpeckers continued to make progress in the province as revealed by confirmed breeding in Gatineau Park, where an adult male was seen with a juvenile 1 Aug (G. Seutin). This was a first for the Outaouais region. Many birds also wandered east, including one as far as Sept-Iles 17 Oct–29 Nov (I. Calderon). An Ash-throated Flycatcher at Cap-aux-Meules (Iles de la Madeleine) 7 Nov (B. Vigneault, A Couture, A. Richard, ph.) was only the second record for the province. More expected, Western Kingbirds were reported at Saint-Pascal 6 Aug (F. van Oordt La Hoz), at Cap d’Espoir 6 Sep (A. Couture, Y. Cyr), and at Rivière-au-Renard 21 Oct (C. Dufresne). A Scissor-tailed Flycatcher at Cap d’Espoir 15–18 Nov was both an amazing find and a record late date for the province (L. L. Collin). A Say’s Phoebe feeding on the beach at Portneuf-sur-Mer 11–13 Sep was admired by many (J. Normand, G. Tremblay et al.). A first year male Vermilion Flycatcher at Saint-Thomas-Didyme 20–27 Oct, found dead 28 Oct (G. Dion, C. Bellemare, m. ob.), was also only the second record for the province.

Intriguing was an adult White-eyed Vireo banded at the McGill Bird Observatory 20 Aug, which remained in the area until at least 2 Oct (S. Duval). Another bird was at Châteauguay 29–31 Oct (S. Sévigny, M. Arcand, m. ob.) matching a more expected fall vagrancy pattern. A Warbling Vireo banded at Tadoussac 26 Oct established a record late date for the province (PA Dumas, J. Roy-Drainville). A Northern Rough-winged Swallow at Laterrière 10 Aug provided a first occurrence for the Saguenay region (N. Boutin, Y. Darveau). A Cave Swallow at Les Escoumins 12–13 Nov (R. Pintiaux, m. ob.) was the only one of the season, and the third for the North Shore. A Sedge Wren photographed at the Parc-agricole du Bois-de-la-Roche (Montréal) 5 Nov furnished a record late date for the province (R. Millot, K. Collin, ph.). Vagrant Carolina Wrens showed up well outside the southern parts of the province, with individuals reaching Rimouski 4–13 Aug (A. Florea, V. Giroux), Rouyn-Noranda 11–18 Aug (C. Dion), Pointe-des-Monts 14 Aug (F. Hareau, D. Tétreault), Percé 26–27 Sep (A. Couture, Y. Cyr), and Cap-de-Bon-Désir 22–25 Oct (R. Pintiaux et al.).

Only two Northern Wheatears were reported this fall, with one at Ptarmigan Bay (Dolbeau-Mistassini) 30 Aug (D. Lavoie), and another at Pointe-aux-Outardes 2 Oct (JP. Barry). A male Mountain Bluebird photographed at Ivujivik (Nunavik) 9–20 Sep, was by far the northernmost ever reported in the province (M. Vachon). Townsend’s Solitaires were numerous again this year with single birds at Gatineau 4–5 Oct (C. Blanchette et al.), at Sherbrooke 15 Oct (J. Mongeau), at Bic NP 22 Oct–22 Nov (Y. Beaulieu), at Cap-de-Bon-Désir 24 Oct (É. Wilmot, S. Boivin), at Brigham 31 Oct (M. Perron), at Sept-Iles 13 Nov (JF. Laporte), at Québec City 14 Nov (C. Kimber), at l’Anse-au-Griffon 22 Nov (V. Gaillard, L. Desbordes), and at Beauceville 22–30 Nov (F. Lavoie) for a grand total of nine birds.


Grasshopper Sparrows had a rare recent confirmed breeding record in Litchtfield (Pontiac) where an adult and two juveniles were nicely photographed 6–7 Aug (M. Baril). A very late and out of range bird also visited Cap d’Espoir 15 Nov (A. Couture, Y. Cyr). Lark Sparrows showed up in below average number with singles in Forillon NP 9–11 Sep (M. Harnois, C. Kovacs), one at Chandler 11–16 Oct (JR. Lepage et al.), and one at Rivière Madeleine 9–14 Nov (G. Blanchette). An immature Golden-crowned Sparrow at Rimouski 31 Oct–7 Nov (V. Giroux, A. Florea, m. ob.) provided a fourth record for the province and perhaps the first chasable one. A Nelson’s Sparrow of the altera subspecies was reported at Montréal for the first time in 48 years: two were found on Ile Gagné 21–23 Sep (E. Brisson-Curadeau, O.A. Pelletier), and another one at Pierrefonds (Montréal) 8 Oct (O. Barden). A male Spotted Towhee visited Grande-Rivière 25–30 Nov (A. Leblanc). Single Yellow-breasted Chats were found at Chandler 12 Sep (JR. Lepage), Maizerets (Québec City) 25 Sep (G. Garant), Pointe des Monts 4 Oct (J. Ibarzabal, A Caughlan, B. Drolet), and one was banded at the Cap Tourmente banding station, 11 Oct and again 12 Oct (M. Landry, T. Gianoli et al.).

An immature male Yellow-headed Blackbird stopped at Chapais (Jamésie) 15 Nov (D. Gamelin). Exceptional in fall in eastern Québec, three Prothonotary Warblers were reported including the first for the Gaspé Peninsula at the Coin du Banc banding station (Percé) 2 Sep (A. Cristiano et al.), the second one was detected at Rimouski 3 Sep (G. Gendron, D. Ruest), and the third one was photographed on a beach at Franquelin 18 Sep (G. Labrie, ph.). A Connecticut Warbler at Mansonville 16 Oct appeared to be a first occurrence for the Eastern Townships (R. Carswell). A Blackburnian Warbler photographed at Brossard 3 Nov (M. Manolova) was late and most likely only the third ever for Nov. Single Yellow-throated Warblers stopped at Sept-Iles 12–13 Oct (Y. Duchesne, ph.), at Québec City 2–30 Nov (S. Blais, m. ob.), and at Pointe Saint-Pierre 6 Nov (D. Jalbert, A. Gagnon). The only Prairie Warbler of the season made a brief appearance in Forillon NP 18 Oct (D. Jalbert, A. Gagnon). A male Summer Tanager at Lévis 22 Oct–15 Nov (M. O’Neill, m. ob. ph.) was also the only report of this regular fall vagrant. A well-described Western Tanager made a brief stop at Pointe-Saint-Charles (Montréal) 2 Nov (MC. Morin, G. Bolduc).

Northern Cardinals exhibited its greatest post-nuptial flight in over 25 years with dozens (hundreds?) of birds involved in a huge movement towards eastern Québec and the Saguenay-Lac Saint-Jean region this fall; a male even reached Chevery (Lower North Shore) 8 Nov (S. Vatcher), the furthest east ever reported for the species on the Lower North Shore, while almost every villages along the Gaspé coast were visited by the species. A female Painted Bunting at l’Anse-au-Griffon 13–17 Nov (C. Côté, ph., m. ob.) was part of a steady increase in records for this species in the last decade. At least 30 Dickcissels were reported in the province, many of which were on the Gaspé Peninsula.

Report processed by José R. Ramírez-Garofalo, 21 Jan 2021.

Photos–Québec: Fall 2020
Hover on each image to read the caption.