January 8, 2021

Because of rising COVID-19 cases in many states and provinces, the purpose of this report is to keep homebound birders caught up rare bird sightings across the ABA Area. We do not endorse the pursuit of rare birds beyond your local area. The ABA urges readers to respect state, provincial, and local restrictions on non-essential travel. The ABA’s Recording Standards and Ethics Committee has released guidelines on how birders should approach this ongoing pandemic and we urge birders, whether they are members of the ABA or not, to consider them when deciding whether to travel to see a rare bird. Stay safe and healthy, everyone.

Lots of continuing rarities here in the first full week of 2021 including the Northern Jacana (ABA Code 4) in Arizona and a Garganey (4) in California. The spectacular Spotted Rail (5) in Texas is still hanging out, along with Crimson-collared Grosbeaks (4) and Blue Buntings (4) farther south. In south Florida. Both Cuban Pewee (5) and Red-legged Thrush (5) are still around. The Hawfinch (4) in Yukon and the Common Shelduck (4) in Labrador were also seen this week.

One of the more interesting birds of the early year is an apparent “Heuglin’s” Lesser Black-backed Gull well-photographed in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. While the AOS (and thus, the ABA) do not currently consider this taxa a full species, many Old World authorities do, calling it Heuglin’s Gull. This Central Asian gull species has not been confirmed in the ABA Area before, though there may be records in Alaska. Obviously documentation of the subspecies is complicated by the fact that it isn’t considered a full species. In any case, the photographs taken in Nova Scotia look pretty comprehensive, and it is one to certainly keep tabs on in the future.

More taxonomically sound 1st records for the period include Wisconsin’s 1st Sprague’s Pipit in Ozaukee, doubly surprising for being a winter record.

And in Alabama, a Lesser Goldfinch visiting a feeder in Mobile is a state 1st, originally noted in early December but sticking around into the new year.

A wild sighting from Maryland was a Red-billed Tropicbird flying past the beach in Ocean City.

A Spotted Towhee was discovered on a CBC in Nassau, New York.

Connecticut’s 5th record of Black Guillemot was seen in the Long Island Sound near Groton.

New Hampshire had a Townsend’s Warbler in Derry to go along with its state 1st Sage Thrasher noted last week.

In Michigan, a female Smew (3) was found in a pond in Kalamazoo. 

The Alaskan mainland saw its second Siberian Accentor of the winter with a bird in Seward.

In Washington, a White-tailed Kite was seen in Wahkiakum. 

And in California, a Eurasian Skylark was photographed in Humboldt.  



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, the richly illustrated journal of ornithological record published by the ABA.