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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Rare Birds

Western Kingbird

Western Kingbird flying, note white edge to tail, one of its field marks

Nothing quickens the pulse of a birder faster than the prospect of seeing a rare bird. But what is a rare bird? Sometimes a bird is rare because it's a habitat specialist, has suffered great habitat loss and its population has declined. Other times, as we used to joke, a rare bird can be the wrong bird, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. In other words, it's a bird that is unexpected in that area, not in its usual range, or there not at its usual time.

We once had a Western Kingbird show up on our property in NH in August. If you look in your field guide, you will see that the breeding range of a Western Kingbird is across the western part of the country where they are found in dry, open habitats. Infrequently they can been seen during fall migration on the east coast. For us in inland NH, this was a rare bird.

Right now there are many rare birds that can be seen in different areas of the country. In MA, a Gray Flycatcher (which breeds in the far western states) has been spotted. Another western species, a Say's Phoebe was just seen in Delaware. You can find what rare birds are being seen in your area by going to the birding list serves. There are sightings, directions to how to get to the rare bird, and often great photos. Even if you can't get there, you can still look at the photos and dream.

So why aren't we out looking at the Gray Flycatcher? Becase today we are busy minding three Corgis (our own puppy, Phoebe, and her mother and sister who are temporarily visiting), as well as writing a brand new national field guide for you (more on that later).

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