Fourth Report of the Avian Records Committee of Connecticut
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Report of The Connecticut Rare Records Committee
Connecticut Warbler 10: 84-91, 1990
Louis R. Bevier and George A. Clark, Jr.
The Connecticut Rare Records Committee (CRRC) continues to encourage preparation and preservation of documentation for records of unusual birds in the state. The committee evaluates the adequacy of this documentation, its completeness and sufficiency to support the identification, and then maintains this evidence in a permanent file of all submitted reports, which researchers may evaluate and study in much the way one may evaluate and study specimens in a museum collection. This permanent file, currently preserved at the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History in Storrs, is the result of a cooperative effort by all the observers who have submitted reports. The committee greatly appreciates their support and acknowledges their contributions to this record of Connecticut's ornithological history.
This report adds one species to the state list: Thayer's Gull is accepted in the hypothetical category. The number of bird species recorded in Connecticut now stands at 381. Also discussed in this report is the first photographic documentation for American White Pelican in Connecticut. Previously, only a single specimen documented the occurrence of this species in the state, although there are several sight reports. In the present report a total of 24 species are covered, with 18 records of 16 species accepted, and 9 records of 9 species not accepted.
This fourth report continues the format of previous reports (Connecticut Warbler 7:46-51, 1987, and 9:20-24, 1989). The CRRC welcomes the submission of additional observations. A checklist of all species recorded in Connecticut and accepted by the CRRC is available (at cost) from the Connecticut Ornithological Association, 314 Unquowa Rd., Fairfield, Connecticut, 06430. This list indicates those species for which the committee reviews reports. Documentation for these species and any species not on the state list should be sent to the secretary, Louis Bevier, P. O. Box 665, Storrs, Connecticut, 06268. In addition, reports of rare breeding species are requested (a list was published in the C.O.A. Bulletin, Vol. 3, No. 2, summer 1989). If desired, report forms that outline the details for writing a description are available from the secretary.
In the following lists of records, hyphenated numbers in parentheses (e.g., 90-3) are CRRC file numbers. For accepted records, only the names of observers who have submitted reports are listed (alphabetically), with the original finder listed first and that name followed by an asterisk. In some cases the original finder did not submit a report, in which case the finder's name, if known, is given in parentheses after the list of contributors. Observers who submitted a photograph are acknowledged with "(ph)" following their names. Photographs greatly assist in the review procedure, and their submission with the written report is strongly encouraged. Citations of the Connecticut Warbler are abbreviated as "CW" followed by volume, page(s), and year.
NORTHERN GANNET (Morus bassanus). One adult was seen flying over Long Island Sound off Hammonasett Beach State Park, Madison, 18 March 1989, W. Wehtje* (89-13).
AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos). One adult in breeding plumage, with the horn-like growth on the top of the bill, was at Greenwich Point, Greenwich, 29 May 1989, L. R. Brinker* (ph) (89-10).
This is the first photographic documentation for the state. A mounted specimen is at the Yale Peabody Museum, but is currently sealed in plastic there and not accessible for viewing (F. Sibley pers. comm.).
BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus). Two were seen at the New Milford landfill, 16 Dec 1989-19 Feb 1990 with three there on 30 Dec 1989, E. Hagen*, T. W. Burke (90-1).
This species has been increasing in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but reports continue to be very sparse for Connecticut.
AMERICAN SWALLOW-TAILED KITE (Elanoides forficatus). Two were seen in Mansfield intermittently over the period 6-24 June 1989, P. Coughlin*, L. R. Bevier (ph), G. A. Clark (ph), S. Davis (ph), D. Truman (89-8).
This species has appeared annually in the Northeast in recent years, and this is the third consecutive year that it has been seen in Connecticut. A published account of this occurrence and the significance of the extended period of stay appears in CW 9:80-82, 1989.
BLACK RAIL (Laterallus jamaicensis). At least one was near the mouth of the Housatonic River at Nell's Island, Milford, 15 September 1989, R. Baldwin* (89-15).
One other individual was reported from same general area as this bird and the observer stated that he had seen others there and at Great Island (at the mouth of the Connecticut River) in past years. There are three previous reports from this area and two reports from nearby Stratford (none yet reviewed by the Committee).
SANDHILL CRANE (Grus canadensis). One was seen in flight over Westport, 12 March 1988, R. S. Winkler* (88-25)
The majority of records in the Northeast are for fall.
WILSON'S PLOVER (Charadrius wilsonia). One was seen at Long Beach, Stratford, 3 May 1989, W. Wehtje* (ph) (89-13).
THAYER'S GULL (Larus thayeri). One adult was carefully studied and sketched at the Shelton landfill, 25 January 1988, D. Sibley* and R. Schwartz (88-17).
At present, this form is recognized as a distinct species (American Ornithologists' Union Check-list of North American Birds, 6th ed., 1983), but its status as a separate species is still open to question. Regardless of its eventual taxonomic placement, the description and sketches of the bird match the features of Thayer's Gull as currently known. Features of the primary tips noted on this bird were the main characters used in separating this bird from a possible Kumlien's Iceland Gull (L. glaucoides kumlieni). Readers are directed to Kevin Zimmer's discussion of the identification of Thayer's Gull in A Field Guide to Advanced Birding by Kenn Kaufman (1990).
This first accepted record for Thayer's Gull in the state warrants its placement in the CRRC state check-list in the hypothetical category used for those species not represented by a specimen or photograph.
BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE (Rissa tridactyla). One collected in Stamford, 21 January 1895, is now a mounted specimen at the Yale Peabody Museum (YPM #97871) but was formerly housed at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich (89-6). Two immatures and a separate group of seven farther offshore were seen over Long Island Sound from Greenwich Point, Greenwich, 21 October 1988, T. R. Baptist* (89-7).
BURROWING OWL (Athene cunicularia). One was at Greenwich Point Park, Greenwich, 24 May 1980, T. R. Baptist* (88-31).
This is the second state record. The first occurred only six months prior when one was photographed at New Haven, 19-28 December 1979 (previously accepted 88-5, CW 9:22, 1989).
CHUCK-WILL'S-WIDOW (Caprimulgus carolinensis). One was heard and its voice recorded in Suffield, 15-17 May 1988, J. Withgott* (voice recording on file with CRRC), J. Kaplan (88-35).
On the last date, a nightjar flew towards one observer and landed nearby, apparently in response to a tape recorded call of Chuck-will's-widow, while at the same time a Chuck-will's-widow could be heard calling from the nearby woods. The bird that flew towards the observer could possibly have been another Chuck-will's-widow, but the bird was not seen well enough to identify or to eliminate Whip-poor-will (C. vociferus).
BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus melanocephalus). One male was seen at a feeder in Harwinton, 29 January-11 February 1989, R. Belding, David Tripp (ph), (found by Don and Dottie Cromwell) (89-12).
BLUE GROSBEAK (Guiraca caerulea). An adult male was at Milford, 25 May 1985, D. Varza* (90-4).
LARK SPARROW (Chondestes grammacus). One was well seen and beautifully sketched at Burnham Brook Preserve, East Haddam, 27-28 May 1989, J. Zickefoose* (89-5). One wintered at the Longshore golf course in Westport, 18 Dec 1986-14 Jan 1987, T. Rochovansky* and N. A. Voldstad (ph) (90-2). The Burnham Brook record was published with the sketches under the title "The Lark Sparrow in Massachusetts" in the Bird Observer (17:192-195).
YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus). A male was in South Windsor, 3 March 1985, P. Desjardins* (90-3). The bird was reportedly photographed, but the photograph is not in the CRRC files.
BOAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus major). A male was seen at Lordship marsh, Stratford, 14 May 1989, E. Hagen* (89-3).
This is the fourth record for the state. The bird was well described, including the diagnostic calls.
UNACCEPTED RECORDS (Identification questionable)
WHITE IBIS (Eudocimus alba). North Cove, Old Saybrook, 22 May 1988 (88-33).
This species is rarely reported in Connecticut, but the majority of records for the Northeast are in May. This report involved a bird seen flying in dense fog, and thus seen poorly. The bird was described as entirely white or sandy-white, with no black wing-tips. Adult White Ibis have noticeable black wing-tips, which are like semaphores on the flying bird, and immatures in spring, when almost one year old, are boldly marked with splotches of brown and white, the flight feathers being entirely dark brown until that fall when the bird is just over one year old. Thus, the committee was faced with a description of a bird that did not fit any known plumage of White Ibis. Most members agreed that if this were a White Ibis, it would have been a highly aberrant individual, and unanimously agreed that the report was best treated as unidentified.
SWALLOW-TAILED KITE (Elanoides forficatus). Clinton, 24 May 1988 (88-34).
In this case, no description of the bird accompanied the report and although this is a very distinctive species that is easily identified, the committee requires details of the bird's appearance to accept the report. These details are important for other researchers who may evaluate the report at some later time.
GYRFALCON (Falco rusticolus). Darien, 27 January 1988 (88-29). A photograph submitted for this report shows an immature Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis).
PRAIRIE FALCON (Falco mexicanus). Lighthouse Point, New Haven, 23 October 1989 (89-14).
This is a well-written report, giving careful details of just what was seen and under what conditions. The primary observer questioned the sufficiency of their own views to establish firmly the identification, but felt confident that they had seen a Prairie Falcon. Indeed, many members of the CRRC agreed that the bird may well have been that species. Nevertheless, for a first state record, the description lacked many features necessary to identify Prairie Falcon--for example, the pale brown upperparts, pale head, and facial pattern were not described. The description did note the "dark axillars" as well as the stiffer wing-beat, both characteristic of Prairie Falcon. Unfortunately, the extent and pattern of these dark axillars was not described (Prairie has black feathering extending out the underwing lining, and not restricted to the axillars) and several members commented that observing a bird against a bright sky could have created an illusion of dark axillars. In any case, this feature was not re-confirmed as the bird continued right overhead and out of sight.
Of note is the fact that a Prairie Falcon was seen two weeks previously on Block Island, Rhode Island, 7 October (photograph and note in American Birds 44:31 & 57). Thus, the Connecticut report could have involved the same individual. However, a hybrid Prairie X Peregrine was reported to have escaped from a Rhode Island falconer only two weeks prior to the Block Island report, and given the description of the bird in Connecticut, the possibility that this bird was seen could not be eliminated.
There are no previous reports for Prairie Falcon in Connecticut and the species has no record of vagrancy to the Northeast.
WHOOPING CRANE (Grus americana). Chester, 24 March 1989 (89-11).
Although somewhat intriguing, the description did not accurately describe a Whooping Crane. This endangered species continues to migrate along a very narrow flight corridor between Texas and Alberta, and is highly unlikely as a vagrant to Connecticut. Zeranski and Baptist describe a previous questionable report for Connecticut in their recent book, Connecticut Birds (1990).
NORTHERN LAPWING (Vanellus vanellus). Mansfield, 16 March 1989 (89-2).
An unusual appearing bird seen in a farm field and described by a lone observer had a pattern reminiscent of Northern Lapwing; however, the observer did not identify the bird at the time and had no knowledge of this species. Others reading the description felt that it best fit Northern Lapwing but after later seeing a Rock Dove (Columba livia) with a similar pattern nearby, felt that the observation was best left unidentified. Northern Lapwing has not previously been reported in Connecticut. Most records for eastern North America are from late fall, with the exception of a few spring records for Newfoundland.
SPOTTED REDSHANK (Tringa erythropus). Norwalk, 22 May 1988 (88-36).
This was submitted as a non-breeding plumaged bird with entirely pale underparts. All Spotted Redshanks are normally black or heavily blotched with black below by May. It is possible that the bird had not molted; however, the upperparts were described as "warm buff-brown," whereas winter-plumaged Spotted Redshanks appear rather gray above with slight brown tones. One member pointed out that the description better matched female Ruff (Philomachus pugnax), but that the bird was best left as unidentified.
PARASITIC JAEGER (Stercorarius parasiticus). Greenwich, 3 September 1989 (89-17).
This report clearly involved a jaeger of some sort and therefore is noteworthy. An excellent description was submitted, including a drawing of the underwing. The bird appeared to be an immature, although no barring was noted on the underwing, which would indicate a bird in juvenal plumage. It is important to age jaegers before making an identification. Therefore, the details were insufficient to eliminate other species of jaeger, especially the very similar immature Long-tailed Jaeger (S. longicaudus), a species that is found at inland localities more frequently than other jaegers. An excellent treatment of jaeger identification can be found in Kenn Kaufman's recent book, A Field Guide to Advanced Birding (1990).
GRAY JAY (Perisoreus canadensis). North Colebrook, 30 December 1944 (88-32).
This report is an account of an observation made by an experienced observer and published by a colleague who did not see the bird (The Auk , 62:458, 1945). Unfortunately, the account provides no description of the bird itself. This species is exceedingly scarce away from its known range and the CRRC knows of no specimens, extant photographs, or descriptions of Gray Jays in Connecticut despite a number of published reports (summarized in Connecticut Birds  by Zeranski and Baptist).
Submitted: September 1990
Louis Bevier and George Clark , co-compilers of the Fourth Report.
Committee Members for 1990: Tom Burke, Milan Bull, Richard English, Jay Kaplan, Fred Purnell. Alternates: Tom Baptist, Winnie Burkett, Jay Hand, Frank Mantlik, Fred Sibley.