Sunday 23 December 2018

Ontario's Next 25 Birds: Part 1

A few weeks back, I stumbled across some old blog posts from Brandon and Josh detailing what their predictions for the next 20 birds would be (Brandon: part one  part two) (Josh: part one  part two) However, as you can see, they were both written several years ago, on 2011.

A lot has changed since then, most notably the addition of 11 species to the Ontario list, and 6 more still to be reviewed!

Pyrrhuloxia (2004, added 2012)
Thick-billed Kingbird (2012, added 2013)
Brown Booby (2013, added 2014)
Elegant Tern (2013, added 2014)
Kelp Gull (2012, added 2015)
Little Egret (2015, added 2015)
Eurasian Dotterel (2015, added 2015)
Pink-footed Goose (2015, added 2015)
Grace's Warbler (2016, added 2016)
Common Ringed Plover (2016, added 2016)
White Wagtail (2017, added 2017)
Costa's Hummingbird (2017, to be reviewed)
Macgillivray's Warbler (2018, to be reviewed)
Reddish Egret (2018, to be reviewed)
Great Kiskadee (2018, to be reviewed)
White-crowned Pigeon (2018, to be reviewed)
Calliope Hummingbird (2018, to be reviewed)

For my top picks, I managed to get a "shortlist" of about 46 species. I painstakingly narrowed it down to 25 species. I omitted some species that Brandon and Josh chose, and of course picked some of my own. I am not overly too knowledgeable on vagrancy patterns, so perhaps some of these are a little far fetched, but hey, this is Ontario, and Ontario is weird. I did my best to try and rank them from least to most likely, though I still feel like some are out of order a bit. Anyways...

25. Brown Noddy

Perhaps the most far fetched species on this list, but Ontario has seem some far fetched species. This would most likely be the result of a hurricane. Despite there being practically zero vagrant records up in our neck of the woods, there seem to be a few inland records from the states, including one in Tennessee. Are there probably better choices for #25? Yeah, but none are as fun as Brown Noddy.

When: September or October, but if one happened to show up in August I wouldn't be too surprised.
Where: The Great Lakes region, most likely Lake Ontario or Lake Erie.

24. Steller's Eider

There are a very small handful of records of this species from eastern North America from Quebec and Massachusetts. This is a largely western North America/Northern Russia area bird, though there are numerous records from Europe. They seen to vagrate a lot closer to their core range, all it would take is a one getting really lost...

When: March/April or October/November
Where: If one goes down the St. Lawrence, Lake Ontario. However, I can sort of see this species showing up in the James Bay region of Ontario.

23. Mountain Plover

Not a common vagrant, but there are certainly records in eastern North America as close as Indiana and Illinois. This species has been on people's radars for decades now, just a matter of one going the extra (1300) miles.

When: Maybe late April or early May, but most eastern records are from August or September
Where: It seems everyone wants one to show up in the Pelee region (Hillman, Onion Fields), but any suitable sod farm or field may yield one.

22. European Golden-Plover

This species is practically annual in Newfoundland, and breed in Iceland and Greenland, so in my mind it would make a lot of sense for one to be seen in Ontario. A reason I decided to include European Golden-Plover in the top 25 and not Pacific Golden-Plover (also be on the watch for those!) is due to their ease of identification. European Golden-Plovers should be in theory much easier to pick out and identify due to their white underwing and white undertail coverts.

When: May for spring migrants, though I think fall (August-October) would be more likely
Where: Maybe Hillman Marsh? James Bay in the fall may have potential for this species. If they get lost enough, the bay will funnel them right to where most of the birders set up...

21. Shiny Cowbird

A species that may be showing more of a northward vagrancy trend? Hard to say for sure, but definitely one  to watch out for. Case and point:

When: May or June, perhaps one in the late fall/winter
Where: Likely some random bird feeder, although southwestern Ontario would be ideal for birders, I think the north shore of Superior may have more of a "pull"

20. Surfbird

Another oddity. There are records from Pennsylvania, Maine, Texas and Florida, proving that they can vagrate. To be honest, not exactly sure what speaks to me about Surfbird, but shorebirds are weird, and Ontario attracts weird. It appears most eastern North American records are Spring birds, which may mean they come from Central and South America?

When: April/May or maybe August.
Where: Probably Lake Ontario or Erie if anywhere, but again, there is that James Bay potential (?)

19: Gull-billed Tern

Maybe this species deserves to be listed as more likely? This bird would likely be the result of a Hurricane. This species, although uncommon, seems to range up most of the Atlantic coast. This species may have even already been in Ontario, as one was seen on the American side of the Detroit river in 2005.

When: September or October
Where: Long Point or the Pelee region, maybe Erieau?

18. Redwing

Actually quite the surprising hole in our list, with records from Quebec and New England. Will be the result of some weather system no doubt, as it would have to come Europe, or maybe Iceland? Likely will be found associating with American Robins (be sure to look for a Fieldfare with them just for good measure).

When: December or January
Where: Probably eastern Ontario

17. Bridled Tern

Another hurricane bird! One Great Lakes record from 2003 as far as I can tell, as a result of Hurricane Isabel. Ontario has numerous Sooty Tern records, so it is just a matter of time before this similar looking bird shows up...

When: September
Where: Lake Ontario or Lake Erie

16. Great Skua

A somewhat overdue (?) bird. Great Skuas have likely without doubt been in Ontario before, just no one was there to see it! They range up to Greenland and Iceland, so one ending up in Hudson Bay, then funneled down to James Bay is not too far fetched. The issue with this bird is the lack of birders heading up to conduct some seawatches.

When: October or early November
Where: southern James Bay

15. Cory's Shearwater

Another hurricane bird. There are a couple inland records, and many pelagic records past their normal range. Not much to say about this bird but do some lakewatches during hurricane season. Or perhaps just wait until someone posts a photo to Facebook about a "weird bird" they saw in their urban backyard.

When: August or September
Where: Lake Ontario, or some random storm management pond

14. Golden-cheeked Warbler

A record of this species would be phenomenal! Two vagrant records that I can find, one in Florida, and one in Missouri. Not sure under what conditions this species would go so far north, perhaps something weather related? A hormone driven overshoot? Probably just as likely it will be found interacting with it's environment in  forest as one will be photographed in flight migrating off the Tip at Point Pelee or some other morning flight location. Nevertheless, make sure to check each and every one of those Black-throated Green Warbler types.

When: April or May
Where: Point Pelee, Rondeau, or Long Point

13. Cassin's Vireo

A species that may have been seen a few records, however due to how similar they are to Blue-headed Vireo (they were considered the same species at one point, and heck, may actually be the same species) none have been accepted. There are four (?) other eastern North American records. Without the perfect photo, in the hand bird, or specimen, this species would be hard to ID.

When: April/May or September
Where: Point Pelee, Long Point, or Thunder Cape

12. Common Murre

It may come as a surprise I listed this as #12, as they are fairly common in their normal range, which is't too far from here, however, unlike Thick-billed Murre, Common Murres don't seem to vagrate much. It could be we will just never see one here...

When: November or December (or never)
Where: Eastern Ontario or Lake Ontario

11. Lucy's Warbler

I was actually surprised to find out Ontario lacks a Lucy's Warbler record!  There are three eastern North America records, the closest being Whitefish Point in Michigan. I found a record in Fort McMurray to be notable as well. Ontario has a history of odd southern warblers, the most recent being Grace's Warbler (2016) and Virginia's Warbler (2018), so a Lucy's shouldn't be too far off. This species could very well be in the top 10, and maybe even deserves a place there, but I put it as #11 because why not!

When: November or December
Where: The usual migrant traps (Point Pelee, Long Point etc.) Oakville seems to have a history of being a fall warbler migrant trap.

Up next, part two, which will detail my top 10 birds and some honourable mentions!

Just in case this is my last post before Christmas, I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Note: All photos from this post are from the Wikimedia Commons...please don't sue me if I didn't properly credit something!


  1. Interesting stuff! Lucy's Warbler is a good candidate to appear soon...just my opinion.