Date: 7/14/17 5:57 pm
From: Bill McGovern via va-bird <va-bird...>
Subject: Re: [Va-bird] The Next Fifteen (Bird) Species for Virginia?
Ned, this is an amazing document--it must have taken weeks to compile the data, with countless re-writes!
Thanks! I will keep it at the ready!

-----Original Message-----
From: va-bird [mailto:va-bird-bounces+bmcgovern=<>] On Behalf Of Ned Brinkley via va-bird
Sent: Friday, July 14, 2017 6:06 PM
To: VA-BIRD <va-bird...>
Subject: [Va-bird] The Next Fifteen (Bird) Species for Virginia?

Virginia’s Next 15 Species?

Every 10 years or so, I ask regional birders to help predict Virginia’ s “Next 20 Birds.” Ten years after the publication of the Gold Book (2007), many of the predicted species have now been detected and documented in the state, including Red-billed Tropicbird, Smith’s Longspur, Crested Caracara, Dusky Flycatcher, Townsend’s Solitaire (one report from Northern Virginia had not been accepted), Brown Noddy, Calliope Hummingbird, Roseate Spoonbill, Northern Lapwing, Ancient Murrelet, and Violet-green Swallow.
Other species that were not predicted, mostly because their patterns of occurrence in the East were very weak, were nevertheless welcome additions to our avifauna: Zone-tailed Hawk, Prairie Falcon, Bulwer’s Petrel, Brewer’s (Timberline) Sparrow, Lucy’s Warbler, Brown-chested Martin, Lesser Sand-Plover. And of course, those great rarities no one saw coming have knocked our socks off, even if we might have missed them ourselves: Terek Sandpiper, White-crowned Pigeon, Violet-crowned Hummingbird. (In the business of predicting new species, being wrong is extraordinarily

Perhaps because pelagic trips are so few off our Commonwealth, Bermuda Petrel was not predicted to be detected, even though tracking devices indicate that these rare birds do transit the state’s waters routinely, and North Carolina birders have documented at least 31 there since 1993. But sharp-eyed Tom Johnson found one at sea far east of Rudee Inlet and managed to get good images from a research vessel, for Virginia’s first.

Virginia has now added so many species with moderate to strong occurrence patterns in the East at this point that in predicting the next set of birds, I have limited the list to 15 rather than 20 species.

Below are consideration of the various “groups” of birds (seabirds, raptors, passerines, etc.), with notes on the likelihood of occurrence of new species based on records from surrounding states as well as Canada (Ontario eastward) and Bermuda. The records mentioned for potential new species are not exhaustive by any means, just an indication of context for possible Virginia appearances.


Not all seabirds are seen from boats, but because Virginia has so few pelagic trips these days (1-2 per year lately), only one seabird is predicted to be among the Next 15 Birds added to the state list.

North Carolina has multiple records of Black-bellied Storm-Petrel, Swinhoe’s Storm-Petrel, European Storm-Petrel, and Cape Verde Shearwater, while Georgia and South Carolina each have a record of Red-footed Booby (as does Nova Scotia). Records of Zino’s Petrel and White-chinned Petrel off North Carolina are essentially singular in the western North Atlantic, though Maine has a record of the latter. None of these birds above seem likely to be recorded in Virginia unless more pelagic trips are undertaken, though researchers might well encounter any of them. Masked Booby is recorded almost annually now off North Carolina, with single recent records from New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York, and I predict that Virginia will soon add that species, probably from a research vessel studying marine mammals.

Lesser Frigatebird might have already occurred in Virginia; photographs of the Wythe County frigatebird from 1988 look very much like a Lesser to my eye. No measurements were taken of that bird, unfortunately. In North America, the species is known from Michigan, Maine, Wyoming, and California.

Tufted Puffin, as well as other Pacific alcids, now have open seas in the higher latitudes in late summer, making plausible more Atlantic records in addition to Maine’s (and England’s) recent records. Long-billed Murrelet (two records each from North and South Carolina, three from Florida, and about seven each in there Midwest and Northeast) could occur on an inland Virginia lake in October/November, but inland records in North America have plummeted in recent years.

We’d love to see an Arctic Loon (Ohio, Vermont, Colorado; possibly a few
more) but far more likely is Yellow-billed Loon (Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Indiana, with multiples from New York, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, and many in the Great Plains and Rockies)which makes my Next 15 List. If one is hoping to add new seabirds via “splits,” then Scopoli’s Shearwater and Madeiran Storm-Petrel would be the next likely additions for Virginia (these are currently treated as types of Cory’s Shearwater and Band-rumped Storm-Petrel). Both have been observed off Virginia in recent years. Barolo Shearwater, recorded a few times off Massachusetts and Nova Scotia, seems a long shot off Virginia; the species apparently forages in very deep waters and would potentially be seen only by researchers.


Western Reef Heron has been photographed in New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland, with others in the Caribbean, and it seems a good candidate to occur in Virginia some day, though records are still few and far between. Scarlet Ibis—hardly known in the United States except as escapees or released birds in Florida, with one found breeding in South Carolina in 2001—was recently reported in western Virginia with photographs, but the record is not accepted.


Pink-footed Goose! The Northeast has a lot of recent records, with the southernmost to Maryland (three records) and Delaware (at least two). Just a matter of time for Virginia then! Less likely, by far, would be a Tundra Bean-Goose (records from Nova Scotia and Quebec) or Lesser White-fronted Goose (W. L. Sladen reported one in Maryland many years ago), or Masked Duck (multiples in Florida, singles in North Carolina, Maryland, Georgia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Wisconsin), or Smew (New York, Rhode Island, Illinois, Ontario), or Common Shelduck (records increasing in the Northeast, with records south to Delaware). Mottled Ducks, introduced to South Carolina, do not seem to be straying northward much, but Ontario has a record, and the species has strayed in North Carolina as Lake Mattamuskeet, so it should be looked for. See a funny-looking waterbird?
Take a photo!


Neighboring states have records of Snail Kite (North Carolina has had one, South Carolina two recently), Short-tailed Hawk (Georgia, Alabama; and Michigan!), Eurasian Kestrel (Florida, Massachusetts, Nova Scotia, Bermuda), Eurasian Hobby (Massachusetts), Red-footed Falcon (Massachusetts; sight record at Cape May). Cape May has a possible banding record of Hen Harrier, plus a sight report of Eurasian Sparrowhawk, to whet one’s studying. None of these make the Next 15 cut, but any could occur!


Virginia already has a record of Paint-billed Crake, and there are few other rare rails we might add, though Corn Crake comes to mind (old records from Maryland, New Jersey, New York, recent Maine record, and a suggestion from Back Bay NWR’s first manager Romey Waterfield that he might have seen one there many years ago!). Pennsylvania and Texas have records of Spotted Rail, so almost anything in that family would be imaginable; Delaware and Georgia and Bermuda have records of Purple Swamphens, and New York has a record of Azure Gallinule, though some of these records are not favored by local committees.


This is a huge group of species, mostly migratory, but many that have not yet been reported in Virginia have weak patterns of vagrancy in the East.
None of the following would make the cut: Southern Lapwing (Florida, Maryland), Wood Sandpiper (New York, Rhode Island, Delaware, Bermuda, Newfoundland), Great Knot (Maine, West Virginia), Broad-billed Sandpiper (New York, Massachusetts), Common Snipe (Newfoundland, Bermuda, and maybe Maryland), Gray-tailed Tattler (Massachusetts), Surfbird (Pennsylvania, twice in Florida, Maine, at least four times in Texas), and Greater Sand-Plover (Florida).

More likely would be European Golden-Plover (Delaware, twice in New Jersey, Maine, many times in Atlantic Canada), Little Stint (multiples for New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, with singles for Rhode Island, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ontario….we need not continue), Spotted Redshank (North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts several times, ditto Ontario, with singles in Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Kansas, Texas….), Pacific Golden-Plover (New York, New Jersey, Maine, Florida, Delaware, Vermont), and Common Ringed Plover (North Carolina, Massachusetts, New York, Maine, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland many times, Ontario). Of these, Little Stint and Pacific Golden-Plover seem most likely to be among the Next 15 Birds.


Certainly among Virginia’s Next 15 should be Slaty-backed Gull, now known from dozens of records in the Northeast and Midwest, with other records from Pennsylvania (two) and North Carolina. There have been reports already in Virginia of Ross’s Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull, and Ivory Gull, not currently accepted, but those could be probably the next most likely gulls to be found, with single records of Ross’s from Maryland and Delaware the closest to Virginia. Equally likely, perhaps, is Kelp Gull (Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, with many more from the Gulf Coast states), but far less likely would be Belcher’s Gull (Olrog’s Gull? Florida has three records), Gray-hooded Gull (New York, Florida), and Gray Gull (Louisiana) could reach us. Large-billed Tern (old records from New Jersey, Ohio, Illinois, Bermuda) seems a pipe dream, but Whiskered Tern (two in New Jersey, one of those shared with Delaware) less so - though freshwater habitats near the coast in Virginia are sadly very limited in recent years. Cayenne Tern is not recognized in the United States as a distinct species, but it’s certainly a plausible visitor to the state; it has been photographed as close as Dare County, North Carolina.


Band-tailed Pigeon, an irruptive and migratory species, should be among Virginia’s Next 15, with oddly no reports from Maryland or Delaware but records from North Carolina, South Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Ontario, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois and many more from Ontario and parts farther west. Inca Dove seems less probable but still possible, with records from Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland (but still none from the Carolinas), while European Turtle-Dove (Florida,
Massachusetts) would be a shocker in Virginia.


With the warming of the planet, visits from Northern Hawk Owl, Great Gray Owl, or Boreal Owl seem less and less likely every year; records stop at about the latitude of New York City or north of it for these birds, but there is an odd report, not substantiated, of a hawk owl from West Virginia. Antillean Nighthawk, with two North Carolina records (and one from Louisiana), seems possible, but far more likely would be Lesser Nighthawk, recorded in New Jersey (twice), West Virginia, and many times in the Gulf Coast states. Lesser gets my vote.


Hurricanes have produced (or been associated with) records for Common Swift in Massachusetts and Black Swift in New Jersey (and both have been seen in Bermuda after storms), and these are possible in Virginia, but the records are not yet numerous enough to get the nod. Virginia has recorded most if not all likely swallows and swifts; an addition to the Virginia avifauna from either group of aerialists would be a remarkable rarity, possibly from the Caribbean or Mexico but perhaps from Europe. Records of Alpine Swift from the Caribbean suggest that these powerful long-distance migrants can clearly survive the trans-Atlantic crossing.


Records of Violet-crowned and Magnificent Hummingbirds from the Virginia mountains are truly remarkable, but consider that Virginia is almost surrounded by records of Mexican Violetear (reported once in Virginia but without photographs; records from West Virginia, Maryland twice, New Jersey, Maine, Ohio, Tennessee, Indiana, Michigan, etc.), and we still lack an Anna’s Hummingbird record (3x in North Carolina, 2x each in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, Ohio). Both should be on the Next 15 list. Likewise possible are Broad-tailed Hummingbird (North Carolina, Delaware, New Jersey, many times in Georgia), Buff-bellied Hummingbird (multiples for both Carolinas and for Georgia), Blue-throated Hummingbird (Georgia, Louisiana), Costa’s Hummingbird (Alabama, Florida, Michigan), White-eared Hummingbird (Alabama, Mississippi, Michigan), and Berylline Hummingbird (Michigan again!), or perhaps a Bahama Woodstar/Sheartail (Pennsylvania), Amethyst-throated Hummingbird (Texas, Quebec), or Green-breasted Mango (North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Wisconsin)?

The non-passerines don’t have many more other groups that would provide a likely vagrant, though New York has a record of Williamson’s Sapsucker, and Pennsylvania has some tantalizing older records of Black-backed Woodpecker.


Although Virginia has made up some ground lately and added Dusky Flycatcher (and has a nice photographic record of Tropical/Couch’s Kingbird, probably Tropical), the Next 15 will almost certainly include a few new flycatchers, my guesses being Hammond’s Flycatcher, which is known from Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Florida, Alabama, Nova Scotia, and Massachusetts (four times!), and Tropical Kingbird, with three in North Carolina, one in Maryland, two each in Delaware and Pennsylvania, three in Massachusetts, one in Maine; the latter species has nested in Florida now, and records from Gulf Coast states are increasing. Couch’s Kingbird (Maryland, New York, Massachusetts, Michigan) and Cassin’s Kingbird (three each Massachusetts and Ontario, plus two in New York, many in Florida) would be next in line, but less likely, with Thick-billed Kingbird (Ontario, Texas) a dream-on sort of vagrant, and Great Kiskadee (New York, South Carolina, recently to South Dakota!) slightly less so. Gray Flycatcher (Massachusetts, Delaware, North Carolina, at least twice each in Ohio, Louisiana, Ontario) seems very likely to appear in Virginia, but records are not quite numerous enough to put it on the Next 15. The same is true for those streaky enigmatic Sulphur-bellied, Variegated, and Piratic Flycatchers, any of which could appear in Virginia, most likely in fall on the coast: records of vagrants are widespread but thin on the ground. A silky-flycatcher like Phainopepla (not a flycatcher, of course) would brighten birding in Virginia, but records of vagrants only reach Ontario, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts.

Of the other passerine groups, thrushes, warblers, blackbirds, and finches are more likely than vireos or smaller taxonomic groups to produce new records, but White Wagtail is worth a mention: though there are only about nine U. S. records east of the Mississippi, three are from the Carolinas.
Yellow-green Vireo also merits honorable mention, with records from Florida, South Carolina, and Massachusetts but many more from coastal Texas through Alabama.

Of the thrushes, it is tempting to imagine a Fieldfare or Redwing in Virginia, but both are still represented by only a sprinkling of records in the Northeast. North American wood-warblers are more likely: Virginia’s Warbler would be especially appreciated in Virginia (Maryland, West Virginia, New York, Rhode Island, Maine, Georgia, with many more in the Midwest), but a Hermit Warbler (multiples for Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, one for Maine), Grace’s Warbler (New York, Ontario, Illinois), or Red-faced Warbler (Georgia, Louisiana) would be fine, as would a Painted Redstart (New York, Massachusetts, Alabama, Ohio, Ontario, twice in Wisconsin). Unlikely, surely, is Golden-cheeked Warbler: single vagrants have made it to California, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Florida.

Among sparrows, we still await our first Cassin’s Sparrow (North Carolina, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, and many more) and Golden-crowned Sparrow, for which there are perhaps two-dozen records from Maryland to Maine, a similar number in the nearer Midwest, and singles from South Carolina and Tennessee. Both make my Next 15.

In the blackbird family, a stealth vagrant, Western Meadowlark seems likely enough to get a vote for the Next 15, with multiples documented in North Carolina, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, etc. The slowly expanding Bronzed Cowbird, with a record north to South Carolina, could be a contender. Of the orioles (as a group, very much on the rise as vagrants in fall/winter), Scott’s Oriole (North Carolina, South Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania, Kentucky) and Hooded Oriole (Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, twice in Ontario) would be most likely, if not more likely than the meadowlark and cowbird, but there are far-flung records of Altamira Oriole
(Mississippi) and Audubon’s Oriole (Indiana) and now Black-backed Oriole (Pennsylvania, Connecticut). We can dream. Finally, a Brambling or Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch or Eurasian Tree Sparrow could pop up at a feeder in winter, as there are increasing patterns beyond the West/Midwest for all. Georgia and Massachusetts have single records of McCown’s Longspur, and Tennessee has three; this bird seems unlikely to make the cut to me.

We would be remiss in neglecting records from Bermuda, which is closer to us than is Chicago! There, Arctic Warbler, Dark-sided Flycatcher, Ferruginous Duck, Booted Eagle, White Tern, Eurasian Dotterel (a 2015 record from Ontario provides some hope!), Caribbean Martin, Common House-Martin, among other gems. For veteran birders in Virginia, one of these species has probably been seen, if distantly, at Craney Island, way way back. Hmmmmm….

So what does this give us for our list of the Next 15 Birds?

Masked Booby
Yellow-billed Loon
Pink-footed Goose
Pacific Golden-Plover
Little Stint
Slaty-backed Gull
Band-tailed Pigeon
Lesser Nighthawk
Mexican Violetear
Anna’s Hummingbird
Hammond’s Flycatcher
Tropical Kingbird
Cassin’s Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Western Meadowlark

Most of these have been on previous rounds of “Next 20 Birds,” though not the Pink-footed Goose or Yellow-billed Loon. If one had to pick five more?
A hummer, a flycatcher, a shorebird, a gull, and an oriole!

Why do this exercise every decade or so? Careful study of the birds that are in front of us is greatly enriched when we are aware of all possibilities, even remote ones, and critically identify the birds we see, rather than logging the species we know to be most likely. Perhaps our state lacks records for Western Meadowlark because most of us assume all meadowlarks we see are Easterns? And perhaps we should pay more attention to plovers with rings or with gold tones above? When we study birds closely and we eliminate vagrants from consideration, we affirm these identifications more definitively, confidently. Naturally, we don’t have time to study every meadowlark we see to rule out Western, but when birding is slow, why not look and listen to them for a few minutes, or hours?
They’re really beautiful birds to study for a good while, every now and then. And when we study birds closely, we learn not just about plumage and vocalizations but also about habits, habitat, and ultimately their status and distribution where we are birding. Part of picking out something new and unusual is learning the variation in the plumages, calls, and behaviors of the birds that are not unusual. We sometimes see aberrant plumages or even hybrids when we’re looking at each bird carefully, but often we learn a new vocalization or see a new behavior. Some describe bird identification as “educated guessing,” but careful birding can have a very high degree of accuracy, of course. Having a few silent meadowlarks recorded on our lists as “Eastern/Western” can remind us to spend more time looking and listening. We also benefit from knowing what birders in surrounding regions are seeing, as our planet changes and birds respond to these changes; we continue to witness profound shifts in bird populations, and this witnessing puts us in closer touch to our planet and our fellow species.
And we can communicate what we see to members of our own species, perhaps.
Finally, there is the particular thrill of seeing something we’ve never seen before, or never seen in our local area, and sharing the discovery with others.

Ned Brinkley
Cape Charles, Va.
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