My Bird Blog: A blog about my birding discoveries, bird feeders, birds on my life lists, and all things bird related

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Northern Wheatear in Jefferson County

Published September 22, 2014
Tags: Life List Happenings, Northern Wheatear, Bald Eagle, Ring-necked Pheasant

Before yesterday, I had never heard of a Northern Wheatear, so when a female was sighted up in Jefferson County yesterday, I had to look it up to see what kind of bird it was!  And today, I was thrilled to find that this life bird was still in yesterday's same location.  Maybe last night's weather system kept it grounded...

This is a very rare bird for New York and a great sighting by Tony Shrimpton.  Apparently, only seven sightings have been officially recorded in New York State since 2006.  I did a little reading about the Northern Wheatear and found a few facts about it:
  • it breeds in the tundra and winters in Africa
  • it eats mostly insects
  • it's slightly smaller than an Eastern Bluebird and is long-legged and short-tailed
  • it was first thought to be in the thrush family, but recent DNA studies have shown it to be more closely related to old-world flycatchers
  • they shun bushes, preferring to be on the ground or perched on buildings or posts

Update 10/3/2014: I heard Shane Blodgett found a Northern Wheatear at Plum Beach in Brooklyn, NY.  This will be an additional record for New York.  Also, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology just released an article about a study done on the Northern Wheatear's migration.  It's remarkable how the species, depending on where it lives, migrates and the two different routes it takes to get to Africa.  You can read it here:  Migrating Northern Wheatears Go the Distance—and Pack Accordingly

I enjoyed the cooperative bird for close to an hour before finally leaving to check out Derby Hill. Not much was going on there but I was glad to finally visit this hawk watch and say hi to Dave Wheeler and Jim Taroli. During my visit, 6 immature Bald Eagles and 1 adult flew by, 2 Ospreys, a Cooper's Hawk, and several Common Terns were also seen. A couple of jaegers were seen earlier in the day, but a definite ID wasn't able to be made on them because they were rather far out.

As I was leaving Derby Hill, I saw a female (or young) Ring-necked Pheasant walking alongside the road in the grass.  I pulled over and took some photos - amazed to find this bird was relatively tame.  Dave pulled up and the pheasant continued going about her business as Dave and I both grabbed a bunch of photos of her!  That was a very nice way to end the day...

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Northern Wheatear (female)
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Northern Wheatear
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Northern Wheatear
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Northern Wheatear
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Northern Wheatear
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Northern Wheatear
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Immature Bald Eagle
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Immature Bald Eagle
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Ring-necked Pheasant
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Ring-necked Pheasant
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Ring-necked Pheasant
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Ring-necked Pheasant
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Great Black-backed Gull
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Osprey flyover