Friday, December 24, 2010

A vagrant treat on Christmas Eve

On Wednesday (22 Dec), Colin Campbell found a Northern Wheatear along the Delaware River in the extreme northeastern corner of Delaware (Fox Point State Park, Wilmington). Tony Leukering and I studied the bird this morning en route to various holiday ventures, and found it to be quite cooperative as it fed in short grass. Though Northern Wheatears are found every autumn in the northeastern US (with birds in this area apparently originating from the Greenland subspecies leucorhoa), it is extremely rare for birds to attempt to winter anywhere in North America. It will be neat to see if this little chap gives it a go!

Check out that crazy primary projection beyond the tertials! As a generalization, long primary projection is typical of long-distance migrants, and Northern Wheatear definitely fits into that category. Individuals of the species, even ones of North American origins, typically winter in sub-Saharan Africa!

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