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You are here: Home - Birds - Winter Rarities

Some Notes on Winter Rarities

by Phil Davis

All of the following species are on the MD/DC Review List for the entire state or particular geographical regions. Those highlighted here are typical rarities for the Winter birding season. Check the review list for other reviewable species. If you discover any of these species during your ramblings about the state:
  1. Take written notes on what you see, preferably before you consult a field guide.
  2. Take notes on the entire bird ... not just field marks that may be unique to that species.
  3. Sketches are great!

Before you submit your final notes to the MD/DC Records Committee, be sure to discuss how you eliminated similar species.

Category 3. Reviewable anywhere in MD or DC:


Western Grebe - look closely in the ocean, bays and the large reservoirs.

Tufted Duck - look where scaup are found ... look over the flocks carefully.

Barrow's Goldeneye - look wherever Common Goldeneyes are
found (especially in the lower bay).

Gyrfalcon - look in the tundra-like open habitat in the western piedmont.

Short-billed Gull (Mew and Common) - any gull hangouts.

California Gull - ditto, especially reservoirs and dumps.

Yellow-legged Gull - ditto, especially reservoirs and dumps.

Common Murre - off the coast.

Thick-billed Murre - off the coast.

Black Guillemot - off the coast, plus the bay.

Rufous/Allen's/Broad-billed/Calliope Hummingbird - check out any hummers
(leave those feeders up !!!).

Ash-throated Flycatcher - any Myarchius flycatcher is unusual in December ... it probably isn't a Great-crested at this time of the year.

Northern Shrike - any winter shrike is likely to be a Northern.

Boreal Chickadee - it's been decades since they moved down , but it's possible.

Mountain Bluebird - we are overdue for one.

Bohemian Waxwing - checkout all Cedar Waxwing flocks for larger birds with rusty undertail coverts. Our only record was a single, however.

Spotted Towhee - the western form of the Eastern Towhee (Rufous-sided) is now a separate species. They have been found on CBCs before.

Le Conte's Sparrow - check grassy fields.

Harris's Sparrow - it is a good year for them ... our largest sparrow.

Painted Bunting - tend to be found at feeders.

Bullock's Oriole - check any oriole. Most eastern records are females ... care is needed to eliminate Baltimore.

Hoary Redpoll - look for a white rump and smaller more conical bill than a Common Redpoll.

Category 4. Forms or subspecies not known to regularly occur in MD or DC:


Bewick's Swan - the yellow pattern on the bill is larger than Tundra Swan ... make a sketch of the yellow area.

Common Teal - check all Green-winged Teal ... look for a vertical white bar on the side, vs. horizontal.

Audubon's Warbler - check out Myrtle Yellow-rumped Warblers for yellow throats.

Gambel's Sparrow - look closely at the lores of White-crowned Sparrows.

Oregon Junco and Pink-sided Junco - look for dark lores on these birds.


Category 5A: If seen in places other than coastal Worcester County or over the ocean:


Black-legged Kittiwake - around large bodies of water.

Dovekie - in the ocean.

Razorbill - in the ocean.

Atlantic Puffin - in the ocean.


Category 5C. If seen west of the coastal plain, except along the Susquehanna River:


Great Cormorant - look for a chest and belly brown/white pattern that is reversed from DC Cormorant on immatures.