April birds to watch for in southern New England

This unseasonably warm weather has birders, and birds, thinking ahead to the upcoming peak of migration in May. Several early arrivals have been noted in recent days, which is not surprising given the weather.

The forecast for the next few days involves even warmer temps and a stiff southerly breeze, which should mean more early birds and perhaps a few overshoots.

Here are some ideas:
- Swainson's Warbler (learn the song if you don't already, and distinguish it vocally and visually from the waterthrushes)
- Prothonotary Warbler (one each already in NY and MA)
- Yellow-throated Warbler, Summer Tanager, Blue Grosbeak, and early Indigo Bunting
- Swallow-tailed Kite (already a handful of overshoots as close as northern New Jersey)
- Wilson's Plover
- Black-necked Stilt
- Loggerhead Shrike

Another possibility may be Anhinga, but this is one of the more under-appreciated ID problems out there. Single northbound DC Cormorants are often seen soaring high in the sky at this time of year, prompting false Anhinga claims. Many birders are not used to seeing a lone cormorant in full soar with tail spread wide.

Overshoots are not the only unusual birds that can be found in April:
- Fieldfare or Redwing (still not too late! check the robin flocks!)
- Little Gull, or if you're really lucky...Ross's Gull
- Garganey
- Bar-tailed or Black-tailed Godwit
- Ruff
- White-faced Ibis
- Smith's Longspur

Well there are some ideas. Some are likely, such as Little Gull...while others are quite a reach, i.e. Fieldfare. Whether you enjoy the prospect of rarities or the idea of seeing the first colorful spring passerines, you'll probably enjoy being out birding this week.

- NB


  1. Hey Nick, you forgot Northern Lapwing in your April birds!!!!!!!

    Mark S.

  2. I decided to leave that one out...

  3. Looks like at least one of your predictions has just materialized with a stunning Swallow-tailed Kite in Rhode Island. As a long shot, I'd add White-tailed Hawk to the list of New World possibilities though I don't think I'd get many supporters for that one.


  4. James, I like your outside-the-box thinking! My "predictions" aren't too original really, as most have a pattern behind them.

    I never went to see the western MA White-tailed Hawk because of 1) their range, 2) lack of vagrancy to the north, and 3) because it showed up at a falconry club! I understand the record has garnered some support? How did MARC rule on that one? I now wish I had gone to see it, although I don't think I could have voted positively for a first northeast record.

  5. Nick,

    The Western MA record wasn't accepted as a genuine vagrant but Scott Surner did an extremely thorough job of researching the escape potential. He found out that falconers just don't keep White-tailed Hawks. They're apparently not available on the market. Bill Clarke also commented that the state of feather wear could easily be consistent with a wild, rather than a formerly captive bird. The bird's choice of location was truly unfortunate!

    What really swayed me was the persistent South-eastern airstream that lasted for weeks. I was in Texas at the time and there was a dearth of common migrants as a result. Moreover, that year SE Texas was suffering from drought conditions. White-tailed Hawks were harder than usual to find in the Coastal Prairies and conditions seemed ripe for a non-breeding birds to wander out of range. Had I not been in Texas that spring, maybe just maybe, I may have held a different view on the Hadley bird. By the way, I never got to see the Hadley bird, so I'm not motivated by a state tick in my out-of-the-box thinking. I think this one could occur again in the North-east.



  6. James, now that's what you call inside information. Very interesting stuff.

    A tough record to evaluate. If wild, talk about bad luck showing up at a falconry club. One of the things that I've always kept in the back of my mind when evaluating the possibility of caged/kept birds...people do strange/illegal things all the time, so just because the research says a species isn't kept doesn't mean that it's impossible. Not that I have kept from accepting a record based on such speculation...it's just that I always keep the possibility in mind. People do strange things.

    Anyway, I wish I had gone to see the bird, because I had the opportunity to and passed it up.

  7. nice going through your blog. and seeing the birds in your area.

  8. You can check off YT Warbler from the list. Garganey would have been nicer though ;)

  9. Apparently Royal Tern is a possibility in April too...

    Lauren Kras

  10. Who knew :)

    Nice bird Lauren, what a great record.

    Just went through Ben's FL photos. Nice shots, especially of the ani. Were you down there with him?


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