Overdue western vagrants in Connecticut

Political borders are a funny thing in birding. Whether town, county, state, or continent...most of our listing areas are determined by these boundaries. For those of us who keep a Connecticut state list or reside on the Avian Records Committee of Connecticut, we frequently scrutinize bird status and distribution on a relatively small scale. The sample size for a state like Connecticut pales in comparison to the northeastern US region as a whole, for example. So we have perhaps more "quirks" in our avifauna's history than a larger state might have.

For instance, Connecticut has ZERO records of Townsend's Warbler (widely considered our #1 biggest miss), but New York has about 20. If CT and NY were formed as one state, Connectiyork would have about 20 records and most birders living in what is now Connecticut would have it on their Connectiyork lists and would hardly consider it a statewide "blocker."

Given that we're entering the heart of the western vagrant season here in the east, I got to thinking about birds we're due for in CT...whether already on the state list or not.

First, those birds NOT yet recorded in Connecticut that have been on my mind, in no particular order:

Townsend's Warbler - duh
Black-chinned Hummingbird - this is the year, this is the year, this is the year...
California Gull - would love to find this one myself
Allen's Hummingbird - they've been around us...why not here
Hammond's Flycatcher - probably our most likely "new" empid
Vermillion Flycatcher - I read somewhere that this has been a decent fall for them east of their typical range, though I have not looked into that myself
Sage Thrasher - I'm predicting Hammonasset Beach State Park for this one
Cassin's Sparrow - big drought-related spring movement northeast may result in a couple autumn sightings??
Violet-green Swallow - I just have an affinity for swallows. A stealth vagrant to the east.

And birds that HAVE been recorded in CT, but are simply overdue to return, some more than others...:

Say's Phoebe - ONLY state record from December of 1916 (specimen)! Yes, you read that right.
Ash-throated Flycatcher - For one of the more regular regional vagrants, we get very few of these. I was lucky enough to see one found by Patrick Dugan on private property in Dec 2006 (photo below), but the last chaseable one occurred in Nov-Dec 1996. Many early birds so far this fall...maybe we get another.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Franklin's Gull - most recent was Oct-Nov 1999
Gray Kingbird - Nov 1992
any "yellow-bellied" Kingbird that ISN'T a Western - We had one Tropical Kingbird in Nov 1990, but zero Couch's or Cassin's so far
"Audubon's" Warbler - Oct 1996
Green-tailed Towhee - April 1991
Brewer's Blackbird - Nov 2002, possibly overlooked?

There are more, but I've been thinking of those in particular. Now I'd just like to have more time to get in the field to look for them.

- Nick


  1. A forecast of three non-stop days of strong southwest winds followed by rain. Sounds like good November mega-vagrant weather to me.

  2. Here's hoping, Tom! Yes, late this week is looking promising.

  3. There has been a grey kingbird by the Branford River behind the old Century 21 Real Estate office for the last week. I've seen him twice but didn't know they were unusual here. I went back last night quickly just to confirm he was still there. I tried to take his pic, but he was too camera shy. I wasn't able to return to try again. The address is 265 East Main St, Branford.

  4. Thank you Susie. If you don't get a photo, would you be able to describe the bird? Since it is so rare, how did you rule out common species, such as Eastern Kingbird?

  5. Hi,

    I'll go back and check his bill and tail. He appeared very gray rather than darker like the Eastern Kingbird.


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