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November movements and rarities

Posted on Nov 9, 2013

The atmosphere of the United States can be very chaotic in November with warm air being drawn up ahead of powerful cold fronts and large sections of the country being influenced by the same system. Often times these currents move birds, already in motion during migration, very far from where they are supposed to be. Across the northeastern part of the country it is known as a time to find extreme rarities. Scissor-tailed Flycatchers (Tyrannus forficatus) typically move from the central U.S. to Central America, but once in a while a bird will go the opposite direction and end up far north. Fork-tailed Flycatchers (Tyrannus savana) are supposed to stay in South America but they can be assisted by a strong southerly flow in heading north and being dropped off on our soil.

Fork-tailed Flycatcher

Fork-tailed Flycatcher (Tyrannus savana)

A number of hummingbird species have become regularly spotted far out of range as they are either are being directed far off course in the opposite direction by an unknown force or sizable numbers of birds are seeking new wintering grounds in very inhospitable areas with a lucky few finding a feeder in order to survive. Cave Swallows (Petrochelidon fulva) are “supposed” to be seen in small numbers in Texas, becoming more widespread in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. However, they have now become emblematic of this November movement with annual appearances across the Great Lakes and Atlantic Coast reaching into Canada! It seems they will ride warm fronts and other southerly flow events straight up the middle of the country until getting somewhere near the Great Lakes and sizable bodies of water. From there they often “crash” back to the Atlantic coast on the northwest winds of the ensuing cold front. In Connecticut we would frequently see them in early to mid-November, and this year is no different with our friends back there reporting sightings.

We want to find and record all of them in eBird in our region! If you are on Lake Erie or Lake Ontario keep an eye out for swallows and see if they’re Caves. It is late enough in the year that a swallow species in itself is a good sighting, but these odd birds are excellent finds. Perhaps some of them will visit Chautauqua Lake or some of the other larger lakes and ponds we have in the region. You can’t win if you don’t play…get out there and find something very rare!


Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation & Outreach Coordinator

Photo © Scott Kruitbosch