Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch hotspot in Thunder Bay - Nov 24 update

These striking images came courtesy of Brian Ratcliff. This Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch appeared yesterday (Nov 22, 2011) at the feeder of Barbara Horth and Gene Kideres, in Lappe, about 20 km NW of Thunder Bay. Brian noted that Barbara and Gene hosted another Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch 17 years before, from December 28, 1994 to January 11, 1995. At that time, it was only the third documented occurrence for Ontario. Since then about a dozen additional records, mostly from the Thunder Bay District, have been added.

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Within the range of the Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch several distinct subspecies have been recognized. Most of the birds that stray to the Great Lakes region are of the widespread, nominate tephrocotis or interior subspecies. This most recent individual, with its mostly gray head, appears to be of the littoralis or Hepburn's subspecies that breeds on the Pacific slope from Alaska to northern California. A rarity within a rarity (for Ontario)!

Here is a photo another GCRF that visited the Thunder Bay District. Note the more restricted gray area on the head indicating that it is of the nominate tephrocotis or interior subspecies more frequently seen in eastern North America.

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This excellent photo taken in Washington State by Joseph V. Higbee shows the the interior and coastal subspecies side-by-side (on roof of feeder).

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An interesting and well illustrated discussion of the interior and coastal subspecies of Leucosticte tephrocotis can be found here on Aaron Lang's Birding Alaska website.

Nov 24 update: Brb and Gene reported that the Gray-crowned Rose-Finch was present through the 23rd and 24th and ate ravenously. James Barber visited and was able to get some additional photos.

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Acknowledgments: Many thanks to Barb Horth and Gene Kideres for sharing the news and welcoming birders to see the Rosy-Finch, this month and in 1994! Also, thanks to Joseph Higbee (more great photos here), Brian Ratcliff and James Barber for sharing their photos.
Range map: Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch (Hepburn's) — Leucosticte tephrocotis littoralis. Montana Field Guide. Montana Natural Heritage Program and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Retrieved on November 24, 2011, from