British Columbia

Rare redwing sighting draws birders to Vancouver Island

Though common in Asia and Europe, the redwing is considered to be very rare by the North American Birding Association

The redwing, a type of thrush native to Asia and Europe, last visited B.C. in 2013

Daniel Dönnecke took this photograph of the redwing that has been spotted in Saanich. (Daniel Dönnecke)

It's a bird that's not very colourful and most people wouldn't give it a second look, but the sighting of a redwing on Vancouver Island has gained the attention of birders across North America.

The redwing, a type of thrush found throughout parts of Asia and Europe, may be smaller and more drab than the common robin, but according to the North American Birding Association it's fairly rare; it's considered a code four, with five being the rarest.

"If you aren't a birder, I'd absolutely guarantee you would walk past this bird without any attention, but in terms of North America it has received great attention from birders," said Ann Nightingale, an avid birder and past president of the Rocky Point Bird Observatory.

Ann Nightingale also spotted the redwing, and took this photograph. (Ann Nightingale)

"I was talking to a man from Chicago who flew here yesterday, and he said that when he went through border control at the airport, and they asked why he was here, he said 'Birding,' and they said, 'Oh, are you coming to look for that rare Asian bird?'

"So they even know about it at border security at the airport," she laughed.

The bird was first spotted in the Interurban and Wilkinson Road area of Saanich in December 2015 as part of the Victoria Natural History Society's annual Christmas bird count, according to Nightingale who saw the bird a few days later.

She said the possibility of seeing the bird has even drawn out Neil Hawyard, a Massachusetts birder who holds the 2013 record for a "big year", an informal competition among birders to see who can see or hear the largest number of species of birds within a year.

Same bird may have visited before

Nightingale said a redwing was spotted during the Christmas bird count week in 2013 — less than a hundred meters from where it was spotted this time around.

"There's a lot of questions: is this the same bird?" Nightingale said, adding that birds are creatures of habit, and that most of the birds in one's backyard this year would be the same ones as last year.

She said it is unknown how a bird that is usually found in Asia and Europe ends up in B.C.

"Some birds just get a little genetic disconnect, so their compass is turned around. I suspect that's what happened with this bird. Instead of going west for the winter, it came east."

Photographers line up on Colebrook Road in Surrey on Jan. 6 to try and get a photograph of the Siberian accentor that was spotted in the area. (Kirsten Fisher)

She said word about rare birds travels fast in B.C., adding that on Jan. 6 the Siberian accentor was spotted in Surrey.

"I can tell you that already as many birders as could get off work in Vancouver are there, and people are already making plans to come from Oregon, from Vancouver Island, over to try and locate this one bird."

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled: Rare bird spotted on Vancouver Island, causing attention from birders from around North America


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