Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Top 10 - Most Wanted - Reverse Migrants

Editor's Note:  to provide some colour here, I've taken photos of the new Sibley Guide (of each species, the flight drawings), and cropped them down... They all looked a bit odd flying to the right, so I inverted the images, allowing them to fly to the left - as one would view them early in the morning at one of our famous Lake Erie birding destinations


Over the past few years, watching "reverse migrants" at the tip of Point Pelee (or Fish Point) has become one of my absolute favourite forms of birding. As we get better at it, the rares have been falling into place. Naturally, I want more now! More!!!

So here it is, my ultimate wish list for birds to see (someday) in this manner (standing on a sand point!). It is a combination of predicted likeness, ease of identification and overall provincial rarity. Along with a few that are just species that I have a particular fondness for...


10. Black-headed Grosbeak (male)

A big orange (and mega rare) Grosbeak? I'll take it! 

9. White-winged Dove

A bit of a nemesis bird for me (a bit = understatement) - I'm really hoping the streak ends when one of these striking beauties flies right over my head one May at the tip of Pelee (or Island)

8. Vermillion Flycatcher (male)

Is this species even a candidate? I sure hope so... 

7. Black-capped Vireo

The fabled Long Point bird showed up in a net, but a reverse migrant would be pretty exciting. I feel like it is a very exciting combination of a distinctive, yet still challenging, appearance to ID in flight. 

6. Lesser Goldfinch (male)

Finches seem prone to this reverse migration thing, with Purple, House and Goldfinch often showing up at various points in time (even when they seem to be nearly absent in the woods) - a male Lesser Goldfinch is a primo mega, and those little white wing flashes would greatly aid in detecting one! 

5. Painted Redstart

Is there any other species that could match the excitement of a (hypothetical) Painted Redstart in the Great Lakes? (Maybe #3?) - a truly stunning bird that is the definition of MEGA. Michigan actually has a spring record (4 May) which shows that it is fully possible to get as a reverse migrant. 

4. Great-tailed Grackle (male)

The flair all comes down to the tail here. Great-tailed Grackle seems like a species that should occur more regularly in the Great Lakes region (to me)... Blackbirds are the token birds of "reverse migrations" - often doing little more than "getting in the way" while we search for colourful gems. A male Great-tailed Grackle would be an incredible (colourless) sight. 

3. Fork-tailed Flycatcher (any!)

It's a stunning South American flycatcher with a massive tail, widely regarded as a "grail bird" for birders in North America. Check! 

2. Hooded Oriole (male)

Unlike the previous two, this is a species more true to the "reverse migration" feel. The name of the game is typically looking for colourful neotropic birds, and a male Hooded Oriole has all that and more. Bullock's Oriole is another likely selection, but this one gains bonus points for being more exotic. Can you imagine? 

1. Painted Bunting (male)

Oh yeah... It's exotic, it has amazing colour, it is reallly distinctive, and it actually occurs pretty often in the Great Lakes! I give you - the Painted Bunting! An adult male would take the cake, but the only thing I'm left wondering is - would one actually take part in a "reverse migration"? Or do they love their secretive ground-dwelling haunts too much to join in on the fun? Given the huge numbers of Indigo Buntings we see each May - I'm counting down the days (years?) until one with a striking red belly flies overhead. 


There it is! What species would you add to your own list?

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