[CT Birds] stint fever

Greg Hanisek ghanisek at rep-am.com
Tue Aug 25 16:35:54 EDT 2009

>From Greg Hanisek -

The northeastern/national/international discussion groups have been full of talk recently of birds reported as various species of stints. For the most part careful examination of photos has show them to actually be North American species. I mention this because as colorful juvenile "peep" begin to appear at Connecticut shorebirds spots, eagerness to find a rarity should be tempered with very careful observation, notes, photos if at all possible and efforts to get as many people to see the bird as possible. In this regard I also wanted to pass along the following post by Kevin Karlson, an author of "The Shorebird Guide," who has spoken and shown his fantastic photos at a COA annual meeting. His comments are germaine to the stint issue and also shine the spotlight on one of Connecticut's best field birders. Please check out the following posted by Kevin to Frontiers of Birding:

Ben and all: Re: Conneaut, Ohio Stint.

I was about to post a comment on the Ohio Calidris Sandpiper when I saw Ben's post concerning the presence of toe webbing in subsequent photos, and the conclusion of a bright Semipalmated Sandpiper. I did not comment on this bird's identity, other than to say that it was not a Little Stint, since I have little experience with Red-necked Stint. The plumage of this bird did resemble the juvenile Red-necked Stint in The Shorebird Guide on the stint comparison page after the Little Stint photo account, and I commented in my last post that it seemed to resemble Red-necked and not the many juvenile Semis that I study and photograph every year. However, Julian Hough stuck to his guns when evaluating the structure and lack of attenuation in this bird's rear body, and the problem with its wings being too short for Red-necked. He sent me a private e-mail suggesting a possible hybrid, and I was going to note how I had seen a pair of Red-necked Stints in the Alaskan Arctic in mid-June, 1992, with the male doing a courthship dance around the female. Copulation eventually took place, and I suspect that Red-necked bred somewhere nearby, although I never relocated them. If this male did not find another Red-necked, it might copulate with a female Semi, and a potential hybrid could take place, although I do not know of any such documentation. 

I wanted to bring attention to the careful observations of Julian Hough, and although the plumage of the Ohio bird matched Red-necked juvenile, with Marshall Illiff pointing out great supportive details, Julian still would not stray from his contention that this bird did not match the physical parameters concerning body and wing length that he has personally observed in Red-necked Stints. This shows how important a combination of careful field details and important structural features should be combined for every rarity, or even every bird, before jumping to a premature conclusion for a really rare bird. Julian even sent me an e-mail this morning saying how 'stint fever' is once again sweeping the US with the arrival of juvenile Calidris shorebirds, but that he stood by his feeling the the Ohio bird did not match up physically for a Red-necked Stint. Congratulations, Julian, on a careful, total evaluation of a tricky bird, with the suggestion of a hybrid still not out of the question. I have never seen the subtle plumage details present on the Ohio birds on tens of thousands of juvenile Semis that I have studied over the last 30 years. Congratulations to the observer in Ohio as well. It was correct of you to bring our attention to this bird. It is one worth studying. Kevin Karlson

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