[CT Birds] Northern Wheatear Comments

Roy Harvey rmharvey at snet.net
Sat Sep 12 11:39:42 EDT 2009

Passing this along.

    Thanks to all Connecticut observers for sharing your fine Northern Wheatear.  But I find it interesting that everyone is calling it an adult male individual.  More precisely, it is a sub-adult male.  The upper back still shows lots of barring, as is shown well in Sibley in his illustration of that plumage.  Of the fifteen or so Northern Wheatears that I have seen (most of them in Alaska), your very co-operative Connecticut bird is the first one in my experience that shows this plumage so clearly.   Probably I have failed to notice that barring previously because all of the wheatears that I have seen in the East have shown up somewhat later in the season--namely, in late September and throughout October, when more complete molting into adult plumage has occurred.  Also, those seen by me in Alaska were all viewed in early June, and were therefore in peak adult breeding plumage.
    It was heartening to see that the handsome bird at the Sikorsky Airport appears to be very healthy.  It has been feeding very actively, it appears to be robust, and it was observed to defecate with some frequency, proving that it has been processing its food in the normal way.  One hopes that it can survive long enough to realize that it needs to fly farther south!
                                         Hugh Willoughby
                                         Riverside, Rhode Island

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