[CT Birds] King Eiders and a word about documentation

COMINS, Patrick PCOMINS at audubon.org
Mon Feb 15 12:23:20 EST 2010

Yes, I was referring to the current GBBC with regard to the one King Eider being reported so far in North America.  In looking over the last few years counts, of the GBBC, I only found two instances of more than 2 individuals at a single location in the past five years outside of Alaska; 6 individuals reported in RI in 2006.   Three are reported in Cape Elizabeth, ME in 2008, but this likely represents only 1 bird, as there are 3 checklists of 1 bird each.  In 2002 there was a report of 7 in Massachusetts and I hope that was well documented.

There are not that many records of this species on GBBC in the lower 48 over the entire history of the count:
King Eiders in the Lower 48 on GBBC (raw number not correcting for multiple checklists):
1998: 0
1999: 0
2000: 1
2002: 9 (the year where 7 were reported in Mass).
2003: 0
2004: 1
2005: 6
2006: 8
2007: 4
2008: 6
2009: 1 so far, not counting the 4 Mystic birds.

With a bird this rare at the continental scale, we have to air on the side of caution in allowing records through.  Is it out of the question to have a King Eider in Long Island Sound? Certainly not, and as has been pointed out, there are recent nearby records.   What is causing extra caution in this is that there were 4 reported, three of which were females.  This combines a very rare species with one that can be tricky to identify.

Does not accepting this record (or any ornithological record for that matter) without further documentation mean that the compliers doubt the accuracy or veracity of a sighting?, no.  It simply means that the documenting evidence is not sufficient to enter the data into the historical record.  This  often happens in the world of bird records.  I am reasonably confident that I had a White-winged Tern at Milford Point a few years back.  Unfortunately, I was the only observer and did not have a camera with me at the time.  The record was not accepted by the Avian Records Committee.  Even though I'm nearly certain as to the ID, I realize that a single observer record for such a rare occurrence was not sufficient to document this sighting for the historical record.  Likewise, David Sibley, Chris Elphick and I had a bird we agreed was a hybrid HerringXLesser Black-backed Gull on the CBC in 1999.  We even photographed the bird.  The record was not accepted because it was felt that we could not rule out something even rarer than a hybrid HerringXLesser.    Please don't be offended if one of your records is not accepted by the ARCC, a CBC complier, eBird or GBBC.  It doesn't mean you are doubted, but rather that the complier being conservative with regard to the historical record.

That all being said, I hope folks will continue to keep their eyes out for a group of King Eiders near Mystic.


Patrick Comins, Meriden
GBBC Co-complier for CT
From: ctbirds-bounces at lists.ctbirding.org [ctbirds-bounces at lists.ctbirding.org] On Behalf Of Larson Eric [eric_r_larson at hotmail.com]
Sent: Sunday, February 14, 2010 3:10 PM
To: ctbirds at lists.ctbirding.org
Subject: Re: [CT Birds] King Eiders

Feb 14, 2010, Enders Island, Mystic 1:30-230PM

Judy and I were back out at Enders this afternoon, but the wind was up, and there were only scattered birds off of the Island. To clarify for the List why we felt confident in identifying the birds as King rather than common Eiders, here's the content of the note sent to Patrick yesterday in reply to his question regarding the sighting:

"The birds were observed approximately 25-50 meters off of the east side of Enders Island, along with a significant number of actively feeding Common Loons and Red-Breasted Mergansers.  The location is on Fisher Island Sound, approx 4 miles from the open Atlantic.  We were able to observe the birds with binoculars and field scope for approximately 15 minutes, and initially thought they were Common Eiders, but were taken by their smaller, rounded head shape, especially distinctly smaller bills, very dark on the females, and orange on the male.  The bills were more duck-like than we see in the Commons. The females were warm brown, distinct from the grayer brown we usually see in the Commons. We had trouble making out the side markings on the females to distinguish them further.  The male was overall dark gray with a dull gray fading, forward to dirty-white, breast and a distinct femoral white patch.  He also had light, circular eye rings."

I presume when Patrick says these would be the only King Eiders reported in the US, he's talking about for this year's  GBBC.  The eBird site lists three independent sightings of King Eider(s) January 15/16, 2010 off of Hammonasset, with four sightings down the Sound in Dec 2008 to Jan 2009, plus four sightings in the same periods, 20 miles away in Rhode Island.  It doesn't seem out of the question that the birds may be found around here, at this time of year.


> ------------------------------
> Message: 14
> Date: Sun, 14 Feb 2010 10:42:35 -0500
> From: "COMINS, Patrick" <PCOMINS at audubon.org>
> To: "ctbirds at lists.ctbirding.org" <ctbirds at lists.ctbirding.org>
> Subject: [CT Birds] King Eider Report in Mystic and GBBC update
> Message-ID:
> <ED5AF7FCB680574685E9B838706187150192ED4C11 at cardinal.int.audubon.org>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
> We got a report of 4 King Eiders near Enders Island in Mystic on the GBBC (3 female and 1 immature male) in case anyone is out and about in that part of the state. It's doubtful that we could accept the records without a photo or multiple observers because of the rarity of this species in the US. (so far these would be the only King Eiders reported in the US, with the only other being a singe individual in Quebec).
> We're up to 124 species on the count, not counting the King Eiders. Some species that are so far missing that have been reported recently include: Golden Eagle, Harlequin Duck, Common Snipe and probably a few others.
> Patrick Comins, Meriden.
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