1st winter: Niagara River, USA and Canada
Have been in correspondence with Jim Pawlicki (Jim’s photos) and Chris Wood (of eBird). Jim confirmed this Elegant Tern record with finder Vicki Rothman 5 days ago along the Niagara River in NE USA and on the Canadian border. Seems it did the decent thing and was recorded in Canada too (as an Ontario first).
1cy Elegant Tern, Niagara River, November 2013 by Jim Pawlicki (see more of Jim’s photos)
These things fascinate and haunt us in W Europe. This bird sounds like it is (again) a remarkable record of vagrancy for Elegant Tern and, most unusually, a 1cy bird. The only possible other species from a W Palearctic point of view would be a Sandwich Tern hybrid or Lesser Crested. I am not even going to imagine it being an Elegant X European Sandwich Tern which has gone ‘back’. Unlike 1cy European Sandwich Tern, Lesser Crested has juvenile plumage quiet like the medium/large N American sterna terns. The bill length and shape (perhaps not fully grown) lack of white eye crescents (which are typical of Lesser Crested) and whiter than grey rump, never mind range make it seem so unlikely. Overall feel of bird looks good for Elegant. Can’t really see it being anything else?
Elegant Tern records from eBird database for July to November 2013. Those records in red are from the last 30 days. The record in blue on the east coast (New York State) was a first summer bird (2cy) in July (2013) and is featured in last months Birding World magazine.
all photos above of 1cy Elegant Tern, Niagara River, November 2013 by Jim Pawlicki (see more of Jim’s photos)