Saturday, September 23, 2006

Black-throated Gray Warbler

On this day in 1956, W. Parker, Ed Bloor and Charles Rogers found a Black-throated Gray Warbler at Tuckerton in Ocean County.

September is the peak month in NJ and most nearby states for this dapper-looking Western stray. NJ has 19 records of the species at this writing, nine of which are September records. Two-thirds of these occur in the span between 20 September and the end of the month. Most of the rest of the state's records come from fall, going into December in two cases; there are a couple of "early" records for August as well. There are only two spring records. In other words, this species shows a temporal pattern typical of a Western vagrant, although its occurrence peaks earlier in the season than the many Western species that have made November a month to be reckoned with for rarity-chasers.

No fewer than four individuals have been banded at Island Beach State Park in Ocean County, while there are seven accepted records from Cape May (and Sibley 1997 lists two more reports) (Hanson 2002-2003). Although at first glance, the species shows up in the expected coastal vagrant traps, there are also six inland records scattered across the state from Franklin in Sussex County to Mickleton in Gloucester County. One real oddity is that the species has never been recorded at Sandy Hook, which would seem like an obvious site for it to turn up.

Black-throated Gray Warbler is not quite annual in NJ, but it is a regular rarity, so most birders will get a chance to chase one sooner rather than later.

Hanson, Jennifer W. 2002-2003. The Status of Black-throated Gray and Townsend's Warblers in New Jersey. Records of New Jersey Birds 28:24-78.
Sibley, David. 1997. The Birds of Cape May. New Jersey Audubon Society, Bernardsville, NJ. Second edition.


Susan said...

I was surprised at the possibility to get this bird. I will be birding Sandy Hook tomorrow and will look for it! Thanks for the tip.

Patrick Belardo said...


Any info on the # of these sightings that are flyovers at Higbee?

Also, historically, have these birds stuck around for more than a day?

Jennifer Hanson said...

Susan - Well, I guess there haven't been any Black-throated Grays at Sandy Hook in the past few days, but the Gray Kingbird might trump them! It's going to happen sooner or later, though, and it never hurts to be out in the field looking.

Patrick - Out of seven Cape May records so far, at least two were Higbee fly-bys. The occasional Black-throated Gray has stayed a little longer; these have been birds that show up later in the season and might stake out a feeder (like the bird in Cranford in December 1987). The state's champion long-stayer so far was the bird that appeared in Princeton on 17 December 1982 and stayed until 11 January 1983.