Thursday, November 01, 2007

Boreal Chickadee

On this day in 1913, Charles R. Sleight collected a Boreal Chickadee of the hudsonicus race in Ramsey, Bergen County (Fables 1955, Miller 1920). The specimen currently resides in the collection of the American Museum of Natural History.

Boreal Chickadee is one of those species that has vanished from NJ in recent history. At one time, it could be counted as a winter irruptive like Evening and Pine Grosbeaks, Red-breasted Nuthatches, crossbills, and various other birds of the "northern but enjoying an occasional southern winter holiday" persuasion. Heck, even Black-capped Chickadee is a winter irruptive in south Jersey. There were strong flights of Boreal Chickadees in the winters of 1913-1914 and 1916-1917 (Stone 1965).

The NJBRC put Boreal Chickadee on its review list in 1996. The only report the committee has had to review since then was one from 1981 in West Milford, Passaic County, from Dave Sibley et al. The 1996 NJBRC Annual Report says, "At least two individuals present for weeks before and after this date. There were other records as well during the winter of 1980-1981 in northern New Jersey" (Crossley & Sibley 1996).

One interesting aspect of Boreal Chckadee occurrence in NJ is the subspecies involved. The 1913 record was of the hudsonicus subspecies, but birds from the 1916-1917 irruption were of the littoralis and nigricans subspecies (Fables 1955, Miller 1917). The nigricans subspecies, however, has not stood the test of time, since it is not listed in the Boreal Chickadee account in Harrap & Quinn (1995).

Witmer Stone may get the award for NJ birder optimism for his statement: " has, of course, not been seen at Cape May but, inasmuch as Evening Grosbeaks and Red Crossbills occurred with the Hudsonian Chickadees at Plainfield, both of which have been recorded from Cape May, its occurrence there, in some future wave of northern bird life, is not beyond the range of possibility" (Stone 1965).

Crossley, Richard, & David Sibley. 1996. New Jersey Records Committee annual report - 1996. Records of New Jersey Birds 22:94-98.
Harrap, Simon, & David Quinn. 1995. Chickadess, Tits, Nuthatches and Treecreepers. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.
Miller, W. DeWitt. 1917. Rare winter visitants in the vicinity of Plainfield, New Jersey. Auk 34:218-219. PDF here
Miller, W. DeWitt. 1920. The Hudsonian Chickadee in New Jersey. Auk 37:593-594. PDF here