We think of a vagrant as someone, who by circumstance or choice, is a wanderer who often lives by begging. A vagrant bird is one who is found outside its normal wintering or breeding areas. Scientists aren’t certain about why some individual birds wander so far afield. It may be a storm system that drives them off course, genetics or disease that affects their sense of direction, or even an adventuresome individual or individuals that are expanding the range for the species. One thing is certain. It’s a treat to see a bird that many would not get a chance to see otherwise.
American Avocets are rare sights in New England. We may get one in Massachusetts during the summer. This year, one , and only one that I know of, has been spending the summer on Plum Island. Avocets breed in the western United States and Canada, roughly in a line along the the east side of the Rocky Mountains from New Mexico, through Colorado, Wyoming and Montana into Alberta and Saskatchewan Canada. There are offshoots into Oregon and a bit to the east in places. They winter along the Atlantic Coast from the Carolinas to Florida and along the Gulf Coast. New England is definitely way outside their territory.
This bird is in breeding plumage and that makes it even more puzzling. Let’s say it was wintering in North Carolina. In that case, it flew 700 miles northeast instead of 1800 miles west to its normal breeding grounds. Luckily there is plenty of food. But unfortunately, he or she is not going to find a date.
I took this picture at Roddy Island in Aransas NWR near Corpus Christi TX a few years ago. The Avocets taking flight with the Pelican are in their non-breeding plumage, a white head and neck.
This is a selection of photos of our vagrant.
It seems to be enjoying the summer here but I hope it makes it to the right place next year.