Bird species new to North America – a summary

The size of each circle represents the number of species new for North America found in that state or province since 1985.

New birds are being added to the North American list at a steady rate, and there is no reason to think that the pace of discovery will slow. Some birds are expanding their ranges or pioneering new patterns of occurrence. Some species are being discovered in places like pelagic waters or the Bering Sea islands, which have been relatively poorly explored. And some are found just because more birders are in the field and are better-prepared than ever before. The map above shows a graphic representation of where new birds have been found since the mid-1980s, and a table below lists 57 species added to the list since 1985.
If you want to try to find a new bird for North America, the best place to look is apparently Alaska, followed shortly by California and Texas, and then Florida and Arizona. Pelagic birding has been one of the most productive “frontiers” over the last few decades. Note that 7 out of 8 new species added in California are seabirds (although only four of them were seen from boats well offshore), and in North Carolina all four recent additions are pelagic species seen from boats.

Most or all of these pelagic additions are probably just the result of more observers finally discovering long-standing patterns of occurrence, but we will never know for sure. Recent additions in Texas, Arizona, and Florida are more likely to be new patterns of occurrence – species pushing the boundaries of their range.

One interesting aspect of the map is how few species have added to the list outside of the states/provinces at the “corners” of the continent. New Mexico and Louisiana both make a relatively good showing with two records each, but beyond that there are only five scattered records from five different places.

I know that the table below is incomplete, especially on older records. Please let me know of any additions or corrections.

SpeciesDiscovery dateLocationState/
Red-legged Thrush Turdus plumbeus31-May-2010Maritime Hammock Sanctuary, Melbourne Beach, Brevard CountyFL
Solitary Snipe Gallinago solitaria24-May-2010near Alexai Point, Attu Island,AK
Amazon Kingfisher Chloroceryle amazona24-Jan-2010Rio Grande at Laredo, Webb CountyTX
Bare-throated Tiger-Heron Tigrisoma mexicanum21-Dec-2009Bentsen–Rio Grande Valley State Park, Hidalgo County,TX
Brown-backed Solitaire Myadestes occidentalis16-Jul-2009Miller Canyon, Cochise CountAZ
Gray-collared Becard Pachyramphus major5-Jun-2009Cave Creek Canyon, Cochise CountyAZ
Sungrebe Heliornis fulica13-Nov-2008Bosque del Apache NWRNM
Sinaloa Wren Thryothorus sinaloa25-Aug-2008Patagonia–Sonoita Creek Preserve, Santa Cruz CountyAZ
Rufous-tailed Robin Luscinia sibilans4-Jun-2008 West Massacre Valley, Attu IslandAK
Crowned Slaty-Flycatcher Empidonomus aurantioatrocristatus3-Jun-2008Peveto Beach Woods, Cameron ParishLA
White-crested Elaenia Elaenia albiceps9-Feb-2008South Padre IslandTX
Yellow-browed Bunting Emberiza chrysophrys15-Sep-2007Gambell, St. Lawrence IslandAK
Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus1-Sep-2007Gambell, St. Lawrence IslandAK
Brown Hawk-Owl Ninox scutulata25-Aug-2007St. Paul Island, Pribilof IslandsAK
Townsend's Shearwater Puffinus auricularis1-Aug-2007near Del MarCA
Loggerhead Kingbird Tyrannus caudifasciatus1-Mar-2007Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, Key WestFL
Song Thrush Turdus philomelos1-Nov-2006Saint-FulgenceQC
Pallas's Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus25-Sep-2006Gambell, St. Lawrence IslandAK
Intermediate Egret Mesophoyx intermedia30-May-2006Buldir Island, Aleutian IslandsAK
Tristram's Storm-Petrel Oceanodroma tristrami1-Apr-2006Southeast Farallon IslandCA
Parkinson's Petrel Procellaria parkinsoni1-Oct-200517.6 nautical miles northwest of the Point Reyes headlands, Marin CountyCA
Ringed Storm-Petrel Oceanodroma hornbyi2-Aug-200512 nautical miles off the westernmost point of San Miguel Island, Santa Barbara CountyCA
Graylag Goose Anser anser1-Apr-2005125 miles southeast of NewfoundlandNL
Social Flycatcher Myiozetetes similis7-Jan-2005Bentsen–Rio Grande Valley State Park, Hidalgo County,TX
Cape Verde Shearwater Calonectris edwardsii15-Aug-2004approximately 49 kilometers southeast of Hatteras Inlet,NC
Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus7-Aug-2004Katama Airfield, Martha's Vineyard, Dukes CountyMA
Black-bellied Storm-Petrel Fregetta tropica31-May-2004approximately 77 kilometers southeast of Oregon InletNC
Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush Catharus mexicanus27-May-2004Pharr, Hidalgo CountyTX
Mangrove Swallow Tachycineta albilinea1-Nov-2002Viera Wetlands, Brevard CountyFL
Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata14-Sep-2002Gambell, St. Lawrence IslandAK
Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca8-Sep-2002Gambell, St. Lawrence IslandAK
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus25-Aug-2002Gambell, St. Lawrence IslandAK
Greater Sand-Plover Charadrius leschenaultii29-Jan-2001Bolinas Lagoon, Marin CountyCA
Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus23-Sep-1999Gambell, St. Lawrence IslandAK
Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris6-Feb-1999about 65 nautical miles east of Virginia BeachVA
Gray-hooded Gull Larus cirrocephalus
26-Dec-1998Franklin County
Swinhoe’s Storm-Petrel Oceanodroma monorhis8-Aug-1998southeast of Hatteras, North Carolina
Bulwer's Petrel Bulweria bulwerii
1-Jul-1998off Outer Banks, North Carolina
Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans
25-May-1998Attu, Aleutian Islands
Gray Heron Ardea cinerea11-Oct-1996Lear's CoveNL
Piratic Flycatcher Legatus leucophaius
1-Sep-1996Lea County
Chinese Pond-Heron Ardeola bacchus
4-Aug-1996St. Paul Island, Pribilofs
Great-winged Petrel. Pterodroma macroptera
21-Jul-1996Cordell Bank, off Marin County
Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush Catharus aurantiirostris
8-Apr-1996Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge
Common Redshank Tringa totanus
Stygian Owl Asio stygius
9-Dec-1994Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Hidalgo County
Light-mantled Albatross Phoebetria palpebrata17-Jul-1994Cordell Bank, 40 miles off Point Reyes, Marin CountyCA
Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus
5-Jun-1994Attu Island, Aleutian Islands
Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus
25-May-1994Tors Cove
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus
1-Jul-1993Cape MayNJ
Eurasian Siskin Carduelis spinus
21-May-1993Attu, Aleutian Islands
Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola
European Turtle-Dove Streptopelia turtur9-Apr-1990Lower Matecumbe Key, Monroe CountyFL
Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus
1-Jan-1989on Chandeleur Islands, St. Bernard Parish
White-chinned Petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis1-Apr-1986near Rollover PassTX
Pine Bunting Emberiza leucocephalos
18-Nov-1985Attu Island, Aleutians
Swallow-tailed Gull Creagrus furcatus
Pacific Grove and Moss Landing, Monterey County

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