First record of Red-flanked Bluetail (Tarsiger cyanurus) for British Columbia and Canada
By Rick Toochin
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Introduction and Distribution
The Red-flanked Bluetail (Tarsiger cyanurus) is a Eurasian species of flycatcher that breeds from eastern Finland across northern Russia to Sakhalin Island, the North Sea of Okhotsk, Yakutia, the Kamchatka Peninsula, the Kuril Islands, the southern Russian Far East, the Himalayas, north east China, North Korea, as well as northern and central Japan (Cramp 1988, Lewington et al. 1992, Jonsson 1992, Brazil 2009, Mullarney et al. 2009, Clements et al. 2012). The entire population winters in south east Asia with birds migrating long distances across Russia to winter from southern Japan, South Korea to southern China including the Himalayas , Taiwan through south east Asia to the Greater Sundas, Myanmar, Thailand and Laos (Cramp 1988, Brazil 2009). The Red-flanked Bluetail is a rare regular migrant in Western Europe mostly in the fall but with some spring records as well (Cramp 1988, Lewington et al. 1992). In North America it is a rare vagrant mainly in the spring to western Alaska, especially the Aleutians, but in recent years there also have been a few fall records for the Pribilof Islands and St. Lawrence Island (West 2008, Dunn and Alderfer 2011, Runco 2011). South of Alaska there are only two previous fall records, both are from Coastal California found on remote offshore island vagrant traps with one bird banded on the southeast Farallon Island on November 1, 1989 and the other found recently on San Clemente Island on December 6, 2011 (Hamilton et al. 2007, Runco 2011). There are no records for Oregon or Washington State (Wahl et al. 2005, OFO 2012, WBRC 2012). The recent sighting of Red-flanked Bluetail in New Westminster in the winter of 2013 constitutes a new and accidental bird species for British Columbia and Canada.
Occurrence and Documentation
The only Red-flanked Bluetail for British Columbia and Canada was found by Colin McKenzie in Queen’s Park in New Westminster from January 13- March 26, 2013. This bird was enjoyed by many observers and was well photographed and documented. Though there is a recent December record for San Clemente Island off California, the New Westminster bird is the first successful wintering record for North America. Red-flanked Bluetail has occurred several times in Western Alaska and only had previously been found south of Alaska two times in coastal California. The pattern outside of Alaska is limited but so far shows birds turning up in the late fall and early winter. This follows a similar vagrant pattern found in Western Europe (Lewington et al. 1992). Given that Red-flanked Bluetail is a long distance migrant, it is more likely prone to large weather displacement from storms that originate in east Asia and push migrating birds out towards Alaska (Roberson 1980, Lewington et al. 1992, Jonsson 1992, Brazil 2009, Mullarney et al. 2009). Red-flanked Bluetail is still a common species in Eurasia with Birdlife International giving this species the status of Least Concern (Birdlife International 2013). The likelihood of another bird finding its way to British Columbia or somewhere else along the west coast south of Alaska is entirely possible. Observers should be on the watch for this species as it could be found again almost anywhere.
Read the full article with photos/figures here