Status and Occurrence of Rustic Bunting (Emberiza rustica) in British Columbia
By Rick Toochin
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Introduction and Distribution
The Rustic Bunting (Emberiza rustica) is a Eurasian species that breeds from Scandinavia across northern Russia to the Sea of Okhotsk, Yakutia, the Chukotka Peninsula and the Kamchatka Peninsula including the northern part of Sakhalin Island (Jonsson 1992, Brazil 2009, Hamilton et al. 2007). Rustic Buntings are rare but regular in Western Europe in migration and occur as a rare vagrant in Great Britain mostly in the months of August through September with smaller numbers occurring in May (Jonsson 1992). Birds from northern Europe right through to Siberia migrate to spend the winter in East Asia (Jonsson 1992, Brazil 2009). The Rustic Buntings' winter range includes most of China, both North and South Korea and most of Southern Japan including the odd bird on the Commander Islands on the Russian side of the Aleutian Islands (Beadle and Rising 2002, Brazil 2009). In North America Rustic Bunting is a rare regular migrant in the Aleutian Islands in spring and is rare in the fall with birds turning up regularly in the Bering Sea and the far western coast of Alaska (Beadle and Rising 2002). Birds have turned up in southern and south eastern Alaska as well (Beadle and Rising 2006). Outside of Alaska Rustic Buntings are considered very rare to casual vagrants with 7 records for British Columbia (Please see Table 1), 3 records in Washington State (Wahl et al. 2005, WRBC 2011), 3 records in Oregon (OFO 2012) and 4 records in California (Hamilton et al. 2007). In the rest of Canada, there is only one other record of Rustic Bunting which was a bird that wintered in Creighton, Saskatchewan from December 3, 2009 – February 22, 2010 (Yahoo messages #18043 &18359 Saskbirds). Since this species is a regular migrant to Alaska it is likely to occur in British Columbia again in the future and should be watched for with migrating flocks of Dark-eyed Juncos (Junco hyemalis).
Occurrence and Documentation
There are only few records of Rustic Bunting along the west coast of North America south of Alaska. In British Columbia there are 7 confirmed records of Rustic Bunting (Please See Table 1). Almost all the records for British Columbia reflect the overall pattern for the West Coast of North America of birds turning up in the later part of the fall and in a couple of cases over wintering. Rustic Buntings are often found amongst flocks of Dark-eyed Juncos or by themselves. Recent records include a bird found by the author on October 22, 2007 at Whiffin Spit in Sooke on Vancouver Island. It was on its own hanging out in open field habitat with a forested edge. Another recent record of Rustic Bunting in British Columbia was of an adult winter plumaged bird found between October 19-20, 2012 at the Masset Golf Course on the Queen Charlotte Islands (also known as Haida Gwaii) was in the company of Dark-eyed Juncos and was photographed (P. Hamel Pers. Comm.). Since Rustic Buntings are long distance migrants they are more prone to vagrancy due to weather displacement than short distance migratory species found in East Asia (Roberson 1980). It is likely that Rustic Buntings found along the coast in the fall are birds that are storm blown out of East Asia and either fly along the Aleutian Islands or possibly fly into North America from the Bering Sea region (Roberson 1980). South east coastal records from Alaska suggest birds follow the coastline south with almost all records of Rustic Bunting outside Alaska being found not far from coastal areas (e-bird database). Observers along the West Coast should be aware that there is an early fall record of a fall plumaged adult bird seen on August 30, 1994 near Masset in the Queen Charlotte Islands (Please see Table 1). This bird may well have been a bird that entered North America in the late Spring or early summer period and slowly made its way south as this is an exceptionally early fall record that is outside of the October through December window shown by this species. The other exceptional record for Rustic Bunting in British Columbia was of an adult female found at the far eastern part of the Hope Airport on May 5, 2002 (Please see Table 1). This bird was also in the company of a many Dark-eyed Juncos that were migrating north through the area.
Given the frequency of records in Alaska as both a spring and fall migrant it is highly likely that more birds will be found in British Columbia as more observers search particularly along the west coast. Given there are individual inland records from Washington, British Columbia and Saskatchewan this species should be considered as possible anywhere in the Province. Obviously there is a higher probability of occurrence along the west coast where the bulk of the records have been located to date. Given recent records of Asian strays found in the interior of British Columbia observers should pay close attention to migrating and wintering flocks of Dark-eyed Juncos and watch carefully at feeding stations.
Table 1: British Columbia Records of Rustic Bunting:
1.(2) fall plumage October 26, 1971: Adrian Dorst: near Queen Charolette City, QCI (Crowell and Nehls 1972, Godfrey 1986, Campbell et al. 2001, Toochin et al. 2013)
2.(1) winter plumage male November 25, 1983- February 20, 1984: Vic & Peggy Goodwill, mobs (BC Photo 883) Jordan River (Hunn and Mattocks 1984, Campbell et al. 2001, Toochin 2012b)
3.(1) immature male December 8, 1990- April 12, 1991: Aurora Patterson, mobs (photo) Tofino (Siddle 1991, Campbell et al. 2001, Toochin et al. 2013)
4.(1) fall plumage August 30, 1994: Peter Hamel: near Masset, QCI (Bowling 1995, Toochin et al. 2013)
5.(1) adult female May 5, 2002: Thor Manson: near Hope Airport (Toochin 2012c)
6.(1) immature October 22, 2007: Rick Toochin (photo) Whiffin Spit, Sooke (Toochin 2012b)
7.(1) adult winter plumage October 19-20, 2012: Peter Hamel, mobs (photo) Masset Golf Course, Masset, QCI (P. Hamel pers. comm.)
8.(1) immature male December 22, 2013: Rick Toochin: Masset, QCI (R. Toochin pers. comm.)
1.(1) winter plumage December 12, 1988: Coquitlum (Campbell et al. 2001, Toochin 2012a)
2.(1) winter plumage January 4, 1991: near Port Hardy (Campbell et al. 2001, Toochin et al. 2013)
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