Having finally found a Black Vulture for my Queens list, an important tick both because it was long overdue and because it was the tenth bird since my last set of predictions, it is time, once again, to look at what might be coming to my Queens list. The last ten birds have taken a very long time: when I last asked what I would add to my Queens list it was September 21, 2015! In other words, it took me nearly four-and-a-half years to add ten new birds to my list of sightings for my home borough. That’s long time! On average, almost six months went between each sighting. So I think you understand why I’m only going to be predicting my next five in this post.
But before we get into new predictions, let’s take a look at what I predicted would be my next ten birds way back in 2015 when Barack Obama was still president, the Kansas City Royals were working their way to a World Series victory, and I was still on the young side of forty. Below are my predictions exactly as I made them.
- Brown Pelican – This is a bird that will just take some luck while I am staring at the ocean. Or, maybe, we’ll get a late fall visitor that is chaseable. Either way, the odds of actually getting a Brown Pelican in Queens are pretty low.
- Sedge Wren – There are records of this species in Queens, generally along the coast in fall. Here’s hoping I get lucky this year, or, considering how long it takes me to add ten new birds, next year!
- Alder Flycatcher – I have almost undoubtedly seen one of these birds in fall when they are silent and unidentifiable. They are late spring migrants, so I basically need to not go away next Memorial Day weekend and hope for southwest winds in the last third of May.
- Great Shearwater – At this point, seabirds are my weakest family in Queens with the most species having reported in the borough that I have not seen. I must stare at the ocean a lot.
- Sooty Shearwater – Ditto.
- Western Tanager – Pretty unlikely but a guy can dream, right?
- Black Vulture – The bird that has been reported the most in Queens that I have never seen. Maybe this fall I will spot one or, failing that, next spring!
- White Ibis – A pair of young was spotted in Queens a couple of years ago and it is just a matter of time before another shows up at Jamaica Bay.
- Northern Goshawk – This is the most likely raptor left for me in Queens. Late fall hawkwatching is fun and I will be at Fort Tilden a lot this autumn!
- Northern Shrike – I’m kind of surprised I have never stumbled across either shrike in Queens but it is about time I do so. I bet one shows up on the coast this winter.
Alright, that is a list of ten birds. So what were the actual ten birds that I added between September of 2015 and two Fridays ago?
#313 – Greater White-fronted Goose, 21 February 2016: I don’t know how I didn’t see this one coming. Not only did I not predict it in 2015 but I never predicted one. It leaves Barnacle Goose as the last remotely possible goose species for me to add. (0 out of 1!)
Greater White-fronted Goose
#314 – Sooty Shearwater, 13 May 2017: Yes! A bird I predicted and it ended my longest slump ever of not adding a new bird in Queens, over a year! Seawatching paid off and I have to remember that if I want to keep adding new seabirds. (1 out of 2!)
#315 – Western Tanager, 25 November 2017: I’ve been predicting one of these since 2010 and it finally came true a mere seven years later. The best part was how this bird hung around until 2018 so I got to count it on two year lists for Queens! (2 out of 3!)
#316 – Northern Shrike, 11 November 2018: Spotted from one of my favorite birding locations, the platform at Fort Tilden, the shrike was an exciting find for the gang of birders shivering through a winter finch flight. And I predicted it! (That makes 3 out of 4!)
#317 – Northern Goshawk, 12 November 2018: The really annoying part about this bird is that it wouldn’t sit still for me to photograph it. Chasing someone else’s find is not my favorite way to bird to begin with but seeing the last accipiter left for me to find in Queens was fun. And it was only one day after the shrike, which is always nice. (4 out of 5!)
#318 – Burrowing Owl, 16 May 2019: An unbelievable find and a thrilling chase, this bird at Big Egg Marsh was as as astonishing as it was unpredicted. I never thought I would see one of these in Queens and, not surprisingly, I failed to predict it. (4 out of 6!)
#319 – Sage Thrasher, 17 May 2019: Finding my own new Queens bird is always exciting and for it to be the first in the state since 1973 was a cherry on top. And for it to come one day after the owl was nuts! I may not have predicted it but I found it and lots of other birders got to see it as well. That’s good enough. (4 out of 7!)
#320 – Alder Flycatcher, 30 May 2019: Sure, it took me three springs since my last prediction but finally catching up to one of these bland empids in Kissena Park was a weight off my binoculars. Three new birds in one month! The bird said “Free Beer” though I saw none on offer. So I drank one when I got home. Mmm…beer…mmm. (5 out of 8!)
#321 – Brown Pelican, 13 October 2019: Getting a new Queens bird during my favorite event of the year – The Big Sit – was so much awesome that my head nearly exploded. Fortunately, I managed to keep my noggin in one piece and enjoy the rest of an excellent big sit. (6 out of 9!)
#322 – Black Vulture, 13 March 2020: To finally find my tenth new bird since my last set of predictions was wonderful, especially as it happened from my balcony. That’s kind of weird because that is where I got my first Turkey Vulture in Queens from too. Maybe I’ll manage to get a kite for Queens from my balcony next? This was the lowest hanging fruit I had left for Queens and everything left to find will be difficult. (7 out of 10!)
And now for the exciting part of this blog post! What birds will be my next five birds in Queens? I’m going to list five that are the official list and five others as alternates. Any new bird is such a long shot at this point that it seems fair for me to choose a full ten.
Actual, Real-Deal, Official List
- Eastern Whip-Poor-Will: It’s kind of amazing how rarely this species is reported in Queens. They must come through as they nest out on Long Island and at many points north. But eBird only has two records of the species in Queens. I’ll make it three!
- Arctic Tern: There were multiple records of this species in June of 2018 out at Breezy Point and they just weren’t around when I was out there. They are probably overlooked relatively frequently but when I finally get one in my scope I’ll identify it for sure.
- Great Shearwater: As I said in my last set of predictions, seabirds are my big weakness on my Queens list. I have Sooty, I have Cory’s, and I should be able to get a Great.
- Swainson’s Warbler: The last few years have seen this species in Brooklyn and Manhattan and there is a record of one from 2005 in Forest Park. It’s just a matter of time before it happens again and I will be there to find it!
- Swallow-tailed Kite: I had a hard time deciding between this species and Mississippi Kite. The latter shows up in New York more frequently but the former is much more likely to be identified, regardless of how bad a look you get. So, why not go for the gusto and choose Swallow-tailed?
Alternate, Not-Official, List (That Exists So I Can Second-Guess Myself)
- Sedge Wren: I’ve predicted this for awhile, underestimating both the rarity and difficulty of detection. But if I can get a Henslow’s Sparrow in Queens why not a Sedge Wren?
- White Ibis: It will be hard to miss this species if it shows up. Even juveniles are distinctive. And it would be so nice to close out the at-all-likely ibises, especially as I have been expecting one for years!
- Sandhill Crane: The way their population in the east has been booming I figure it is just a matter of time before I see one flying past in the fall on migration. I hope. I really, really hope. Because a crane in Queens would be amazing.
- Sandwich Tern: Why not? There was one at Breezy Point in the summer of 2018 and another one showed up at Jamaica Bay last summer. I just have to be at the right place at the right time.
- Scissor-tailed Flycatcher: It’s about time one showed up in Queens. I’d like to be the one to find it.
What do you think my next birds in Queens will be? And are you as excited as I am to play this game again? I know I can’t wait to see what I add next to my Queens list!
What does your eBird target list for Queens say are the most statistically likely birds you’ll see? That can be your control group.
Jason, the eBird target list is bit thrown off by two species of which individuals were seen years ago by many people, Broad-billed Sandpiper (.0264% of checklists) and Fulvous Whistling-Duck (.0312%). The next most likely is Black-throated Gray Warbler (.014%), which has a similar history though it also has a second record from about 50 years ago. After that, there is Arctic Tern (.012%), Sandwich Tern (.0096%), Great Shearwater (.0096%), Manx Shearwater (.0096%), Pomarine Jaeger (.0072%), Thick-billed Murre (.0072%), and Swainson’s Warbler (.0072%).
When you get down to the nitty-gritty of county listing and you have most of what can be got the targets function on eBird becomes a bit less useful.
You’re definitely deep in the tail of Queens county listing and, as you note, the numbers for the true rarities are significantly impacted by lots of observations of a single bird in a single year. But the data is readily available and it is the closest we have to an “objective” prediction, as flawed as it may be. Good luck!
Okay, here’s my guess:
1. Black Woodpecker
3. Masked Mountain Tanager
5. Fairy Pitta.
Hi! Came across this blog while checking out birding in Queens. Saw a sandwich tern last Sunday in Breezy Point! I didn’t recognize what it was as I’m new to birding and familiar w just the common terns so it was great to see one, even if my photo was a little bit blurred. Btw, I think we’ve met Corey, I was on a birding tour sponsored by NYC Audubon at Queens Botanical Garden last year and I think you were our team leader 🙂