[Tweeters] Eurasian Tree Sparrow Origin (and Neah Bay/La Push news)

Brad Waggoner wagtail24 at gmail.com
Wed Oct 30 18:29:40 PDT 2019

Hi all,

Here is some follow up comments from visiting Paul Lehman on the Neah
Bay Eurasian Tree Sparrow.


Just spent a couple days around Neah Bay and vic. (including La Push)
with Brad W. Highlights included today's (Weds) Rusty Blackbird and
female/imm. Orchard Oriole (probably a new bird based on plumage) in
Neah Bay, as well as regionally rare C. Scrub-Jay in Neah Bay on Monday
and a female Redhead at La Push on Tuesday. We saw the Eurasian Tree
Sparrow (ETS) on both Monday and Tuesday. This bird is ca. 99% likely a
trans-Pacific ship-assist, which presumably got on a ship at some port
in China, Japan, Korea, etc. and rode all the way to the first land
sighted at the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and jumped ship. This
is NOT an especially migratory species, so it is very unlikely that it
was out over the ocean already before landing on the ship. There is a
ca. 1% chance it is an escaped pet bird, and a 0.00000001 % chance that
it wandered to Neah Bay from the introduced population in IL, MO, IA,
from where a few individuals have wandered to nearby states and
provinces. There are indeed a few other records of ETSs in other
international port areas, such as at Los Angeles harbor, but birders and
the records committee there have largely ignored that bird, although it
has been present now for a couple years. And yes, there is a record from
Cape May NJ which the NJ records committee accepted (rightly or
wrongly), but that bird is more likely to have also been a ship-assist
rather than a wanderer from the population in the Midwest. Cape May is
located right at the mouth of Delaware Bay, where good numbers of
trans-Atlantic shipping passes on its way to the port of Philadelphia
and to refineries in n. Delaware. A Hooded Crow turned up  ca.10 years
ago on the east shore of Staten Island, right next to the entrance to
New York harbor (that record was NOT accepted), and the list goes on and
on. A Hawfinch was documented on a container ship from a day or two out
of Korea to just off the CA coast, within sight of the coast near Santa
Barbara, kept alive by a birder on board feeding it seed; but the CA
records committee did not accept it to the state's main list. One of the
more classic such records was the Sheathbill which turned up at a
British naval port in the U.K. associated with the Falklands war. And
one or two or three Humboldt Penguins have turned up along the North
American west coast. A contemporary issue in North America also involves
the occurrence of many Nazca and Red-footed Boobies in western U.S.
waters, which a good percent of them likely rode a ship at least a PART
of the way north from the tropics, if not a large chunk of the way.
(Most, but not all, folks aren't too bothered by this, as "that's what
boobies do.") Anyway, records committees and individual birders have
struggled for decades with how to deal with such ship-assist records.
Almost everyone agrees that if the bird was "restrained" during some or
all of the voyage that it should not count, but in most cases how does
one know if such restraint occurred? A non-restrained ETS could probably
survive the trans-Pacific crossing eating food scraps and dead insects
(e.g., moths) it found on board. This Washington bird, a normally
non-migratory species, probably rode the ship all the way from the Asian
port to the WA mainland and it may not sit too well with a fair number
of folks, whereas others will be OK with it. Certainly placing such
records on a "provisional list" in some sort of state list appendix may
be the best way to go.

--Paul Lehman, San Diego

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