Sometimes Range Maps Are Wrong

If you look at some range maps for the Say’s Phoebe – a small flycatcher with a rusty belly – you’d think they don’t breed in Alaska. You’d be wrong.

Say's Phoebe with a Snack, White Mountains

Say’s Phoebe with a Snack, White Mountains

This handsome fellow was photographed along the Steese Highway, in the heart of the White Mountains. The light was quite low – there was a pretty good thunderstorm going on – so there’s a bit of noise. WC’s primary camera, a Canon 1D-X, perform pretty well at remarkable ISO settings; this shot was at ISO25600 (no, that’s not a typo). There’s some noise, but it’s not too bad.

If there were any questions about Say’s Phoebes breeding there, let me offer this:

Say's Phoebe Nest on Bridge Abutment, Steese Highway

Say’s Phoebe Nest on Bridge Abutment, Steese Highway

Note the hatchling begging for food in the center of the nest.Pretty nice nest, too, lined with Willow Ptarmigan feathers.

And this little flycatcher is clever for a bird with a brain the size of a peanut. He sheltered under the cover of the bridge, out of the rain, and snagged bugs as they came in to escape the thunderstorm. He stayed reasonably dry as supper for the adult and the kid flew to him.

Smarter Than an Insect, Anyway

Smarter Than an Insect, Anyway

Some of those same bird guides also tell you that Say’s Pheobes avoid watercourses. This guy nested over a creek. Guess he didn’t read that part of the guide.

It’s always a treat to find an uncommon bird, or a species where it isn’t supposed to be. It helps keep birding an art instead of paint by numbers.



2 thoughts on “Sometimes Range Maps Are Wrong

  1. Explain more, WC, about what a birder does with this unexpected information. Is there a resource to which this type of information (and photos) is reported so that range maps get revised accordingly?
    Perhaps there’s the makings of a blog post on the composition of and dissemination of that type of birding intelligence.
    Paul Eaglin
    Syracuse NY

  2. That’s a good question. Please advise. There have been numerous reporting’s of birds not normally found in Alaska this year. One totally embarrassed me.

Comments are closed.