WSO Menu

Promoting the enjoyment, study, and conservation of Wisconsin's birds.

December Rare Birds: Tufted Duck, Say’s Phoebe and 9 warbler species!

By Mark Korducki

December was another mild month, continuing the trend of 2021. Lakes and ponds froze up later than normal and there was still a lot of open water during the Christmas Bird Count period. There were a few significant snowstorms in central and northern Wisconsin and very strong winds, which may have brought in a few rare birds.

RARE <b>Tufted Duck</b> photo 1 22

Jeremy Meyer ( photographed this female Tufted Duck on Dec. 26 in the Milwaukee harbor.

The most unusual sighting was a female Tufted Duck found in the Milwaukee harbor on the day after Christmas. It was discovered feeding near the pilings of the Jones Island petroleum pier on Lake Michigan among a group of scaup and goldeneye. This bird was seen by dozens of birders that day and if accepted by the WSO Records Committee would represent the third record for Wisconsin.

Perhaps as a direct result of strong westerly winds, a Say's Phoebe was found in Sauk County. The mild weather allowed for this bird to linger and find food and it was still present as I write this article.

Rare Says Phoebe photo 1 22

Ruth Smith documented this Say's Phoebe at White Mound County Park in Sauk County.

Another sign of the mild weather was the 9 species of warblers reported during the month. Yellow-rumped Warblers are expected in winter, but a Tennessee Warbler in Richland County was an amazing find in mid-December. The other warblers included Northern Waterthrush in La Crosse, Ovenbird in Kenosha, Palm in Sauk, Cape May in Dane and Waukesha, Pine in Milwaukee, Orange-crowned in Dane and Milwaukee and Common Yellowthroat in Columbia and Milwaukee. Many of these birds were present for the CBCs.

A Slaty-backed Gull was enjoyed by many birders in Dane County and then later perhaps the same bird was seen at the Johnson Creek landfill in Jefferson County. This latter location also hosted a California Gull.

A Spotted Towhee in Brown County continues to frequent a seed dump area. Not far from there, two Townsend's Solitaires also were being seen. Solitaires were also reported from their traditional haunt at Devil's Lake State Park in Sauk County.

A Varied Thrush was found in Sheboygan and was seen by many as there was good viewing from a church parking lot. A Northern Mockingbird was a nice find in Lafayette County.

Snowy Owls continue to be seen in good numbers across the state. There are reports of all the expected winter finches in low numbers,  The one exception is White-winged Crossbills, which have been seen in above average numbers, including many sightings in the southern part of the state.

In addition to compiling this monthly report, Mark coordinates Wisconsin’s 92 Breeding Bird Survey routes.