Blue-gray Gnatcatcher - Polioptila caerulea (Linnaeus)
Status: Rare vagrant.
It was first seen by Donald H. Giffin in August 1938 at Goldboro, Guysborough County.
Second and third sightings were by Israel J. Pothier (two on 10 October 1957 at Melvern
Square, Annapolis County) and Gordon MacLeod (one on 30 August 1958 at Wine Harbour,
Since 1964 it has been reported in most years. Nine were seen on Seal Island on 25 May
1975, but most sightings are of single birds from throughout the province. Among them have
been 13 reports of about 23 birds in spring and early summer (23 April to 28 June) and 30
or more reports of about
50 birds from late summer to early winter (2 August to 27 December). Several have been
photographically documented. An unprecedented shower of gnatcatchers descended on Nova
Scotia in the fall of 1984, when at least 20 were seen.
Remarks: It is an active, diminutive creature, about the size of a kinglet.
It has a very long tail, trimmed with white, which it uses proficiently in its gyrations
as it whirls about in pursuit of gnat-size insects. It breeds as far north as Massachusetts
and northern Vermont but appears to be extending its range northward.
White-crowned Sparrow - Zonotrichia leucophrys (Forster)
Status: Uncommon transient, rare in winter.
It is very uncommon but regular in spring, generally first appearing in
late April or early May (average 6 May, earliest 22 April) and last seen
in early June (average 31 May, latest 15 June). Although it is not known
to nest, there are two intriguing reports of birds on 22 July 1977 at
Wine Harbour, Guysborough County (G. and O. MacLeod),and in early
July 1983 near Boularderie, Victoria County (R. Fraser); parts of
Guysborough County and Cape Breton Island do have terrain resembling its
breeding grounds further north. Fall migrants normally first appear in
late September (average 28 September, earliest 10 September); most are
seen in October when, after a strong northwesterly atmospheric flow, large
numbers may occur in southern parts of the province—over 400 were present
on Seal Island on 23 October 1980. They are generally last seen in November
(average 3 November, latest 25 November). However, in recent years they have
begun to winter in small numbers. The first to do so stayed at feeders on
Sable Island and at Glencoe, Pictou County, in 1968-69. At least 10 have been
recorded since on Christmas Bird Counts and another dozen or so have survived
the winter at feeders in the southwestern half of the province.
Description Length: 17-19 cm. Adults: White stripe through centre
of crown, bordered by wide black stripes; white stripe on side of head,
bordered by black stripe from eye or in front of it; back gray with dark
brown stripes; wing with two narrow, white wing bars; underparts gray,
belly and throat whiter. Young birds: Similar but with chestnut and buff
replacing the black and white on the head.
Range: Breeds from northwestern Alaska to central Keewatin and
northern Quebec, south to northern Saskatchewan, south-central Quebec and
northern Newfoundland, and south in the west to southern California and New
Mexico. Winters from British Columbia in the west and Virginia in the east
(casually further north) to the Caribbean islands and Mexico.
Remarks: This bird is a close relative of the White-throated Sparrow,
which it resembles in size and plumage markings. However, the white crown on this
bird is larger and more conspicuous than that of the White-throated Sparrow, which
has a yellow spot before the eye and a conspicuous white throat, both lacking in
the White-crowned Sparrow. Immatures in autumn with their chestnut caps
superficially resemble large American Tree Sparrows. The main migration of this
aristocrat of sparrows lies to the west of Nova Scotia, but the bird is regularly
reported here, especially when westerlies prevail in fall. Almost all our birds
are of the eastern subspecies, Zonotrichia leucophrys leucophrys. However, a number
of individuals of Z. 1. gambelii, which breeds from Hudson Bay to Alaska, have been
recorded. Adults of this subspecies can easily be recognized by their yellow, rather
than pink, bills and by their black eye stripes which start from the eye, rather
than from the base of the bill; the first, on Sable Island from 25 May to early
June 1969, was photographically documented by David Higgins. Another spring bird
was seen in Dartmouth in late May 1975 and at least eight birds (two confirmed by
photographs) have been recorded on Seal Island during autumn since 1972.