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A Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens arriving by boat?

A probable Buff-bellied Pipit on its way towards thew Azores (Photo 2011-04-21: Tina Hammond ).

In April 18th a small bird was found on a cruising ship going from Miami to Southampton. Tina Hammond (UK) tells us in a mail that the bird probably been inside a lifeboat which was opened at that day. After this the bird was seen until the 23rd when the ship stopped at Ponta Delgada, São Miguel. The bird was 6-7 inches, and according to the only bird book in the ship´s library it was believed to be a water thrush. A poor picture was taken, but from this the bird more likely seems to be a pipit, presumably a Buff-bellied Pipit, due to a thin bill and very long tail. The description of water thrush, with a plain upper part and streaked below, also very well fit this species.
   Ship-assisted North American birds arriving to Europe are known from many occasions, and the importance and numbers of these occurrences is often debated. There are two major sceneries involved, those birds that for different reasons are on the ship when it leaves the harbor, and those exhausted birds that drop down on the ship out over open sea for a short rest, or stay there until first land is in sight. There are a few proven cases earlier of more or less ship-assisted birds in the Azores; an Osprey Pandion haliaetus in 2007, a probable Swainson´s Thrush Catharus ustulatus in 2007, Black-throated Green Warbler Dendroica virens in 2007, American Redstart Setophaga ruticilla (2) in 1967, and Northern Waterthrush Seiurus noveboracensis in 1966.
   American birds that are less migratory, or are found in Europe out of their normal migrating time, are mostly considered to be either introduced or totally ship-assisted and thus not make it as genuine members of the country´s official bird list. This is what has happened to the Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata which is reported from Lagoa das Furnas, São Miguel 1998-07-09.

Staffan Rodebrand

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