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New species added to the Checklist of the Birds of Ontario:1983-2016

Authors:
  • Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Peterborough, Canada

Abstract and Figures

Perhaps the most regular annual feature of Ontario Birds, over its 33 years of production, has been the report of the Ontario Bird Records Committee (OBRC). These reports have been carefully prepared by the 13 different Secretaries who served OBRC throughout this time period. As relatively young birders, we can remember pouring over these reports to bring ourselves up-to-speed on the patterns of vagrancy in Ontario. The annual reports remain a great source of information, containing interesting records, including first records for the province. In this paper, we have conducted an analysis of the species that have been added to the Checklist of the Birds of Ontario since 1983 (i.e., over the life of Ontario Birds) for which the details establishing each addition were published in OBRC annual reports. We investigated the timing of these records and the trends in the geographic and taxonomic origin of these species to give the reader a better appreciation of the amazing list of birds which have been recorded in Ontario.
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Volu me 34 Nu mbe r 2 57
New species added to the Checklist
of the Birds of Ontario:1983-2016
Mike V.A. Burrell and Kenneth G.D. Burrell
Introduction
Perhaps the most regular annual feature of
Ontario Birds, over its 33 years of produc-
tion, has been the report of the Ontario
Bird Records Committee (OBRC). These
reports have been carefully prepared by
the 13 different Secretaries who served
OBRC throughout this time period. As
relatively young birders, we can remem-
ber poring over these reports to bring our-
selves up-to-speed on the patterns of
vagrancy in Ontario. The annual reports
remain a great source of information, con-
taining interesting records, including first
records for the province.
In this paper, we have conducted an
analysis of the species that have been
added to the Checklist of the Birds of
Ontario since 1983 (i.e., over the life of
Ontario Birds) for which the details estab-
lishing each addition were published in
OBRC annual reports. We investigated
the timing of these records and the trends
in the geographic and taxonomic origin of
these species to give the reader a better
appreciation of the amazing list of birds
which have been recorded in Ontario.
Ontario’s third Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Thunder
Cape, Thunder Bay on 30 September 2010.
Photo: Sachiko L. Schott.
58 Ontario Birds August 2016
Methods
We assembled the list of species added to
the OBRC approved Checklist of the
Birds of Ontario (hereafter called the
Ontario checklist) based on the year in
which the records were published in the
annual reports from the OBRC for sim-
plicity. This included some species which
were observed prior to 1983. We did not
include species resulting solely from tax-
onomic splits (Spotted Towhee [Pipilo
maculatus] and Cackling Goose [Branta
hutchinsii]) because they were not actual-
ly new to the province. We also excluded
birds that could not be identified to the
species level, (i.e., Tropical/Couch’s King-
bird [Tyrannus melancholicus/couchii] and
Sooty/Short-tailed Shearwater [Puffinus
griseus/tenuirostri]).
Using eBird (2016), we assigned each
species a geographic area of likely origin
based on its known range. We then
grouped species based on similar geo-
graphic area of origin for the purpose of
discussing each source area separately. We
included species in more than one geo-
graphic area of origin in cases where that
species’ range encompassed multiple
areas. Definitions for the geographic areas
of origin used are presented in Table 1
and the full list of species is presented in
Table 2. We also analyzed the species’
Order using the American Ornithologists
Union ([AOU] 1998) check-list of North
American Birds up to the fifty-sixth sup-
plement (Chesser et al. 2015).
NEW SPECIES
Table 1: Geographic areas of origin and definitions for inclusion
Area Definition
Southwest Southwestern North America including southern California, Arizona, New Mexico and Mexico
Atlantic Atlantic Ocean: north of the equator (seabirds)
Midwest Midwestern North America covering the southern prairie provinces, the area east of the Rockies,
west of the Mississippi River and north of Texas and New Mexico
Northwest Northwestern North America, including the states and provinces north of and including
northern California which border the Pacific Ocean.
Southeast Southeastern North America, including the states east of Texas and south of Kentucky
and West Virginia, and the Caribbean
Asia The continent of Asia
Europe
and Greenland The continent of Europe, including Greenland
Central America Central America (not including Mexico)
South America The continent of South America
Volu me 34 Nu mbe r 2 59
Common Name Scientific Name First observed Year Geographic origin
Ash-throated Flycatcher Myiarchus cinerascens 24 Nov 1962 1983 Southwest
Fish Crow Corvus ossifragus 15 May 1978 1983 Southeast
California Gull Larus californicus 14 May 1981 1983 Midwest
Golden-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia atricapilla 03 Jan 1982 1983 Northwest
Common Poorwill Phalaenoptilus nuttallii 04 June 1982 1983 Southwest/Midwest
Lesser Goldfinch Spinus psaltria 10 Aug 1982 1983 Southwest/Northwest
Sooty Tern Onychoprion fuscatus 14 Aug 1955 1984 Southeast
Royal Tern Thalasseus maximus 22 Aug 1974 1984 Southeast
Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula 12 April 1981 1984 Europe
Ross's Gull Rhodostethia rosea 14 May 1983 1984 Other
Carolina Chickadee Poecile carolinensis 18 May 1983 1984 Southeast
Siberian Rubythroat Luscinia calliope 26 Dec 1983 1984 Asia
Swainson's Warbler Limnothlypis swainsonii 22 May 1975 1985 Southeast
Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus 04 May 1984 1985 Asia
Crested Caracara Caracara cheriway 18 July 1892 1986 Southwest
Eurasian Jackdaw Corvus monedula 13 April 1985 1986 Europe
Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica 15 Dec 1985 1986 Atlantic
Long-billed Curlew Numenius americanus 15 Oct 1959 1987 Midwest
Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher Myiodynastes luteiventris 28 Sept 1986 1987 Southwest/Central America
Western Wood-Pewee Contopus sordidulus 18 June 1984 1988 Northwest
Snowy Plover Charadrius nivosus 04 May 1987 1988 Southwest/Midwest/
Southeast
Hermit Warbler Setophaga occidentalis 10 Sept 1978 1989 Northwest
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla 12 Nov 1980 1989 Asia/Europe
Great-tailed Grackle Quiscalus mexicanus 07 Oct 1987 1989 Southwest
Magnificent Frigatebird Fregata magnificens 28 Sept 1988 1990 Southeast/Central America
Cave Swallow Petrochelidon fulva 21 April 1989 1990 Southwest
Broad-billed Hummingbird Cyanthus latirostris 16 Oct 1989 1990 Southwest
Black Rail Laterallus jamaicensis 14 June 1987 1991 Southeast
Ferruginous Hawk Buteo regalis 17 March 1990 1991 Midwest
Black-chinned Hummingbird Archilochus alexandri 25 May 1990 1991 Southwest
Wilson's Plover Charadrius wilsonia 26 May 1990 1991 Southwest/Southeast
Cassin's Finch Haemorhous cassinii 13 Aug 1990 1991 Southwest/Northwest
Black-capped Vireo Vireo atricapilla 27 April 1991 1992 Southwest
White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus 08 May 1991 1992 Asia/Europe
Green Violetear Colibri thalassinus 30 June 1991 1992 Central America
Painted Bunting Passerina ciris 21 May 1978 1993 Southeast
Slaty-backed Gull Larus schistisagus 24 Nov 1991 1993 Asia
Pyrrhuloxia
Cardinalis sinuatus
23 Dec 2004 2012 Southwest
Table 2: New species added to the Ontario checklist with date of first observation, OBRC report publication year
and possible geographic area(s).
60 Ontario Birds August 2016
CHANGES
Common Name Scientific Name First observed Year Geographic origin
Hooded Oriole Icterus cucullatus 19 May 1992 1993 Southwest
Black-throated Sparrow Amphispiza bilineata 02 Oct 1992 1993 Southwest
Inca Dove Columbina inca 07 Oct 1992 1993 Southwest
Violet-green Swallow Tachycineta thalassina 28 Oct 1992 1993 Southwest/Northwest
Garganey Anas querquedula 18 April 1993 1994 Asia/Europe
Dusky Flycatcher Empidonax oberholseri 12 Sept 1993 1994 Northwest
Variegated Flycatcher Empidonomus varius 07 Oct 1993 1994 South America
Long-billed Murrelet Brachyramphus perdix 11 Oct 1993 1994 Asia
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna autumnalis 17 June 1993 1995 Southwest
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 16 Feb 1994 1995 Midwest
Prairie Falcon Falco mexicanus 19 April 1995 1996 Southwest/Midwest
Varied Bunting Passerina versicolor 07 May 1995 1996 Southwest
White-faced Ibis Plegadis chihi 20 July 1995 1996 Southwest
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa 10 Sept 1995 1996 Europe
Bullock's Oriole Icterus bullockii 13 Nov 1977 1997 Southwest/Midwest
Bicknell's Thrush Catharus bicknelli 19 Sept 1979 1997 Other
Baird's Sparrow Ammodramus bairdii 02 July 1996 1998 Midwest
Plumbeous Vireo Vireo plumbeus 03 June 1997 1998 Southwest
Great Shearwater Puffinus gravis 20 Aug 1997 1998 Atlantic
Eurasian Collared-Dove Streptopelia decaocto 25 July 1993 1999 Southeast
Heermann's Gull Larus heermanni 14 Nov 1999 2000 Southwest
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 26 Aug 2001 2002 Atlantic
White-collared Swift Streptoprocne zonaris 10 June 2002 2003 Central America
Tropical Kingbird Tyrannus melancholicus 26 Oct 2002 2003 Southwest/Central America/
South America
Brewer's Sparrow Spizella breweri 27 May 2003 2004 Northwest
Neotropic Cormorant Phalacrocorax brasilianus 03 May 2005 2006 Southeast/Central America
McCown's Longspur Rhynchophanes mccownii 21 June 2005 2006 Midwest
Black Swift Cypseloides niger 21 May 2006 2008 Northwest
Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis 20 Nov 2005 2009 Europe
Mottled Duck Anas fulvigula 01 May 2008 2009 Southeast
Roseate Spoonbill Platalea ajaja 13 June 2009 2010 Southeast
Black-tailed Gull Larus crassirostris 28 Sept 2009 2010 Asia
Yellow-nosed Albatross Thalassarche chlororhynchos 04 July 2010 2011 Other
Anna's Hummingbird Calypte anna 25 Oct 2010 2011 Southwest/Northwest
Thick-billed Kingbird Tyrannus crassirostris 28 Aug 2012 2013 Southwest/Central America
Brown Booby Sula leucogaster 07 Oct 2013 2014 Southeast
Elegant Tern Sterna elegans 21 Nov 2013 2014 Southwest
Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus 07 Sept 2012 2016 South America
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 02 June 2015 2016 Europe
Eurasian Dotterel Charadrius morinellus 03 Oct 2015 2016 Asia
Pink-footed Goose Anser brachyrhynchus 30 Oct 2015 2016 Europe
Volu me 34 Nu mbe r 2 61
Results and Discussion
With the exclusions outlined above, 79 species were added to the Ontario checklist
by publication in OBRC annual reports in
Ontario Birds
. The actual years when the
“new” species were observed ranged from 1892 to 2015. Seventeen species were first
observed from 1892 to 1982 while 62 species were observed from 1983 to 2015
(Table 2). One would expect it to be harder to add new species over time, and while
this trend over the long term is evident (Figure 1), it is still remarkable that the pace
of species additions in recent years is not much lower than it was in the 1980s. The
62 species added in recent years averages out to 1.9 new species per year. The 2015
OBRC report (Burrell and Charlton 2016) is noteworthy in that it is the first year
with more than two additions since 1998).
Figure 1: Number of new species added to the Ontario checklist per year based on the publication year of
the OBRC report that included the records. The open portion of each column represents the number of new
species that were seen in the previous year (e.g., seen in 2005 and published in 2006). The shaded portion
of each column represents the number of new species that were seen prior to the previous year (e.g., seen
in 2002 but published in 2005).
Number of Species
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
Year
From a taxonomic perspective, the
vast majority of new species have been
members of either the Passeriformes
[songbirds] (43%) or Charadriiformes
[gulls, terns and shorebirds] (23%); the
remaining one third of the species are fair-
ly evenly split among ten other Orders
(Figure 2).
Most Ontario birders are unlikely to
be surprised that the monthly distribution
pattern of first records of the 79 new
species corresponds to the times of year
that birders are most active (Figure 3).
There were 33 new species added to the
checklist during spring migration from
April to June. New additions during fall
migration overall are more spread out
with 35 new species between August and
November (the 5 new species in July
could also pertain to fall migrants). The
two best months during spring and fall
migration were May (17 species) and
October (13 species), respectively.
Possible Geographic Origin
Based on possible geographic areas of ori-
gin, new species have come from a variety
of regions (Figure 4).
Southwest
Southwestern North America leads the
way for possible origins of new additions
to the Checklist of the Birds of Ontario,
with 37% (29 species) of the species
thought to have originated there. Most of
the new species from this area have a well-
developed pattern of vagrancy to north-
eastern North America, and several have
now occurred on multiple occasions in
Ontario. Cave Swallow (Petrochelidon ful -
va), which was first observed in 1989
(Wormington and Curry 1990), subse-
quently had 62 additional records pub-
lished in OBRC reports up to 2010, at
which point it was removed from the
southern Ontario review list; however, it
is now back on the review list, due to few
records since 2011 (Burrell and Charlton
62 Ontario Birds August 2016
CHANGES
Pelecaniformes - 3
Caprimulgiformes- 1
Charadriiformes - 18
Accipitripformes - 1
Gruiformes - 1
Falconiformes - 2
Columbiformes - 2
Procellariiformes -3
Apodiformes - 6
Passeriformes - 34
Suliformes - 3
Anseriformes - 5
Figure 2: Taxonomic Order of new additions
to the Ontario checklist, 1983-2016. The number
shown is the number of species in the corresponding Order.
Volu me 34 Nu mbe r 2 63
Figure 4: Possible geographic areas of origin of new additions to the Ontario checklist, 1983-2016.
The number shown is the number of species possibly originating from this area. Note that the total
number adds up to more than the number of new species because a species could be listed for
more than one area.
Europe and
Greenland - 9
Asia - 9
Central
America - 7
South America - 3
Southwest - 29
Atlantic - 3
Midwest - 10
Northwest - 10
Southeast - 15
Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
Month
Number of new species recorded
18
16
14
12
10
8
6
4
2
0
Figure 3: Month of first observation of new additions to the Ontario checklist, 1983-2016.
64 Ontario Birds August 2016
CHANGES
2016). White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi)
(21 published records) and Ash-throated
Flycatcher (Myiarchus cinerascens) (12
published records) both have also devel-
oped patterns of regularly occurring rari-
ties in Ontario although not in such a
striking fashion.
Despite many species from the South-
west being reasonably expected, there
have been some really exceptional vagrant
birds within this group. If you polled
many On tario birders, birds like Heer-
mann's Gull (Larus heermanni), Elegant
Tern (Thal asseus elegans), Black-capped
Vireo (Vireo atricapilla) and Varied
Bunting (Passerina versicolor) are unlikely
to have been on their lists of potential
species to be seen.
Southeast
Southeastern North America is the possi-
ble place of origin for 19% (15 species) of
additions to the Ontario checklist. It
might come as a surprise to some that
there are more species from the Southwest
than the Southeast, given the proximity
of the latter, but this is likely because
many vagrants from the southeast had
been observed in Ontario prior to the
inception of the OBRC and Ontario
Birds. Several of the species on the south-
eastern list are species that are expanding
their ranges northward or increasingly
being detected as vagrants north of their
core range; these include Fish Crow
(Corvus ossifragus), Eurasian Collared-
Dove (Streptopelia dec aocto), Mot tled
Duck (Anas fulvigula) and Neotropic
Cormorant (Phalacrocorax bras il ianus).
Interestingly, but perhaps not surprising-
ly, all of these species were recorded in
2015 (Burrell and Charlton 2016) and
many Ontario birders predict that Fish
Crow and Eurasian Collared-Dove will
breed soon, while Neotropic Cormorant
may not be far behind.
While it is not surprising that many
on this list have shown up in Ontario, the
same cannot be said for Brown Booby
(
Sula leucogaster
), although even this
species seems to be occurring more fre-
quently at inland sites (eBird 2016).
Midwest
Midwestern North America is the possi-
ble geographic source of 13% (10 species)
of additions to the Ontario checklist. One
species on this list really stands out
Cali fornia Gull (Larus californicus). With
65 published records, it is hard to imag-
ine that the first observation only came in
1981 (James 1983). This species does not
seem to have increased in Ontario appre-
ciably in the last few years; rather, Ontario
birders have gotten better at finding it,
particularly along the Niagara River cor-
ridor. The number of records of Eurasian
Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus) has ex -
plod ed in the province in the past two
years, with seven of the total of 11
records; presumably these are from the St.
Louis, Missouri, area where it was intro-
duced in the nineteenth century and
where it is now well-established (Barlow
and Leckie 2000).
Each remaining species on the mid-
western list, Common Poorwill (Phala -
enoptilus nuttallii), Baird’s Sparrow
(
Am mo dramus bairdii
) and McCown’s
Long spur (Rhynchophanes mccownii), has
occurred just once and is not turning
up regularly elsewhere in northeastern
North America.
Volu me 34 Nu mbe r 2 65
Northwest
Northwestern North America is the pos-
sible source for 13% (10 species) of addi-
tions to the Ontario checklist . Most of
these species are still quite rare in Ontario
with their rate of occurrence here having
remained relatively stable throughout the
study period. Many of the vagrants that
show up regularly from the Northwest
had already been added to the Ontario
checklist prior to 1983, so we suspect the
species that are the most recent additions
listed in this paper are only the very
rarest. The main exception to this status
is the Golden-crowned Sparrow (
Zono -
trichia atricapilla
), which was first
observed in 1982 (James 1983) and has
since been recorded 13 times. Some of
the more exceptional species from this
region include Dusky Flycatcher (
Empi-
donax oberholseri
), Brewer’s Sparrow
(
Spizella breweri
) and Cassin’s Finch
(
Haemorhous cassinii
). While any of those
could occur again in Ontario, it would
certainly be a big deal!
Asia
Asia is the possible source for 11% (9
species) of additions to the Ontario
checklist. Asia may seem like a long way
away, but seven of the nine species must
have come from there. The eighth species,
Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla),
occurs in Europe, but also likely origi-
nated in Asia. Howell et al. (2014) illus-
trate the decreasing trend of this species
from west to east in North America.
The list of Asian vagrants to Ontario
is impressive and includes some truly
remarkable species such as Siberian Ruby -
throat (
Luscinia calliope
), Lesser Sand-
Plover (Charadrius mongolus), Long-billed
Murrelet (Brachyramphus perdix) and Eur -
a sian Dotterel (Charadrius morinellus). In
fact, Ontario is among the few places in
North America to record any of these
species.
Of the Asian species, only Garganey
(Anas querquedula), Slaty-backed Gull
(Larus schistisagus) and Brambling have
occurred in Ontario more than once.
White-winged Tern (Zenaida asiatica) has
been observed twice, though it is proba-
ble that both of these records involved a
single bird returning in back-to-back
years (Bain 1993).
Europe and Greenland
Like Asia, Europe and Greenland is the
possible source of 11% (9 species) of
additions to the Ontario checklist. Two of
these species, Barnacle Goose (Branta leu-
copsis) and Pink-footed Goose (Anser
brachy rhy nchus), are increasingly showing
up throughout eastern North America
(Sher ony 2008). The Eurasian Blackbird
(Tur dus merula) is perhaps the least like-
ly of those on this list to ever show up in
On tario again; in fact, Howell et al.
(2014) only list two other records for
North America.
Central America
Nine percent (7 species) of the new addi-
tions have their possible origin in Central
America. These amazing rarities include
Green Violetear (Colibri thalassinus),
White-collared Swift (Streptoprocne zon -
aris), Tropical Kingbird and Thick-billed
Kingbird (Tyrannus crassirostris).
Most of these have occurred in On -
tario only once and are not likely to occur
again, at least for quite some time. Of
course, everyone said the same thing
66 Ontario Birds August 2016
NEW SPECIES
about the province’s first Sulphur-bellied
Flycatcher (Myiodynastes luteiventris) (also
presumably from Central America), but
we now have three records!
South America
We listed 4% (3 species) of new additions
as having their possible origins in South
America. These include Tropical King-
bird and Variegated Flycatcher (Empi-
donomus varius); both species have shown
up in the fall and may be the result of
“overshooting” in spring migration (fall
in our hemisphere). The Variegated Fly-
catcher is one of the rarest species to ever
show up in the province, being just one
of four records listed for all of North
America (Howell et al. 2014). The third
species in this list is Kelp Gull (Larus
dominicanus), which has been observed in
the province in 2012 and 2013) (Burrell
and Charlton 2016); however, both
records could pertain to the same indi-
vidual, given the age of the individual and
dates seen.
Atlantic Ocean
There are three species (4%) of seabirds
which have been added to the Ontario
checklist. These include Atlantic Puffin
(Fratercula arctica) (3 records), Manx
Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus) (2 records)
and Great Shearwater (Puffinus gravis)
(1 record). Interestingly, two of the puf-
fin records are speculated to have
involved birds from James Bay heading
overland and recent records of other
Atlantic Ocean seabirds from southern
James Bay suggests this is a possible
source for other species.
Misfits
There were two species that did not fit
well into any of the above categories. The
first is Ross’s Gull (Rhodostethia rosea),
which was first recorded in 1983 at
Moosonee, and published in the 1983
OBRC report (James 1984). This species
was nearly mythical when Ontario Birds
began but has since been discovered to
nest in at least several scattered locations
in the Arctic and in northwestern Asia; it
has been recorded eleven times in
Ontario. The second species is Yellow-
nosed Albatross (Tha lassarche chlor o -
rhynchos), a seabird of the southern
Atlantic Ocean and one of the most
unbelievable birds to ever be found in the
province, given the species’ population,
range and pelagic nature (Martin and
DiLabio 2011).
Summary
The list of species added to the Ontario
checklist over the life of the OBRC and
Ontario Birds is large and very impressive
and includes species originating from a
wide geographical area. New additions to
the list over the past 33 years have been
most likely to originate from the south-
western portion of North America
(37%), be members of the order Passeri-
formes (43%), and occur in May or
October. This paper reveals a few of the
interesting patterns to be seen from
exploring this list and could be used as a
starting point for guessing at what the
next 33 years of Ontario Birds might
bring us.
Volu me 34 Nu mbe r 2 67
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Mike V.A. Burrell
2582 Washburn Road
Inverary, Ontario K0H 1X0
E-mail: mike.burrell.on@gmail.com
Kenneth G.D. Burrell
Natural Resource Solutions Inc.
225 Labrador Drive
Waterloo, Ontario N2K 4M8
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Since 1985, 58 species have been added to the Colorado list, 49 confirmed as new to the state, 8 to reclassification of subspecies as species, and 1 to description of a new species (the Gunnison Sage-Grouse, Centrocercus minimus). The changes include discovery of a resident population of the Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus), transitory colonization of the Inca Dove (Columbina inca), marginal colonization of the Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus), the Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) becoming a regular spring migrant, massive colonization of the Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto), vagrancy of four species of Old World origin, and vagrancy of one species of Southern Hemisphere origin, the Kelp Gull [Larus dominicanus).
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Ontario Bird Records Committee Report for 1983
  • R D James
James, R.D. 1984. Ontario Bird Records Committee Report for 1983. Ontario Birds 2:53-65.