Saturday, April 3, 2021

Mega rarity swallow details from Doug, original finder Eastern prospect lake

Gray-breasted Martin (Progne chalybea) (1)
- Reported Apr 01, 2021 07:25 by Doug Gochfeld

- Prospect Park, Kings, New York
- Map:,-73.9689534&ll=40.6602841,-73.9689534
- Checklist:
- Media: 16 Photos
- Comments: "*****Potential MEGA. Very few records for the continental USA of Gray-breasted Martin or of any species in the "Snowy-bellied Martin" complex.
Changing observation now (on 04/03) from "Progne sp." to Gray-breasted, as that's what I now believe it most likely is, and it is easier for people to track through alerts when entered as a full species- these first two lists have photos for people to peruse as well. That said, I acknowledge the high level of uncertainty inherent in tropical Progne identification.

I First found this swallow from the south shore of the lake, opposite the Peninsula, as I was on my way out of the park. I was perplexed about its identity for quite a while, in part due to the dark, wet conditions, and the distance from the bird. It was starkly pale below, much like a Tree Swallow, except for an obviously dusky throat, and its upperparts were cold toned bluish, rather reminiscent of a dull Barn Swallow. It was not obviously larger than the couple of nearby Tree Swallows at first, which added to my confusion, as Purple Martins tend to impress me as dramatically larger than our other common swallows.
After ascertaining that it was indeed a Progne Martin, in large part by shape and flight style), additional views and photos cast some doubt on the null hypothesis of Purple Martin (brown flanks, apparently clean, unmarked underparts, little hint of a collar). I relocated to the Peninsula thumb, hoping for better views and photos. I did get some better views and pics. These showed that while my impressions of the underparts had been correct, it did indeed have a pale, mildly contrasting collar.

I had to leave the park after this, and was at this point waffling on the ID, and assuming this bird would prove to be part of a range of variation of Purple Martin which with I wasn't familiar. Examination of photos on a computer, and resources thereafter, and consultation with a couple of friends made me strongly suspect Caribbean Martin or another member of the Snowy-bellied Martin complex. I got the word out, and returned to the park, later, once the front passed and the light was better. This second encounter will be in a different eBird list, and this bird was last seen at least fifteen minutes after official sunset, at which point it was becoming too dark to adequately track it, so we could not ascertain whether and where it roosted. Many photos, though darkness hindered the quality. More photos and some video during the afternoon excursion.

Afternoon list:

Gray-breasted Martin (Progne chalybea) (1)
- Reported Apr 02, 2021 13:43 by Joseph DiCostanzo
- Prospect Park--Prospect Lake, Kings, New York
- Map:,-73.9686421&ll=40.6553787,-73.9686421
- Checklist:
- Comments: "MEGA RARITY. Bird found by Doug Gochfeld yesterday. Slightly larger than Tree Swallows which were also present. Back dark bluish like Tree Swallows. Underside white like Tree Swallow except for dark grayish throat. Tail moderately forked. Bird too small for Purple Martin. Tail did not seemed forked enough for Snowy-bellied Martin complex. Gray-breasted Martin seems a better fit. Hopefully, many photos by Gochfeld and others will help resolve identification. (Changed species ID from martin sp? On April 3)"