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Black Swans, Cardinals, and Seedeaters

There's been a recent flurry of eBird reports of both a male Northern Cardinal at Whelan Lake and of a male Cinnamon-rumped Seedeater in the Tijuana River Valley, as well as a small (family?) group of Black Swans up in Los Angeles County which now (presumably same birds?) have been seen flying by in Orange County–so soon may arrive in San Diego County! Most folks know about the origins of these birds, but in case anyone was wondering about them, they are escaped exotics. The Cardinal is probably 99% an escapee. The seedeater has a very small population (a couple pairs?) now for a fair number of years in the Tijuana River Valley, but originated there as escaped cagebirds. Black Swans are kept in a number of waterfowl avicultural collections, and a pair has sometimes raised young over the past years at Lake San Marcos. There is zero chance these swans are "wild" birds. The reason such species are an option to enter on one's eBird lists is because of the laudable goal of monitoring some exotic species, in case their numbers and range increase, perhaps one day in the future to possibly become "established exotics" such as Bulbuls, Munias, and a couple parrots and parakeets have done, and which Swinhoe's White-eyes and perhaps some bishops and mannikins may be locally on their way to becoming! But, some of the individual birds one is seeing are the actual birds that got out of the cage, whereas some others are first- or later-generation born-in-the-wild to the one or very few pairs that have survived now for quite some time in the wild. (Same is true of the long-lasting escaped Black-throated Magpie-Jays in the TRV (and occasionally seen elsewhere), which do raise young some years, but whose numbers in just the past year or so seem to have really dropped to just perhaps a couple pairs.) I'd guess that the current Cardinal at Whelan Lake is out of a cage, rather than an offspring from the very small, "unestablished" population that has existed in the Tijuana River Valley for quite some time, but which is showing no signs of increasing or spreading–nor is it a wild bird that strayed from Arizona. Occasionally a group of Helmeted Guineafowl get reported from the Tijuana River Valley–along Hollister Road near Sunset–where a house there has a group of pet guineafowl which often wander up and down the road. Sort of like chickens and peafowl. Guineafowl are kept in people's yards in many parts of the country because they are supposed to be good at eating ticks.

Paul Lehman, San Diego
Source: SanDiegoRegionBirding Latest Reports