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The spectacular markings of the male Bluethroat make sighting this songbird of Alaskan tundra and dwarf-shrub meadows a memorable experience. The species is also an accomplished mimic, having been recorded mimicking more than 50 species of birds and other sounds across its range. Despite the male’s conspicuous coloration, this small thrush, or chat, as known in the Old World, tends to be secretive and hard to see, often skulking wrenlike through thick vegetation, and easily visible only while performing its flight displays or singing from an exposed perch. When seen in the open, the Bluethroat often jerks or holds its tail up and quickly fans it open to flash the rufous patches at the base.
This bird occurs widely across Europe and Asia, but is restricted to northern and western Alaska and the Yukon Territory in North America, where it has received little attention to date. The first reported sighting in Alaska was in 1851 near St. Michael in the Norton Sound (Adams 1878). The first evidence of breeding (a female carrying food) was not observed until 1899 (Grinnell 1900), and the first nest was not found until 1928 (Bailey 1948). While much is known about the Bluethroat in Europe, within Alaska it is practically unstudied; its range in Alaska is not well known, and breeding activity has been recorded in relatively few locations. The most intensive study of this species in Alaska was conducted at Cape Romanzof on the Bering Sea coast of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta (McCaffery 2001). An excellent reference for European populations and the species in general throughout its range is Cramp 1988; the reader is directed to that source for detailed information on other populations when data are not presented here.