Hearing the rumblings that the returning French bird(s) has been confirmed now as a Lesser-crested hybrid...which obviously throws some doubt on all the European records.
Tough, because most of these birds look like classic Elegants!
Excellent summary of the situation below. Raty's 10 yr old email on ID Frontiers is also worth a read:
With photos of various US east coast birds looking equally good, if Elegant is indistinguishable from Lesser-crested hybrids, then I guess those records might need to be questioned too.
Although I wouldn't entirely rule out vagrancy as a possiblility for this species. In southern California, its expansion northward means various breeding colonies have exploded over past 30 years, with some sites going from a few hundred pairs to over 10,000. Inland stragglers are also recorded at the Salton Sea (has become annual since the 90s) and Arizona (very few records however) and large northward flights are now recorded up to northern california. And are they really that averse to ocean flight? They're regularly encountered well offshore on pelagics.