THE BIRDS OF SOUTHEASTERN LOUISIANA

 

 

 

ORDER Anseriformes

 

FAMILY  Anatidae  SWANS, GEESE, DUCKS

 

 

FULVOUS WHISTLING-DUCK  (Dendrocygna bicolor)   Casual  winter visitor

 

Although  the Fulvous Whistling Duck (formerly "Tree-Duck") is a common summer resident of the rice fields of south-central and southwest Louisiana, it is rarely encountered this far east.  Except for an undated December record of a bird shot near Labranche in the early 1970's (fide RJS), this species went unrecorded from 1934 until February 1978.  The records are Jan. 22, 1870, New Orleans (fide HCO); Oct. 1892, Lake Catherine (fide GEBin HCO); Jan. 1900, Rigolets (fide GEB in HCO); Nov. 2, 1934, in the delta (AD--captured); Feb. 12-14?, 1978 New Orleans (JW,m.ob.--45) and Mar. 12, 1978, White Kitchen (MM,NN,JR,RDP--45), almost certainly the same flock;  ....at Venice. (NN,RDP, GC); Sep. 9, 1990 Bayou Sauvage? (JHa); Dec. 23, 1990 Orleans Parish (DM--).....; Dec. 26, 1992, New Orleans (RH,JHa--13)....At least 3 were present among Black-bellied Whislting-Ducks in New Orleans’ Audubon Park in Dec-Jan 2005-6 (LO’M).

 

BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna autumnalis)   Locally common in winter, increasing breeder

 

The first  record of this specie in SE Louisiana was of one shot by a hunter in St. Charles Parish on Nov. 28, 1983 (fide RJS).  It became increasingly common in southwestern Louisiana, where free-flying flocks, supposedly from Rockefeller Refuge, had been known for some time.   Since about 1990 there have been repeated sightings of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks on or near the Mississippi R. upstream from New Orleans (PY, NLN. RDP), usually between the Huey Long and Hale Boggs Bridges, but at least as far downriver as Audubon Park.  Since 2002 (at least) “Hundreds” have been seen flying from Audubon Zoo across and upriver (fide RDP, CB) in 2004.  In the winter of 2005-6, peak numbers on the Audubon Park lagoon reached 1160 (RDP–30 Jan 2006).  Reportedly, they have nested on Monsanto Chemical property upriver from New Orleans on the West Bank of the river, and recently they have bred on Bayou Sauvage NWR, including 4-5 broods on the seemingly late date of ...September 2004 . (PW,DM,MM,RDP,et al).

 

TUNDRA SWAN (Cygnus columbianus)   Casual winter visitor

 


There are eight records of Tundra Swan (previously Whistling Swan) from Southeastern Louisiana.  Although not all of the sight records can definitely be assigned to this species (rather than the next), it is more than reasonable to assume that they all are of C. columbianus.  The known records are Jan. 15, 1933, Main Pass (WEN--3, 1*); Dec. 18, 1960, Bosco (fide JLH); Jan. 30-31, .... , Rigolets (SAG); Dec. 31, 1977, New Orleans (JK, et al) and Jan. 14, 1978 (MH), presumably the same individual; Dec. 14, 1980, Gheens,  an individual caught in a Nutrea trap and brought to Audubon Zoo, where it died; Nov. 22, 1984, Labranche (fide RJS) 12 birds of which one was shot, and the head delivered to Stein; Dec. 2, 1984 to at least Jan. 1, 1985, Madisonville (RDP,DM,MM,NN--3).   Photographs of the latter bird (American Birds....)  show it to have been a Tundra Swan.  Subsequently, two Tundra Swans, assumed to be part of the earlier group, were present near Folsom into February (fide CS), and on April 16, 1999 two swans, assumed to be of this species and definitely not Mutes, were seen at Caminada Pass, Grand Isle (MG,JK).

 

TRUMPETER SWAN (Cygnus buccinator)   FORMERLY

 

The evidence for the occurrence of this species in Southeastern Louisiana comes from the young swan which Audubon painted in New Orleans and which he claimed was short near Barataria on Dec. 16, 1822 (Ornithological Biography, Vol IV, p. 541).  The LOS Bird Records Committee has recently reaffirmed the status of the Trumpeter Swan on the Louisiana list, largely because of this record.  In Birds of America  , Vol. VI, Audubon wrote "At New Orleans, where I made the drawing of the young bird here given, the Trumpeters are frequently exposed for sale in the markets, being procured on the ponds of the interior, and in the great lakes leading to the waters of the Gulf  of Mexico."  Arthur gives another record for Louisiana, which probably deserves little credence.

 

GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE  (Anser albifrons)  Uncommon to rare in            winter

 

Although quite common in southwest Louisiana, the White-fronted Goose is not often encountered in this area.  No doubt it is more common than actual records indicate, since few  winter trips  are made to likely feeding areas--Delta NWR, for example.  This species is probably less common than formerly, but has reported increased since the 1950's in southwest Louisiana.  White-fronted Geese arrive as early as about Oct. 20 and depart in late March to early April; the earliest fall record is Oct. 13, 1959.

 

SNOW GOOSE (Chen caerulescens)   Common to uncommon in winter in the delta.

 

Although significant numbers of geese--mostly Snow Geese--winter in southeast Louisiana, they are usually not accessible to the birder without the means to venture well into the marsh to favorite feeding locations.  Hundreds, at least, will be seen on a boat trip to Delta NWR.  Otherwise, records are simply opportunistic, of small flocks seen amost anywhere below U.S. 90, and especially in fall migration, which takes place from  mid-October through November.  One can hope to encounter Snow Geese in the Bonnet Carre Spillway or near Grand Isle.  In southeast Louisiana the blue morph ("Blue Goose") is considerably more common than the white.

              Observers should look for Ross's Geese, which are now being found regularly in southwest Louisiana. .

Expected dates of arrival and departure are October 15 and April 15;  the earliest fall date is taken to be  Oct. 12, 1986 at Grand Isle (JS), but there is an  Aug. 8, 1974 record from Reserve (28???), and a report of a flock at Pass-a-Loutre on Sept. ..., 1994 (fide DM).

 

ROSS’S GOOSE (Chen rosii)  Rare to occasional in winter


There are now six records of this diminutive goose from the area, the first  being of one which lingered on  the London Ave. canal near UNO from  ......... (PY, et al).   The other records occurred during the winter of 1998-99: .....in Arabi,..... (DPM), and  in City Park on Jan. 24, 1999 (DPM,PY), apparently seen earlier by Lisa Pinter, which was still present into the late spring.....   The most recent records are of one in St. Tammany on Nov. 25 (24?), 2000 among Snow Geese (MM),  two near Venice on  Dec. ...., 2001 (MS,CL), and one at New Orleans on February 15, 2004 (CL,PW).  One was in Lafreniere Park, Metairie, in March 2004 (JS, et al), and again in June of that year (JS).

 

 For field marks, see the field guides, but Ross’s Geese are distinctly small, short-necked, and have more rapid wing-beats, when seen in flight.  They are not much larger than a Mallard, though they have longer wings.  Ross’s Geese also seem to have a predilection for turning up singly in odd situations, with mixed and even domestic waterfowl.  They have become  quite regular among the huge flocks of Snow Geese in the rice fields of Southwest Louisiana, the frequency of their sighting correlating with the population explosion of Snow Geese.   Their scarcity in SE Louisiana is most likely a function of the smaller population of Snow Geese.

 

BRANT (Branta hernicla)   Accidental

 

There is a single record, of a bird present in New Orleans' City Park Nov. 27-30, 1960 (WJG,SAG,MEL,m.ob.), which was almost certainly  the one seen on the New Orleans lakefront in January 1961 (B.Ward).  Motion pictures were taken of the City Park bird.   There have been two or three records from the rice fields southwest of Lafayette--in company with White-fronted or Canada Geese.  There have been at least two recent records from the rice fields of south-central Louisiana.

 

CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis)    Occasional to uncommon locally in winter, perhaps regular in delta

 

While formerly numerous in the delta in winter, Canada Geese now reach Southeastern Louisiana in only small numbers, e.g., approximately 15 at Delta NWR during the winter of 1982-3 (fide Sam Henson).  On the other hand, increasing numbers continent -wide and notably in Sw. Louisiana in winter suggest that they will be seen more frequently in the future.    Of course domesticated Canada Geese are everywhere, including New Orleans’ City Park, and one may encounter free flying individuals or even flocks which may be non-migratory almost anywhere.

  Perhaps typical of earlier numbers is the figure of 1578 recorded on the Delta NWR Christmas Count on Dec. 23, 1940.  Audubon wrote that they were "one of the commonest of the geese in the New Orleans markets during the winter."  They have reportedly been seen near Madisonville in recent winters (fide Taylor Guste).  Other “recent”records are:  Oct. 12, 1958, Reserve (RFC); Dec. 24, 1960, Venice (fide SAG); Sep. 18, 1965, New Orleans (JK); Dec. 26, 1983, New Orleans (MM,RDP,et al); .....at New Orleans (NN,RDP,...), though New Orleans records are somewhat suspect, given the domesticated populations. 

Canada Goose has now been split into Canada and Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii).  Seven subspecies of Canada Goose are recognized (including the medium-sized parvipes) and four of  Cackling.  Richardson’s Cackling Goose (B. h. hutchinsii) probably at least occurs  in Sw. Louisiana. It is known (Olberholser) that the nominate subspecies, Branta c. canadensis has occurred in SE. Louisiana..  


Aproximate expected dates are October 1 to April 15.

 

WOOD DUCK (Aix spons)    Common denizen of swamps and flooded woodlands

 

The Wood Duck is a rather common inhabitant of bottomland sloughs and swampy woodlands.  Winter populations in Louisiana are greatly increased by the arrive of over half of the Wood Ducks which breed in the interior of the United States (Bellrose, 1976).  The maximum concentration known to this writer is 200+ near Madisonville in December 1984.

 

GREEN-WINGED TEAL  (Anas crecca)   Common winter vistor

 

About 600,000 Green-winged Teal (one-fifth of the total population) winter in Louisiana.  According to Bellrose (1976), they tend to occur in larger flocks than other species.  It is the smallest of North American ducks.  Expected dates of occurrence are October 15 to April 5.  Extreme dates are Sep. 13, 1975, Reserve (MW,RJS--6) and Apr. 23, 1978, Venice (RDP,NN,MM).  Perhaps the largest concentration of Green-winged Teal on record is of 2500 on U.S. 11 on Dec. 10, 1989 (NN,RDP).

 

 

 

AMERICAN BLACK DUCK  (Anas rubripes)   Rare to occasional winter visitor

 

The difficulty of distinguishing the Black Duck from the Mottled Duck makes the status of the former uncertain at best, and, along with the apparent rarity of Black Duck in Southeast Louisiana, has led to a paucity of records.  There are no recent records that have come to the attention of the writer, but hunter kills probably still occur..   Perhaps the only "reliable" field-mark, in addition to the subjective information given in the field guides, is the rather heavy streaking on the throat, head, and neck.  The available records span the period November 5 (1926, at the Rigolets) to March 12 (1966, at Cubit's Gap).

 

There once was consideranble support for lumping Mallard, Black Duck, and Mottled Duck (the Black Duck hybridizes freely with the Mallard), but the current inclination to “split” has made that less likely.

 

MOTTLED DUCK (Anas fulvigula)   Common resident

 

The Mottled Duck is a conspicuous inhabitant of the coastal marsh at all seasons, and is usually seen in pairs or in very small groups.  It is the only duck likely to be encountered, away from Wood Duck habitat,  in mid-summer.  The Mottled Duck nests most in Spartina patens  meadows and marshes.   Studies indicate that it is very sedentary.

 

There has been a significan increase in numbers recorded on New Orleans CBC's since the mid-1960's.

 

MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos)   Uncommon to fairly common  winter visitor

 


Although on the order of 400,000 Mallards winter in Louisiana (Bellrose, 1976), the center of concentration is in  the west-central part of the state, it is usually less numerous in Se. Louisiana than most of the other puddle ducks.  Depending on water conditions, it may be found with other puddle ducks on Bayou Sauvage NW. .  Maximum number is 556, on the New  Orleans CBC Dec. 26, 1992.

As is true elsewhere, domesticated “mallards” can be found on ponds and lagoons in local parks, in canals, and along the lakefront, where they interbreed with whatever happens along.  Expected dates are.....

 

NORTHERN PINTAIL (Anas acuta)   Uncommon to sometimes common winter     visitor

 

Although formerly one of the most common and characteristic puddle ducks of the coastal marsh of Southeast Louisiana, the pintal has declined substantially in the past 20 years.  It is, nonetheless, still fairly common, using being present in small numbers when there are large concentrations of puddle ducks.    Its numbers also fluctuate considerably--it was quite common in the fall of 1988,  for example, after very low numbers for several years.  Bag limits continue to be low because of questions about reproductive success. 

 

The only “summer” records at hand are of a bird at Labranche, St. Charles Parish, on June 23, 1973 (fide RJS), and a sighting on US 11 in the eastern part of the city on July 28, 1991 (NN).  The latter is difficult to classify: was the bird summering, an early migrant, or a cripple? 

 

The expected dates of occurrence are September 1 to April 25; the extremes are Sep. 6, 1981 and April 16, 1917 at Chef Menteur Pass (AMB).

 

BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Anas discors)   Abundant migrant and common winter visitor.         Occasional in summer.

 

The Blue-winged Teal is often present in large numbers in spring and fall as birds pass through to the north or sourth.  According to Bellrose (1976) there was a great increase in wintering of Blue-winged Teal in coastal Louisiana from the 1950's on, attributed to the effect of hurricanes in opening up the coastal marsh.  On the other hand, Gosselink, et al (1979) remark that numbers have since reverted to something like pre-Hurricane Audrey (1957) numbers.  Although summer records are not extraordinary, and breeding should be looked for,   the Blue-winged Teal is the earliest of the migrant ducks to reach coastal Louisiana in fall.

 

Expected dates of occurrence are September 1 to April 15; extreme records are August 6, 1959, New Orleans (SAG) and May 20, 1979, Grand Gosier Island.

 

CINNAMON TEAL  (Anas cyanoptera)     Occasional to accidental in winter.

 


Even in southwestern Louisiana this beautiful duck is quite rare, and in Southeast Louisiana it is rarer still, with fewer than a dozen records.  Of these, only five have come from the last three decades  and half of the records are more than 90 years old..  Stein reports that the Cinnamon Teal is in fact occasionally taken by hunters in the Laplace-Reserve-Labranche area, where it is known as "gingerbread duck."   The known, dated records are:  Dec. 1884, Point-a-la-Hache (fide HCO--2*); Dec. 1884, Lake Pontchartrain (fide HCO*); Dec. 1893, Lake Catouache (A. Perilliat--2*); Ec. 1896, Lake Catouache (fide HCO--2*); Jan.  5, 1900, Lake Borgne (Rafael Robin*); Jan. 15, 1911 in the delta (JD*); Dec. 20, 1956, Plaquemines Parish*; Dec. 28, 1986, New Orleans (SAG,BC,CL); Mar. 5, 1987, Fourchon Rd (Lafourche)  (CK,PW). A bird which wintered in New Orleans East in 1997-8  (Gousett) and was recorded on t he 1997 CBC, returned the following two winters (GO, m.ob.).  

 

An apparent hybrid Blue-winged X Cinnamon Teal was seen on Blind Lagoon in New Orleans East  on ..... and .... 1995 (PW--ph.).  (1996?PW?);

 

NORTHERN SHOVELER (Anas clypeata)    Common winter visitor

 

The Northern Shoveler is one of the more  familiar and common puddle ducks wintering in the coastal marsh.  Its numbers probably come after those of Gadwall and Green-winged Teal--and possibly American Wigeon.  It primarily inhabits fresh and brackish estuarine marshes and bays, and seems not to be one of the puddle ducks likely to be seen on the waters of the gulf. 

 

Expected dates of occurrence are from October 10 to April 20 and extreme records are Sep. 15, 1979 ... (JR,MB) and May 29, 1967, New Orleans (RDP).  There are also at least two summer records:  Jun. 17, 1978 at Reserve (MW) and Jun. 16, 1982 at New Orleans (DM).

 

GADWALL (Anas strepera)   Common winter resident

 

The Gadwall is one of the most common dabbling ducks in winter in Se. Louisiana, and, as mentioned above, ranks with Green-winged Teal, Am. Wigeon, and Shoveler as the most common. 

 

Expected dates are October 20 to about April 15, with extremes of Oct. 5, 1980 at New Orleans (RDP, et al) and Apr. 19, 1969 at Grand Isle.

 

EURASIAN WIGEON (Anas penelope)    Accidental in winter.

 

There are three records of this species, the only records of live birds ever seen in Louisiana (except over the sights of a shotgun), all of drakes.  The first sighting, the first accepted Louisiana record,  came from the eastern part of New Orleans ("Recovery I"), between Dec. 14, 1980 and Feb. 8, 1981 (RDP,NN, m.ob.--photos RDP).  The second record is of a bird seen on Fourchon Rd, Lafourche Parish, between  Jan. 10? and at least  Feb. 4, 1990 (GC,m.ob.). Finally, one was seen on a New Orleans CBC on......(MM,RDP).

 

AMERICAN WIGEON  (Anas americana)   Common to abundant in winter.

 

Although the wigeon or "baldpate" is one of  the commoner wintering puddle ducks in Southeastern Louisiana, it may have been somewhat more common during the 1960's, as a result, according to Bellrose (1976), of hurricanes breaking up the coastal marsh.

 


 Expected dates of occurrence are October 1 to April 25; extreme dates are Sept. 3, 1977 at Grand Isle and May 8, 1978 at New Orleans (NN,JR,MM).

 

CANVASBACK  (Aythya valisineria)    Uncommon to rare in winter.

 

It is sad to write of the plight of the Canvasback, surely the best-loved of all the ducks.  While only a few years ago one or several might  be found in deep ponds in the eastern part of the city,  urban sprawl and the decline in the Canvasback population have made this duck almost a thing of the past.  It is not unusual for a winter to go by without a report of a Canvasback from Southeast Louisiana. 

 

On the other hand  497 were counted  flying  upriver at dusk on the Dec. 30, 2005 Venice CBC (DM,PW,RS).

 

Expected dates are November 15 to March 20; while the earliest date of fall arrival is Oct. 29, 1978 (NN,RDP), and latest in spring is May 27, 1995 at Tiger Pass.  There is one "summer" record,  July 12, 1973 at Venice (RJN,RSK).

 

REDHEAD  (Aythya americana)    Quite uncommon in winter.

 

The fate of the Redhead is only slightly less depressing than that of its congener, the Canvasback.  It will, however, be encountered occasionally in winter, usually on Fourchon Rd. in Lafourche Parish, but might be found on deep ponds almost anywhere, including near Ft. Jackson in Plaquemines Parish.   Like the Canvasback, although a diving duck, it will often be seen feeding in shallow water in the manner of a puddle duck.  Flocks are reported to occur in the Chandeleurs in winter (Smith, 1961); Bellrose gives 20,000 as a typical wintering population for Chandeleur Sound, but whether this continues to be the case is not known.  Despite the ravages of Katrina, .... were seen flying upriver from Boothville on the 30 Dec. 2005 Venice CBC (PW,DM,RS).

 

Expected dates are November 10 to April 15; estreme dates are Oct. 25, 1969 at Grand Isle (RDP,RJN,DN) and May 4, 1969 at Ft. Jackson (WW).

 

RING-NECKED DUCK (Aythya collaris)   Common to uncommon winter visitor.

 

Often found on inland fresh-water lakes and ponds, this species also inhabits brackish estuarine waters.  In the city, the best place to find it is in City Park, especially the lagoons off Harrison Ave.  It will sometimes be seen on Lake Pontchartrain or along Fourchon Road in Lafourche Parish. 

 

Expected dates are November 5 to April 1 and the earliest date of fall arrival is Sept. 24, 1956 (RF,BMM).  There is one summer record, June 28, 1973 on Lake Pontchartrain (MW).

 

GREATER SCAUP   (Aythya marila)    Uncommon (to rare?) in winter.

 


Because of the difficulty of distinguishing the Greater Scaup from its more common cousin, less is known of the wintering population in this area than one would like.  Similarly, it is difficult to assess the differences in relative numbers offshore vs. inshore.  Gosselilnk (1979) quotes a figure of about 2% Greater Scaup in southern Lousiana, while Bellrose (1976) calculates a 6.6% figure for Louisiana.  Taylor Guste says that Greater Scaup are not infrequently shot on his lands on the lakefront near Madisonville.

 

The identification problem is difficult, but by no means hopleless.  Adult male Greater Scaup are large, white-sided, heavy-billed, and have rounded-looking heads which  are iridescent green when seen in good light.  The wing stripe extends all across the primaries to the tip of the wing, and is quite dramatic and obvious. (beware of overlap).  Female Greater Scaup often have a dusky auricular patch. Usually a combination of characters will be needed to cinch an identification. Brilliant, clean white sides are suggestive, but by no means are  all white-sided scaup are Greaters.  Maximum: 72 flying upriver at dusk from Boothville on the 30 Dec. 2005 Venice CBC (DM,PW,RS).

 

The available records span the period November 2 to March 23.

 

 LESSER SCAUP  (Aythya affinis)   Very common to abundant in winter.

 

The Lesser Scaup is often very common on Lake Pontchartrain, though sometimes few can be found from the south shore.  It is certainly the dominant species of duck on the lake, and often the only species to be found from the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain.  It normally occurs in large numbers on the near-shore waters of the gulf as well, though, again, it is sometimes  unaccountably rare.   Approximately 50% of all Lesser Scaup winter in Louisiana; Bellrose (1976) reported something like 500,000 winter on Lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain.  Although Stanley C. Arthur claimed that an adult with young were found in Lake Borgne in 1915, his reports should always be appraoched with caution. 

 

Expected dates of wintering are October  25 to May 15; extreme dates are Sep. 16, 1983 on Lake Pontchartrain (RDP) and May 28, 1967 at New Orleans (RDP).  Summer records in the New Orleans area--especially City Park--are rare, but not unprecedented.  They include the following:  summer 1958 (SAG),;June 29, 1959 (SAG); June 16, 1982 (DM).

 

KING EIDER (Somateria spectibilis)     Accidental

 

The first record of this species, or of any eider, for Louisiana, was of a young male, apparently flightless (molting), present at the west end of Grand Terre Island.  The bird first noted (but not identified) by John.... on April 9, 1994, was identified as an eider by Bob Russell a few days later, and as this species by many observers (DM,CS, et al; ph.) on April 14-17.  It was present until at least May (21-22 or 14-15?) (JVR,DLD,SWC).  Quite amazingly, the second record was hardly over a month later:  a female seen and photographed by O'Meallie on Curlew Island on June 11, 1994.  Only ....years later, the third King Eider was found, in this case a dead female on N. Breton I. on .....  Three records in seven years!

 

HARLEQUIN DUCK  (Histrionicus histrioniucs)   Accidental.

 

There is one record of this beautiful duck, of a pair reported by Audubon on April 1, 1837 at Southwest Pass.   Although this record has some sceptics  (including  the LOS Bird Records Committee?), there is also a recent sight report from the Florida panhandle.


LONG-TAILED DUCK  (Clangula hyemalis)   Uncommon to rare in winter.

 

There are about two dozen records of this somewhat erratic species, formerly (and perhaps preferably) known as the Oldsquaw, from November 24 to February 28.  In recent years it has been most frequently recorded from either shore of Lake Pontchartrain, most likely the north shore, often as a result of Christmas Count coverage, but it might be seen on any of the larger bodies of water:  the gulf, Chandeleur Sound, Lake Borgne, etc.  It is reportedly regular offshore in Mississippi Sound.  In some years none are seen at all and in others there may be several records.  Few adult males are seen.   Recent record s include  Dec. 11, 2004 at South Point (DM,MM,PW–2) and Dec. 30, 2005 at Boothville (DM,PW,RS).

 

 Extreme dates of occurrence are Nov. 15, 1986 at Fontainbleau St. Pk (MM,DM--3) and May 11, 1988 ...(NN,DM).

 

BLACK SCOTER  (Melanitta nirgra)   Rare winter visitor.

 

Although none of the scoters are common, of the three , the Black and Surf Scoters are seen much more frequently than the White-winged.   Most of the records are from about November 20 through the Christmas Count period.  The fact that there are few late winter records may mostly reflect lack of coverage, since they are seen regularly in spring on the gulf off Cameron Parish.

In addition to the records quoted here, there is one undated record of Black Scoter from Lake Catherine by Gustav Kohn.  In principle, good places to look for scoters would be off Grand Isle or from Fourchon Beach, and, in fact, the latest record of any scoter for Southeast Louisiana was of  one seen on April 9, 1977 off Grand Isle, not identified as to species (but not white-winged).

There are 11 records spanning the period Oct. 25-Apr. 8:  Nov. 11, 1941, St. Charles Par. (fide GHL); Nov. 29, 1952 on Lake Borgne (fide GHL); Oct. 25, 1969 on Lake Pontchartrain (RJN,RJS);  Nov. 23, 1970 at the mouth of the Empire Canal (RJN,LO'M); Mar. 13, 1971, Lake Pontchartrain (HDP); Apr. 8, 1973, 25 miles off Grand Isle (RBH,RJN); Nov. 27-Dec. 16, 1977 on Lake Pontchartrain (JR,m.ob.--photos RDP); Nov. 13-Dec. 25, 1981 at New Orleans (JR,DM, et al); Nov. 23, 1981, Fontainbleau St. Pk. (NN,SF); Dec. 1-...., 1985 at New Orleans (RDP,m.ob.);  New Orleans, Dec. 19, 1991 (NN--2); Nov. 26, 2004 (DM,MM,PW) on Lake Pontchartrain.

 

SURF SCOTER  (Melanitta perspicillata)   Rare winter visitor.

 


Most of the scoters of this species, and of the others as well, have been in female/immature plumage, which suggests that they are birds of the year.  Surf Scoters ordinarily winter on either coast and breed in northern Canada.  There are over 20 records of Surf Scoter  from the period Nov. 17-Apr. 16:  Mar. 20, 1890, New Orleans (fide HCO); Dec. 26, 1950, Grand Isle (JLC); Nov. 29, 1953, Lake Borgne; Dec. 1958 at Myrtle Grove (fide GHL); Nov. 28-..., 1977 in Metairie (JG, m.ob.--photos RDP); Nov. 13, 1981, New Orleans (MM); Nov. 21, 1982, Labranche (fide JRS--killed by hunters); Nov. 26, 1982, New Orleans (RDP,NN--2); Jan. 2, 1984, Fourchon Rd. (NN,RDP,DM); Nov. 22?, 1984, Mandeville (CS?); Dec. 27, 1987, New Orleans (RDP,MK, SH); winter 1988-89......; winter 1989-90; ....., 1991 New Orleans (NN); Dec. 26, 1992 (...)..Fourchon beach 1998.  June 10, 1998, Curlew (SWC,DLD); 2002 New Orleans CBC, RDP, MM; Nov. 17, 2002 at Grand Isle (DM); Mar. 6-7, 2004 at New Orleans (DM,MM,PW,CS,RDP–5+); April 16, 2004 at Grand Isle (DLD,SWC), winter 2004-5 S. Point; 20 Feb. 2005 (PW,DM–7).

 

WHITE-WINGED SCOTER  (Melanitta fusca)    Casual winter visitor.

 

The 10 records of this species make it  the least common of the three in recent years; see however, the discussion in Lowery (1974).  The dated records range between Nov. 5 and Mar. 27:  Mar. 20, 1890, New Orleans (fide GHL); Mar. 27, 1965, Grand Isle (SAG); Dec. 1, 1973, Bonnet Carre Spillway (RJS,MW); Nov. 27-28, 1975, Lake Pontchartrain (NN,m.ob.); Nov. 23, 1982, New Orleans (MM);Nov. 19, 1989, Lake Catouatche (DM); Nov. 29-...1989, Lake Pontchartrain (DM,NN,RDP,GG);  Dec. 21, 1991, L. Pontchartrain (RDP,NN,GG), Nov. 5, 1995 (PW,CK,Bill Wayman?); Nov. 25(24?), 2000, Mandeville (MM).

 

COMMON GOLDENEYE  (Bucephala clangula)   Uncommon to rare winter visitor.

 

Although this species is never common, often one or two can be found after patient searching on Lake Pontchartrain, on the deeper ponds in the eastern part of  New Orleans (now disappearing), or on Bayou St. John.  Although goldeneyes depart rather early in spring, there are two interesting late records from the area or near it:  May 5, 1986, by Kopman, without specific location, and June 15, 1894 on Cat Island, MS, collected by Blakemore.  Expected dates are November 15 to March 1 and extreme dates of occurrence are  Nov. 3, 1991 on U.S. 11 (RDP) and Mar. 22, 1970 at New Orleans (RDP).  Maximum number: 60 at New Orleans, Mar. 6, 2004.

 

BUFFLEHEAD (Bucephala albeola)  Regular winter resident, more common on north

shore of Lake Pontchartrain

 

While the Bufflehead is not often seen on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain except in the extreme eastern part of the city (Bayou Sauvage NWR) it is quite regular, even common on the north shore, as at Mandeville and Fontainbleu St. Park, where sometimes as many as 100 might be counted.  It is, for example, almost unknown on the coast. Nonetheless it might be encountered almost anywhere where diving ducks might be expected.   Buffledheads are usually present from early November until late March.  Extreme dates are.....

 

HOODED MERGANSER (Lophodytes cucullatus)   Uncommon winter visitor,

 

The Hooded Merganser is one of those species which are not actually rare in Southeast Louisiana but are nonetheless difficult to find.  It is often seen on isolated wooded ponds and sloughs, but only rarely in the open water situations characteristic of its cousins, the Red-breasted and Common Mergansers.   Although it is fairly regular in some spots, as on ponds in New Orleans East or on the ponds near Crescent Acres landfill in Arabi,  an opportunistic or random sighting is the most likely, if one knows what a Hooded Merganser looks like in flight.  High count is  170 on a residential lake in eastern New Orleans on the 1998 CBC (DPM).

 

The extreme dates of occurrence are October 21, 1965 on Lake Pontchartrain (BMM) and April 23, 1994 at Port Sulphur (NN,RDP).

 


COMMON MERGANSER  (Mergus merganser)   Casual winter visitor.

 

There are about 17 records of the Common Merganser, which is slightly more common inland and in north Louisiana than in Se. Louisiana.  The  dozen  reports in the last four decades  probably accurately reflect  its true abundance in Southeast Louisiana.   Allthough identifcation is not particularly difficult, for either sex, its rarity should engender caution.

The records span the period Nov. 11-Apr. 19, with an anomalous June 3, 1933 record.   The records are:  Jan. 21, 1932, Point-a-la-Hache (HCO); Jan. 24, 1932, Myrtle Grove (HCO--2); June 3, 1933, Lake Borgne (HCO); April 19, 1936, Grand Isle (AD); Dec. 28, 1957, Grand Isle (SAG); Feb. 6, 1960, Slidell (SAG); Nov. 22, 1969, Mandeville (RJN); Dec. 8, 1977, Reserve (MW); Nov. 11, 1978, Laplace (RJS,MW); Nov. 18, 1978, Bonnet Carre Spillway (RJS,MW); Jan. 8-Feb 2?, 1980, Metairie (...); Dec. 26, 1982, New Orleans (MW--5); Jan. 10-Mar. 3, 1985, Mandeville (PS,JH?); winter 1986-87, Mandeville (JH,m.ob.); Mar. 5, 1987, Fourchon Rd. (CK,PW); ......(NN,RDP); Dec. 23, 1990-[Feb. 22?,1991] New Orleans (AS,GS, et al).

 

RED-BREASTED MERGANSER  (Mergus serrator)  Common winter     visitor.

 

This species can be found regularly on Lake Pontchartrain  and throughout coastal Southeast Louisiana on deep lakes, ponds, and open water.

 

 Expected dates of occurrence are November 20 to May 1; extreme dates are Oct. 25, 1928 at Main Pass of the Mississippi River (AMB) and May 20, 1967 at Grand Isle (SAG).  There are at least two later records in spring or early summer: one at North Island in the Chandeleurs:  June 11, 1971 (RDP,RJN,MM), and another on Fourchon Rd., June 1, 1997 (DM,RDP).

 

RUDDY DUCK  (Oxyura jamaicensis)   Uncommon winter visitor.

 

The Ruddy Duck is most often found on deep ponds in residential areas of the eastern part of New Orleans.  Otherwise, it may be found almost anywhere there are other diving ducks--occasionally on the lake, occasionally on Fourchon Road.  Ruddy Ducks went essentially unrecorded on New Orleans Christmas Counts before 1973, and have evidently increased due to the availability of these newly-dug artificial lakes in New Orleans.  Expected dates are November 5 to April 10; extreme dates are Sept. 2, 1986 at New Orleans (CL,DM) and May 22, 1977 at New Orleans (RDP,SP).  Although there are no records of the very similar Masked Duck for this area, the possibility should be kept  in mind.

 

 

 

ORDER  Gaviiformes

 

FAMILY Gaviidae  LOONS

 

 

 


COMMON  LOON (Gavia immer)  Regular, and fairly common to uncommon, in winter

 

Common Loons can usually be found in small numbers  along either shore of Lake Pontchartrain in winter from  mid-November into April.   Numbers vary considerably from one year to another, and some searching may be necessary to find a loon along the south shore  of the lake.  They are significantly  more common on the north shore of the lake, for example at the Mandeville harbor or Fontainbleau St. Pk.  Although most individuals are gone by mid-March, late April or early May records are not extraordinary and hardly a year goes by without a late spring or summer record.  Large movements have occasionally been noted in early November.   Common Loons are also encountered over or near the gulf, especially at Grand Isle,  but frequently on the river or on large bays in the Buras-Venice area.   Common Loons, usually in late spring or early summer, have been heard calling on several occasions in Southeast Louisiana, generally in late spring.

 

In basic plumage, Common and Pacific Loons are superficially similar, especially in size, and given the number of records from the Southeast Texas coast, it may be expected that careful scrutiny of loons in this area will eventually turn up a Pacific Loon.  Recent “scares” demonstrate that identification problems are considerable, especially if one is not familiar with Pacific Loon.  On the other hand, there are records from both east and west of us along the gulf coast, some of which, at least, are valid.  Good sources are Shulenburg (1989), McCaskie, et al (1990), and Zimmer (2000).

 

Records  of  "summering" loons, while interesting, and nort extraordinary;  usually of birds in basic (winter) plumage.  The earliest such records were:  June 5, 1933 in Breton Sound (AMB--2); May 31, 1957 on Chandeleur Sound (RJN,AD--calling); June 12, 1971, Chandeleur Sound (RJN,MM,RDP); June 22, 1973, North Island (NN,RJN,m.ob.); Aug. 2, 1982, Lake Pontchartrain (MM); Aug. 14, 1987, New Orleans (NN); July 15, 1989, Lake Pontchartrain (RDP); June 30-July 2, 1991, Mandeville (RFC,P. Siegert).   The August records are two of perhaps only three or so Louisiana records for that month. 

 

Although Pacific Loon has not been recorded in Louisiana, it can be expected to occur, based on records from the Texas and Florida coasts.  Observers should familiarize themselves with the somewhat subtle differences between this species and the Pacific Loon.

 

Expected dates of wintering are November 1 to May 1; extreme dates: Sept. 16, 1984 Mandeville (JH) and May 19, 1978 New Orleans (NN).

 

 

ORDER Podicipediformes

FAMILY Podicipedidae  GREBES

 

PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)  Common in winter; uncommon to rare        breeding bird

 


Although  Pied-billed Grebes are not common in summer, their occurrence at this season is frequent enough to make accurate determination of arrival and departure dates for wintering individuals difficult.  For example a Pied-billed Grebe summered on Bayou St. John in 1985 (AS) and have sometimes bred successfully in rather large numbers in the ponds on US 11 in the eastern part of the city.  One of the more interesting records was of one on the open gulf some 40 miles south of South Pass on Sep. 16, 1995 (SWC,m.ob.).

 

Expected dates of wintering are September 10 to April  15.

 

 

HORNED GREBE (Podiceps auritus) Uncommon in winter

 

 

Careful scanning of Lake Pontchartrain at New Orleans, especially near the I-10 “twin spans,”  will frequently yield a Horned Grebe, but the species is much more common on the north shore of the lake, where often small flocks are seen.  Very occasionally an individual is seen on Bayou St. John.  Although this is the "common" Podiceps  grebe in Southeast Louisiana, care should be taken in identification.  Maximum concentration: 500+ at Mandeville on March 12, 1995 (DPM, et al).

 

Expected dates of wintering are November 15 to March 1?; extreme dates of occurrence:  Oct. 11, 1980 New Orleans (MM,DM) and March 22?, 1997 (fide JB).

                          ...1988 (MM)

 

RED-NECKED GREBE (Podiceps grisegena)  Accidental in winter

 

The first record of this grebe, which in the North America primarily occurs in the Pacific Northwest, Western Canada, and Alaska, was of one seen on March 11, 1995 at Mandeville harbor (SWC,DLD).  The only other report  is of one on L. Pontchartrain on Mar. 6, 2004 (DM)., not accepted by the LBRC.   There are several reports for Sw. Louisiana, some of dubious reliability.

 

 

EARED GREBE (Podiceps nigricollis) Rare  in winter

 

Southeastern Louisiana is near the extreme eastern edge of the Eared Grebe's wintering range, so while it is regular in other areas of the state, it is distinctly  rare in southeast Louisiana.  In  New Orleans, most records have come from  permanent ponds in residential New Orleans East (essentially annually), but occasionally one is seen on the lake.  There are typically 1-3 records per year, which include the following:  Mar. 10, 1961 New Orleans (SAG); Nov. 22, 1969 Mandeville (RJN); Sept. 11, 1976 Fourchon Pass, Lafourche Par. (RH,RJS); Oct. 5, 1976 Reserve (MW); Jan 11-15, 1978 New Orleans (JR); Oct. 8, 1980 Reserve (MW); Dec. 26-31 New Orleans (GS,DM, et al); Nov. 15, 1986 Mandeville (MM,DM); Dec. 28, 1986 New Orleans (RDP,PS); winter 1990-91 Fourchon Rd...; Feb. 22?, 1991, New Orleans (AS,GS,PL,SF); Dec. 26, 1992, New Orleans (....--2); Dec. 23, 1995, New Orleans (DM,KVR)....Dec. 29, 1997 (DM,JR); Dec. 27, 2003 (JC,TC,CR); Mar. 6, 2004 (CS,PW,DM...) on L. Pontchartrain.   [2005 L. Pontchartrain (DM..)]

Extreme dates are Sept. 11, 1976, Fourchon Pass (RH,RJS) and Mar. 10, 1961 New Orleans (SAG).

 

 


WESTERN GREBE  (Aechmophorus occidentalis)  Accidental in winter

 

There are three records of Western Grebe for SE Louisiana.  The  first record of this species for Se. Louisiana was of one on the Mississippi River just upriver of the Mississippi River bridge at New  Orleans, November 3-6, 1971 (MM,m.ob.), also the first record for Louisiana.  The photographs (RDP; see AFN 26:74 (1972)) indicate that this was an individual of the dark morph now known as "Western Grebe," the more sedentary light form being "Clark's Grebe" (which has not been found in Louisiana). .  The other  records are of one on Fourchon Rd., Lafourche Par. on........(RDP,MM–photos), and one at Mandeville Harbor on 17 November 2002 (MM).  There are various good sources on separating the two, including Zimmer (2000)

 

ORDER Procellariiformes

 

FAMILY Procellariidae

 

For information on records of the tubenoses from the northern gulf, one should consult Duncan and Havard (1980), Lowery and Newman (1954), Oberholser's The Bird Life of Texas, and Clapp, et all (1982).

 

CORY'S SHEARWATER (Puffinus diomeda)  Offshore in summer; apparently regular

 

Recent pelagic trips sponsored by LOS and by LSU have made it clear that Cory’s Shearwater is fairly regular, usually in small numbers, off the mouth of the Mississippi River.  Until recently it was thought that the “common” large shearwater off the mouth of the river was Greater Shearwater.  The f irst evidence of the occurrence of Cory’s Shearwater was of birds recorded on aerial transect studies over the northern Gulf of Mexico, 130-180 miles west to southwest of Grand Isle on Oct. 22, 23, and 25, 1980 (Wayne Hoffmann, pers. comm.), and Texas records in the early 1990s suggested that Cory’s probably occurred off Louisiana as well.  There were additional reports from transects of one kind or another (fide Dwight Peake, et al).  The first generally recognized record occurred on Sept....., 1997  when one was seen on a pelagic trip out of Venice.   The bird was followed closely for several minutes and excellent photographs were obtained.  Two more were seen on a pelagic trip ...........  Following these records the species was added to the state list by the LBRC in 1998. R.ecent records include two ....... on Oct. 13, 1998 (SWC, et al-2, 1 coll.), one on July 12, 2000 about 40 mi S of South Pass (PC,SWC,DLD, et al), and up to 30 seen by Myers from an oil platform in the northern Gulf of Mexico (29 21.651, 87 53.037) on Sept. 13, 2000, in about 300 ft of water.  The location is about 75 mi ESE of the mouth of the Mississippi R.; [summer 2001 LSU]; May 2002  In the summer of 2003, one  Cory’s was recorded on 24 June (SWC,DLD–1*) and two on July 9 (SWC,DLD, et al*). Several  of the records have taken place in rather turbid water.   In October...., Myers recorded as many as 80-100 at a time, ......, just in Alabama waters.

 

 

GREATER SHEARWATER  (Puffinus gravis)  Rare to occasional offshore in late summer

 


Although our understanding of the distribution of pelagic species off the Louisiana coast has grown slowly since the early 1970's, yet still relatively little is known about these species, owing to the fact that coverage is infrequent and irregular.  Much work needs to be done on the temporal distribution and frequency of this and other pelagics, and on the question of probable distribution over the continental shelf and near-shelf waters off the Mississippi delta.  Little is known of the effects of such canyons as Mississippi canyon, cold upwelling, etc.

  Based on a very small number of records during the last decade, it seems clear that Greater Shearwater is very scarce off the Louisiana coast in late summer.  Although regular pelagic trips off the mouth of the river since the fall of 1995 have turned up only one, the TGM study during 1999-2000? did record a few. There are also relatively  recent records off the northwest Florida and Alabama coasts (Duncan and Havard, 1980).  As noted above, however,  most recent records of large shearwaters in Louisiana waters have been Cory’s rather than this species.  Refer to Finch, et al (....) or to Harrison (1983) for identification details.  Of 36 records of Greater Shearwaters in Clapp, et al (1982) for the northern gulf,  ten are from July and nine each from August and September.

Greater Shearwaters breed in the southern Atlantic, mostly on Nightingale, Inaccessible, and Gough Islands, and "winter" in the north Atlantic.  Their clockwise path carries them past Florida in the spring, so that one might expect them to be most common in the Gulf of Mexico in early summer, even though the records do not bear that out.

Although there are six records from southeastern Louisiana waters, there is some question whether the first four can be said to absolutely rule out Cory's, whose  presence was not seriously suspected until recently.  Newman (pers. comm.) was, however, very familiar with both species and has commented on the distinct caps of the birds he saw.  The is one record of an unidentified large (Cory's/Greater type) shearwater 20 miles southeast of Southwest Pass of the Mississippi River, June 9, 1985 (MM).   The records are Jul. 16, 1964 10 miles west of North Is. (LEW,MM,RWS);  Sept. 4-5, 1970 35 miles off Southwest Pass (RJN); Aug. 11, 1971 35 miles off South Pass (RJN); May 3, 1972 20 miles off South Pass (RJN); Aug. 25, 1986.  The two “modern” records are: 62 miles south of Racoon Pt. (MM); Oct. 13, 1998, .....(SWC, et al--coll.), and....

 

 

MANX SHEARWATER (Puffinus puffinus) Accidental (?) offshore

 

The sole record of this species for Louisiana is of one collected ...........It was initiallly identified as belonging to the next species.  Manx Shearwater is darker, with a darker face, longer wings, and white undertail coverts.  It is a much heavier bird than Audubon’s.  The first Texas record, of a bird found dead on Padre I. In 1975, had been banded on its breeding  grounds in Scotland

 

 

 

AUDUBON'S SHEARWATER (Puffinus lherminiere)  Rare in summer offshore

 


This species is the "common" shearwater off the Louisiana coast; in the course of Bob Newman's trips offshore in 1970-72, up to 15 were seen on a single occasion, and on a Sep. 16, 1995 trip sponsored by the LOS which went 65 miles south from South/Southwest Pass,  as many as 18 were recorded.  Most of the latter were in 500 fathom water or deeper.   Audubon's Shearwater has been recorded in the gulf in every month except December, and of 39 records totalling well over 290 individuals given in Clapp, et al (1982), 8 were from July and 11 from September.  When two individuals were collected from a flock of 200 on Aug. 26, 1954, south of Mobile Bay (fide GHL), the nearest land was Southeast Pass of the Mississippi River, 64 miles to the west, making this the first record for Louisiana.  Palmer (1962) was quite mistaken when he wrote, of this species, "not seen alive in the Gulf of Mexico since Audubon's time."  It is, however, interesting to note that Mac Myers, in 86 days on the gulf between March 29 and Aug. 31, 1985, saw no Audubon's Shearwaters; nor had this writer, in six trips to the edge of the continental shelf prior to spring 1990, seen the species. 

Although there have been records in water less than 1000 ft deep, it is likely that Audubon's Shearwater will be encountered only over very deep water, perhaps 1000 m or more.  Observers are reminded that Manx Shearwater is a possibility in the gulf, which should motivate one to carefully check any small shearwater for that possibility.  Manx Shearwaters are larger, have a darker face, and white undertail coverts.

Easily the most remarkable record of Audubon's Shearwater is of one found dead at the corner of Calhoun and Magazine Streets in New Orleans, on July 25, 1981 (specimen to LSUMZ)!  One can surmise that the bird may have been caught in a shrimp net and ended up on a New Orleans street corner through some unknown misadventure.  The historical records are:  Aug. 27, 1954 33 miles off  Southeast Pass (SS,HRB); July 3,4,9,15, 1970 30-40 miles off South Pass (RJN); one collected; July 9.; Sept. 3-4, 1970 18-30 miles off South Pass (RJN--12,15); May 3-4, 1972 8-20 miles off South Pass (RJN); July 10, 1977  20-25 miles south of Empire Jetty (MM); July 22, 1978 south of Grand Isle (Clapp, et al, 1982);.......

During the last 15 years the records have become more numerous, due in part to regular pelagic trips by the LOS and later by LSU.  The study of utilization of oil platforms by trans-gulf migrants also yielded a number of records in 2000-01.  A trip out of Grand Isle on Oct. ...., 1988 produced two small shearwaters, presumably of this species (DM,NN,MM?,AS?); one seen on May28?..., 1990 (SWC,DD,DM,RDP), off South Pass was also probably an Audubon's .  LOS and LSU trips recorded Audubon Shearwaters on the following trips: ..........The most recent record is of one.....miles off South Pass on May 5, 2004 (DLD,SWC, et al); 6 June 2004 (DLD,SWC,et al)

 

 

FAMILY Hydrobatidae   STORM-PETRELS

 

WILSON'S STORM-PETREL (Oceanites oceanicus) Regular in summer      offshore

 

 


 Wilson's Storm-Petrel is usually the most common storm-petrel off the Louisiana coast in summer, despite  recent experience which  indicates that Band-rumped may be nearly as common especially over deeper water, 1000 m or more in early summer, and Leach’s may rival Wilson’s in late summer.  Wilson’s, which “chums” very readily, would seem to be the most likely in shallower water, nearer shore, even though it will generally require blue-green to blue water and a depth of at least several hundred feet.  Water clarity, however, may be the most important factor.   While they are most often found near the grasslines which mark the "rips" or interfaces (ocean fronts) between differing water masses, usually between green and blue water, they are not infrequently found in water ranging from green to blue, some distance from a rip.  Frequently a Wilson’s Storm-petrel will be seen pattering along one of these rips.  These rips or ocean  fronts may sometimes be only 10 miles off  South Pass of the Mississippi River, though often are much further out, and  typically may be 70 or more miles off Grand Isle or the Empire Canal.    Experience indicates  that a day-long pelagic trip, espcially one which goes as much as 50 miles off South Pass, will usually encounter a few of these birds.

Wilson’s Storm-petrel, unlike the other two species, breeds in the southern oceans and thus is “wintering” in the gulf.

The maximum numbers recorded are 80 or more off South Pass on May 28, 2002, including at least 34 at one time (DLD, et al; photo--RDP)..   The first record was by H.C. Oberholser who recorded 13 off the mouth of the river on June 8, 1933.

 

Of  315 northern gulf records in Clapp, et al (1982), 192 were from the month of July, although 19 of 42 Louisiana records were from June.  Clapp, et al give 11 records of at least 40 individuals from southeast Louisiana. [Recent records include June 10-11,..., 20 miles southeast of Southwest Pass (MM), May 28, 1989, 10 miles of South Pass (MM,DM,RDP), ....1990.   Almost every LOS or LSU pelagic trip out of South Pass since 1995 has recorded Wilson’s Storm Petrel, including the first of those trips  on May 27, 1995 40-50 mi SSE of South Pass (RB,CL,DP,DM,MM,RDP, et al when up to 12 were seen. 

 The normal period of occurrence of this species seems to be May through at least early September, but numbers are usually higest in early summer; expected dates of summering are approximately April 15 to September 1,   The earliest record for Se. Louisiana seems to be of one recorded on April 3, 1973, 10-15 miles off Grand Isle (RJN?) and there are May 3 and 19 records out of South Pass in 1972 and 1971, respectively.  The latest sighting is Newman’s record of as many as 15 at a time from Sept. 2-3, 1970, 20 miles off South Pass, though there is a report of a storm waif,  Sep. 9, 1965 at Reserve (RJS), associated with Hurricane Betsy

Given recent records of Band-rumped and Leach’s Storm-petrels, one certainly cannot assume that a storm-petrel is of this species..  It goes without saying that storm-petrels at sea can be very hard to distinguish--especially under the trying conditions of pelagic birding and by observers not fully familiar with the three species.  Wilson's have a swallow-like flight, often patter with their toes while feeding, and have long legs which often results in the toes extending past the tail; on rare occasions the yellow webbing between the toes is visible. Wilson's  have noticeably rounded wings and a very small bill, and are the smallest of the three expected species.

 

 

LEACH'S STORM-PETREL  (Oceanodroma leucorhos) Apparently regular in small numbers over deep water off the continental shelf in summer

 


The earliest records are of one collected 41 miles southeast of South Pass on Dec. 5, 1956 (HRB), and  another picked up alive on the beach at Grand Isle on Sept. 23, 1972  by Phillip L. Bruner and James Rogers. Prior to  the advent of LOS/LSU pelagic trips, these were the only records for Louisiana.   But in the last 7 years there have been at least two dozen  additional  records, several supported by specimens.  A bird likely to be of this species was seen about 40-45 miles SSE of South Pass on May 27, 1995 (RB,CL,DP, et al); another was seen...; July 1, 1999 64 miles SSE of South Pass (SWC, et al), July 12, 2000 about 38? mi. SSE of South Pass (SWC, et al); May 28, 2002 about......(DLD, et al--2).  On June 17/18, 2002.....(BMM, et al).   Peak numbers at this point are 13 on August 27, 2000 (DLD, et al), all at least 47 miles off South Pass and in 5000ft of water.  Although several more seasons of field work will be necessary to answer all questions, it appears that Leach’s Storm-petrel  is regular over deep water, 40 or more miles offshore, perhaps more commonly in late summer than early.  Leach’s Storm-petrel breeds on both coasts, but whether local birds are post-breeders or non-breeders is not known.

 

  For identification details, see Harrison (1983), or Naveen, but note the long, narrow, and angled wings, the nighthawk-like flight,  a rump patch that appears "dirty" or has an indistinct line down its middle, as well as the distinctly larger size and  larger bill compared to Wilson’s Storm-petrel.  The forked tail is often not obvious. 

 

BAND-RUMPED STORM-PETREL (Oceanodroma castro)  Regular offshore over very deep water

 

Until very recently there was only a single sight record of a Band-rumped Storm Petrel off Louisiana (SWC,DLD), rejected by the LOS Bird Records Committee as a first state record, but generally assumed to be  valid.  Recently Dwight Peake encountered this species while accompanying transect studies of marine mammals off the Louisiana coast.  Thus stood the situation until May 27, 1995, when a pelagic trip off South Pass, guided by Peake, found up to 24, with 10-12+ actually identified, 45-60 miles SSE of South Pass, in water up to 1000 fathoms deep.  It may or may not be true, as Dwight Peake has argued, that Band-rumped Storm-petrel is the most common storm-petrel in the deeper waters of the northern gulf in early summer, but  it is, in any case, quite regular and can be expected on most early summer pelagic trips which reach deep water off South Pass.  Contrary to what has been previously written, Band-rumped Storm-Petrels can be “chummed” just as can Wilson’s. On June 12, 2000 perhaps 7-10 were found about 38 miles SSW of South Pass (fide DLD)..  This record firmly established the presence of the species in Louisiana.  At this point there are upwards of 50 records, some supported by specimens, and one can expect to f ind this species, often among “flocks” of Wilson’s Storm-petrels, in well offshore in blue water. 

 

 Apparently Band-rumped Storm Petrel (also known as Madieran and Harcourt's) is a bird of very deep water,  perhaps at least 500 fathoms.  Distinguishing this from the other two species is challenging, but, under good conditions (which often do not prevail at sea), by no means impossible.  Band-rumped Storm Petrels look large,  have a large, squarish, "pillow-like"  white rump patch, with a lot of black tail aft of it.  Wilson’s have more white on the undertail coverts. The toes of Band-rumps  do not extend beyond the tail as in Wilson's, and they seem to have a less prominent bar on the wing caused by the secondary coverts.  They are significantly larger than Wilson’s, the wing shape is characteristically long, but not strongly angled like Leach’s.  Wilson’s look small by comparison, with  broad, round-tipped, wings  which lack any angle at the wrist.  The large bill size, relative to Wilson’s,  is usually quite  obvious.  The flight is a distinctive accipiter (or shearwater)-like flight which is quite different from the swallow-like flight of the Wilson's, which also indulges in a characteristic pattering over the waves, and the erratic, nighthawk-like flight of Leach's, though the observer is cautioned that these “characteristic” flight patterns depend heavily on what an individual is doing, whether it is flying into the wind, and so on.  Band-rumped Storm-petrel breeds off the coast of Africa (as well as the Pacific), which makes it interesting that it is apparently most common in early summer.

 

Available records span the period May 28 to June 12, but much more field work is necessary to determine when this species is present along the northern Gulf coast. 

 


 

 

ORDER Pelicaniformes

FAMILY  Phaethontidae  TROPICBIRDS

 

WHITE-TAILED TROPICBIRD  (Phaethon lepturus)   Rare to accidental  summer visitor offshore

 

A White-tailed Tropicbird was reported  in a Fish and Wildlife Service aerial transect study 120 miles west of Grand Isle (29  9.7' N, 92  1.2' W) on Aug. 5, 1980 by Wayne Hoffman (pers. comm.), and a sub-adult was seen 80 miles south of South Pass on July 22, 1995 (CD).    Though Stanley C. Arthur's claim that White-tailed Tropicbirds are regular offshore in summer was clearly confused, it may have been based on an actual record, and they in fact do breed rather nearby in Bermuda and the Caribbean.   Furthermore, there was a record at Dauphin I., Ala. during the spring of 1989.   On the other hand, recent records of the next species raise the possibility of misidentification.

 

RED-BILLED TROPICBIRD (Phaethon aethereus) Causal to Accidental offshore

 

The first record of the Red-billed Tropicbird for Louisiana waters was obtained on a Mississippi-sponsored pelagic trip on June 6, 1996, led by Dwight Peake, when up to 40 people saw an immature ..... (DP,MM, et al).  Slightly less than one year later, an adult was seen 47 SSW of Southwest Pass on May 24, 1997, in about 3000 ft of water.   Then on September 13 of the same year, one was seen 50 mi south of S. Pass.  .In the latter cases, the birds were watched  for about 20 minutes and thoroughly photographed.  Finally, one was collected on a pelagic trip out of Venice on 29 September 2004 (SWC,DLS, et al).

 

 

FAMILY  Sulidae  BOOBIES AND GANNETS

 

MASKED BOOBY (Sula dactylatra)   Uncommon to rare offshore in summer

 


This species is apparently the "expected" sulid off the Louisiana coast in summer. Much is yet to be learned about its abundance and temporal distribution, but it is probably regular off the mouth of the Mississippi River, especially near the grasslines or "rips" which mark the interface between blue (very clear, highly saline) and green water.  There are at least 20 records for Southeast Louisiana over the last 70 years:  July 28, 1926, Grand Gosier I. (ESH--dead); June 4, 1958, 45 miles south of Grand Isle (BMM,MM); July 10, 1970, 38 miles off South Pass (RJN--dead); July 29, 1970, off South Pass (HBH--2); Sept. 3, 1970, off South Pass (Frank Durham, fide RDP); Aug. 26, 1971, 27 miles off South Pass (RJN--2 imm.); Oct. 15-16, 1971, 27 miles off South Pass (....); Aug. 18, 1980, 20 miles off South Pass; Aug. 20, 1983, 25 miles SE of South Pass (John Barber, fide RDP);  July 7, Aug. 6, and Aug. 31, 1985, 62 miles S of Racoon Point (MM).  On Oct. 22, 1987 a Masked Booby was brought to the Audubon Zoo Bird Rehabilitation Center, where it died.  The most recent records are of one well offshore.....on March 11, 1992 (Gary Lester--1a,1i,RM?), an adult on L. Pontchartrain on Aug. 15, 1988 (RDP), after a tropical storm,  two on May 27, 1995, 40 miles SSE of South Pass  (m.ob.--ph.; la,1i),  5-6 40-60 miles south of South Pass on Sep. 16, 1995 (m.ob.)..........(recent pelagics); Oct. 13, 1998 ..... (SWC, et al, coll.); 18 June 2003 (DLD,SWC, et al--1), 67 miles off South Pass, 24 June, 20 mi. off South Pass (2 imm*); June 6, 2004....(DLD,SWC,et al).

 

BROWN BOOBY  (Sula leucogaster)     Rare offshore in summer

 

The number of records of Brown Boobies (12), coupled with the poor coverage given the waters of the continental shelf (and further out) off southeastern Louisiana, suggests that the Brown or "White-bellied" Booby may be regular in summer, especially near the Sargassum grasslines which line the transition zones between green and blue-green or blue-green and blue water.  Although six LOS-sponsored pelagic trips through fall of 1998 encountered no Brown Boobies, a recent trip encountered one......(late winter 1999).

 

There is one winter record, Jan. 15, 1901 at Red Pass (fide HCO).  The “historical” summer  records are:   Apr. 1, 1926, Grand Isle (ESH); Apr. 1929, Grand Isle (ESH); Apr. 1929, Grand Isle (ESH*).  The 6-8 subsequent records are  Sep. 8, 1951, 30 miles east of Pass a Loutre (HRB);  Oct. 15-16, 1968, 30 miles off South Pass (...); July 18, 1973, Elmer's I. (RJN); May 29-June 7, 1985, 20 miles SE of Southwest Pass (MM).  There is also a probable record from July 16, 1964, 10 miles off South Pass (Frank Durham, fide RDP--6-10).  On Aug. 7, 1980, a Brown Booby  was seen in an aerial transect study 130 miles WSW of Grand Isle (28 36' N, 92 14' W--Wayne Hoffmann).   The most recent records are  Mar. 11, 1992 at 28o59'22"N, 90o55'10"W (RM), and a juv.  Oct. 13, 1998..... (SWC, et al--coll.).

 

 

RED-FOOTED BOOBY (Sula sula)  Uncommon to common in winter offshore.

 

There is only a single accepted record of this species for Louisiana, of one collected at the mouth of Bayou Scofield on Nov. 1, 1940 (fide GHL; AOU Checklist).  However, there are at least six additional sightings for the northern gulf, four from Texas, and one each from Alabama and Florida.  Recently a bird thought to be of this species was seen on Baptiste Collette Bayou on May...., 1995  (BR--ph), and in the spring of 1998, a booby identified as Red-footed was seen near an oil platform (Ewing Bank 826) during migration studies (Rick Knight, .....)  In light of these accountss, the Red-footed Booby should be taken into account when identifying any sulid in Louisiana.

 

NORTHERN GANNET  (Morus bassanus)   Uncommon to common in winter offshore; occasional in summer

 

Only in the past 30 years has it has become clear that Gannets regularly winter off Louisiana, and in numbers,  being most conspicuous  in February and March.  Whether this reflects a real change in distribution or abundance,  or  simply the increased patience in looking offshore that results from success, is anyone's guess.  In any event,  N. Gannets  have become sufficiently common in March  that  the careful observer might see dozens off the beach from Grand Isle and especially Fourchon Beach.  The birds are usually a half-mile or more out to sea, although they may come nearer shore if the water is relatively clear.. 


  The highest counts are 300 off Grand Isle on 15 (16?) April 2005 (SWC,DLD),  270 off Fourchon Beach on Feb. 26, 1989 (DM,LO'M,RDP), 235 there on  Feb. 4, 1990 (RDP,NN,MM),   200-300 off  Fourchon Beach on March 7, 2000 (PW),  and 256 were counted on......2002 (RDP). Other high counts include 54 between Chandeleur Is., La. and Ship I., Miss. on Mar. 15, 1960 (JMV,JRW), and 50 off Fourchon Beach on Feb. 28, 1982 (DH,KH).  With the exception of February and March,  when they are obviously regular, distribution of records by month is as follows:    Nov. (1), Dec. (7), Jan. (5), Apr. (6), May (1), June (1), July (2), August (1).   A pelagic trip on April 17, 1999 off Fourchon Pass yielded about 20 Gannets between 10 and 33 miles from shore (DLD, m.ob.).  Most  Gannet records have been since 1978.   A bird found dead on Apr. 26, 1970 ....had been banded on Sep. 7, 1968 at Balochrois, Canada.  The first "summer" record  is of a bird found dead on the beach at Grand Isle on July 16, 1995 (MP,GP).  DPM? , but it should be noted that Gannets are not infrequently seen off the coast of the Florida panhandle in summer (fide DPM).   On July 9 an imm. Gannet was collected just off the mouth of South Pass (SWC,DLD, et al).

 

The August record is of a first year bird found dead on Fourchon Beach on Sept. 1, 2002 (MM,RDP,PW), freshly dead.

 

Expected dates, somewhat uncertain, are December 1 into at least early May (May 5, 2004–SWC,DLD, et al).   With single records in each month May through August, it is probably meaningless to try to give extreme dates.

    

 

FAMILY  Pelicanidae  PELICANS

 

 AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN (Pelecanus erythrorynchus)   Common in        

Winter,  non-breeders present in summer.

 

 

The White Pelican is a common, often abundant winter resident, mostly near the coast.  It regularly lingers well into, or even through, the summer in near-coastal regions (near the mouth of the river, Fourchon Road)  and their are records for every month.  Although there has never been any suggestion of nesting in Louisiana, the fact that they do (have) bred on the Texas coast is worth keeping in the back of one's mind.  The largest "summer" concentrations have been 1000 on La. 3090 ("Fourchon Road") on June 20, 1982 (RDP,DM,MM),  at least 1500 at the same spot on June 17, 1989 (RDP,DM), and 1000 there on July 16, 1989  (GC,MM,NN,RDP).

 

Expected dates of occurrence: September 15 to April 15

 

BROWN  PELICAN (Pelecanus occidentalis)   Local resident, increasing in numbers

 


The Brown Pelican is the state bird of Louisiana.  It is again conspicuous along the  coast of Se. Louisiana, especially in the vicinity of Grand Isle, where several hundred might be seen in a day.  At New Orleans is will generally be encountered in winter anywhere on the south shore of the lake, especially at Seabrook Bridge, but also on the river.  Over 30,000 birds now nest in Louisiana, which represents a tremendous change from the 1970s, when there were NO Brown Pelicans in Louisiana!     Brown Pelicans now nest on Queen Bess Island in Barataria Bay, and the Chandeleur Islands, and elsewhere. .

The Brown Pelican declined precipitously during the late 1950's, and while that decline did not go unnoticed, it was mistakenly blamed on a variety of factors such as the occurrence of Hurricane Audrey, which devastated southwestern Louisiana in 1957.  The last known nesting was on the Chandeleurs in 1961, and the last records of native birds were in the summer of 1967:  June 28 on the Chandeleurs (SAG, RDP, et al) and June 30 on Lake Pontchartrain (Kenneth Hughes, fide JLD).  The contemporaneous decline of Brown Pelicans on the California coast, and the documentation of the cause as being persistent chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides, made it immediately clear that a similar fate had befallen the Louisiana Brown Pelicans; this was pointed out by Norman and Purrington in .....  

In the 70s, Brown Pelicans were imported f rom Florida in an attempt to reestablish a breeding population.  After an initial failure, the reestablishment proved successful, and by 1973 the species had returned to the Chandeleurs, as indicataed by records from Grand Gosier Island on June 8, 1973 and just to the north, in the Chandeleur Chain June 21-23, 1973.  With  breeding populations as high as 30-40,000 pairs in the late 90s to 2000,   Brown Pelicans have returned to  L. Pontchartrain  since the late winter of 1988, and are now almost commonplace along the lakeshore after the breeding season.

Historically, as many as 75-80,000 individuals bred along the Louisiana coast.  Important concentrations were on islands in Timbalier Bay and on the mud lumps at the mouth of Pass-a-Loutre, etc.  An important colony was on North Island, near the north end of the Chandeleurs.  They currently nest on the Chandeleurs, on Queen Bess I. in Barataria Bay, and elsewhere.

 

The failure of a late winter nesting on Queen Bess Island in 1990-91 was possibly due to exposure to heavy January rains.  At least 60 dead nestlings were found on Feb. 2 and only two live fledglings (CF,BA,NN,RDP).  Other winter kills, mostly of first year birds, were noted in 1996 and 1997.  Estimates of the total Louisiana population reached 35,000 in 1997!

 

FAMILY Phalacrocoracidae  CORMORANTS

 

 

DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax auritus)  Common in Winter.

 

The Double-crested Cormorant is a characteristic bird of coastal and near-coastal parts of the checklist area.  It is common on Lake Pontchartrain, and numbers in the low hundreds are typical in the Fourchon-Grand Isle area in winter.   Although Lowery (1974) reported no recent nesting in Louisiana, the Louisiana Breeding Bird Atlas program found nesting...... and local summer records are of increasing frequency.  Historically, summer records include  August 24, 1970,  June 23, 1983 in Metairie (SP), June 22, 1985 on Fourchon Road (AS,GS,JS), summer 1985 at the western edge of the lake (MW,RJS),  during the summer of 1988, and two records in the summer of 1992:  July 6 in Jefferson Parish (GO) and July 31 in St. Charles Parish (RJS). (Aug. 30, 1998 RDP,DPM)

 


Double-crested Cormorant numbers on New Orleans Christmas Counts have  increased dramatically.  While there were a total of 16 recorded on the 11 counts between 1960 and 1974, typical numbers in the mid-1980's were 200 or more per count. Numbers continue to increase as the species recovers from the effects of chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides which decimated the population in the 1950s and 60s.   The largest concentration recorded appears to be approximately 600 at Grand Isle on March 3, 1985 (NN,MM,RDP).   Increasing numbers and breeding in northern Louisiana and Mississippi has led to an increase in summer or very early fall migration records.

 

The Double-crested Cormorant beings to arrive in early September, with the bulk of  wintering birds arriving in early October,  and departs by mid-April (April 15).  Extreme dates are made uncertain by the increase in “summer” records, but include  September 3, 1985 at Lafitte National Park (DM) and May 24, 1981, in New Orleans (JR).    

 

 

 

 

NEOTROPIC CORMORANT (Phacrocorax olivaceous)  Casual Vagrant

 

            This cormorant, formerly “Olivaceous  Cormorant”, while common in Southwest Louisiana,  has been recorded in Southeastern Louisiana on only six occasions:  March 27 and April 14, 1959 at New Orleans (SAG),  Aug. 9, 1986,  (DM,RDP), Aug. 20, 1995 (RDP,GG),  March 28, 1997 (MM,PW), the last three records being from Fourchon Rd. (Lafourche), and Sept. 11, 2004 (DPM) at New Orleans. [PW–Jan 2006]   According to Portnoy (1976), Olivaceous Cormorants were reported during the breeding season at Delta NWR during the 1960's; it is not known whether the identifcations were correct.  Any cormorant suspected to be of this species should be identified with great caution, even though it is abundant in Southwestern Louisiana, and has been expanding eastward into the Lafayette/Atchafalaya area. 

 The best  field-mark is the dirty yellow gular pouch which has a sharply angular rather than rounded rear margin, but the long-tailed look in flight is quite distinctive.  The gular pouch is edged with white in breeding condition, but observers should be cautioned that Double-crested Cormorants often show a very thin fringe of white edging the gular pouch, even in winter.    The supraloral area is yellow in Double-crested Cormorant and dark in this species.  While an occasional  Double-crested Cormorant can be found in summer near the coast, and perhaps on Lake Pontchartrain,  it may be as likely that summering cormorants would be of this species....[Aud. bird rehab?]

 

FAMILY  Anhingidae  ANHINGAS

 

ANHINGA (Anhinga anhinga)   Regular in breeding season,  uncommon  in winter.

 

A denizen of the true swamp, the Anhinga is most  often found north of U.S. 90 during the breeding season, particularly in cypress swamps on the east or west sides of Lake Pontchartrain, i.e., the Bonnet Carre Spillway,  Manchac-Pontchatoula, and the Pearl River bottoms.   During migration in late March and April, and in September and October, it may be seen anywhere, soaring singly, or in small numbers.  Winter records have become routine, so that it is now expected on a New Orleans Christmas Count; typical spots will be wet woods along canals, near Recovery I landfill, etc.   Given this fact,  extreme dates of occurrence may be somewhat arbitrary.   

Expected dates of occurrence are April 1 to November 1.  Extreme dates are March 11, 1991 near des Allemandes (NN,MM,RDP) and Nov. 23, 1984 at New Orleans (DM).

 

FAMILY Fregatidae  FRIGATEBIRDS


MAGNIFICENT FRIGATE-BIRD  (Fregata magnificens)   Uncommon to locally             common summer visitor (non-breeding).

 

Although this extraordinary bird is not known to breed in Louisiana, it is present from April to November along the coast, sometimes in large numbers.  It is not a true pelagic bird, being  always found near the coast, albeit not often on the coast proper and never inland except during tropical storms (when they are often seen on Lake Pontchartrain).   As Hurricane Ivan approached New Orleans on Sept. 15, 2004, 1000-1600 were seen in the eastern part of the city (DM,PW), and 1440 were counted moving west along the lakefront in Jefferson Par. (RDP).   Historically, the largest concentrations have been in the vicinity of North Island in the Chandeleurs, near the site of the old Brown Pelican colony.  The demise of the Brown Pelican and the killing of the black mangroves on  which they roosted raises questions about their continued presence in such numbers.  Esimates of 3-10,000 near North Island were routine through the 1960's.  Since Hurricane Camille in 1969, most visits by Louisiana observers have been from the south, i.e., from Hopedale or Venice, rather than from the north, as was the case when Gulf Islands (or Breton Island) NWR headquarters were in Ocean Springs, Miss.  The result is that  little current information is available on the size of the North Island "colony."  On Aug. 1, 1969, this writer estimated a maximum of 1000 at North Island.  It is, however, common to seen  Frigate-birds numbers in the tens to dozens over Breton and Chandeleur Sounds, and at the nearby marsh edge, during the summer.

 

Although the breeding of this species at Marquesas Keys, Fla. since 1970 at least raises the possibility of nesting in Louisiana , the report by Stanley C. Arthur (1918) that Colonel Theodore Roosevelt removed an egg belonging to this species from a nest on Grand Gosier Island in 1915 has no independent substantiation.

 

Expected dates are about April 1 until about November 1.  Extreme dates are Mar. 3, 1992 at Grand Isle (JW) and Nov. 21, 1982 at Venice (MM,RDP).  There are two  mid-winter records:  from Grand Isle, on ...... and Buras on Dec. 30, 2002 (RDP,GO,EW).

 

ORDER Ciconiformes

FAMILY Ardeidae   HERONS AND BITTERNS

 

An invaluable source of information on coastal nesting of all heron species is Portnoy (1977).

 

AMERICAN BITTERN  (Botaurus lentiginosus)   Uncommon to rare winter resident

 

Although American Bittern can be expected throughout the coastal marsh, its numbers have so declined markedly since the 1960s, that it can be considered almost rare.  G.E. Beyer claimed that this species bred at Madisonville in 1891, but  there has been no other hint of breeding in southeast Louisiana, nor any recent nesting records for Louisiana.   Interestingly, there have been more records of Am. Bittern in the late 90s, than in the earlier decade or so; whether this represents a recovery or just more searching is hard to tell.

 


The expected dates of wintering are October 10 to April 15;  the extreme dates of occurrence are Sept. 12, 2002 (DM) at Lafitte NP [Sept. 19, 1957 on Fourchon Rd. (SAG?) (PW,CS?)] and Apr. 25, 1976 at Venice (RH,MM,NN)

 

LEAST BITTERN (Ixobrychus exillis)   Uncommon summer resident

 

Least Bitterns are most numerous in fresh to brackish  or intermediate marshes and seem to prefer cattail, bullrush, or roseau cane, although their numbers have also declined in the past two decades.  Territories are on the order of 2 acres in extent.   Expected dates of summering are April 15 to September 15, and extreme dates of occurrence are Mar. 11, 1870 at the Rigolets (HWH) and Nov. 4, 1961 at Triumph  (SAG).  There are however at least four winter records:  Dec. 20, 1958, New Orleans (SAG); Jan. 17, 1971, Venice (RJN,DN); Dec. 28, 1972, Venice (RDP, et al);  Feb. 18, 1973, Venice (RDP,RJN); Dec. 29, 1991 at Venice (......--2)......

 

GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)   Common resident

 

While the Great Blue Heron may be found wherever there is marsh or  on the shore of lakes and even the gulf, it is primarily a fresh marsh and swamp nesting species, its colonies typically measuring 50-200 pairs.  New Orleans Christmas Count data indicate an increase in numbers since the early 1970's.  There are three records of the white morph, the "Great White Heron", which one day may again be considered a separate species:  one at New Orleans' Lakefront Airport Oct. 31-Nov. 15, 1981 (DM, m.ob.), photographed by the author, but at considerable distance;  Mar. 21, 1982 at Delta NWR (JS); and Feb. 25-...., 1987 at Grand Isle (AS,GS, Kenn Kaufman), phtographed by Mac Myers and the author.  A well-known and easily viewed nesting colony of the Great Blue Heron is at the Bald Eagle nest site near White Kitchen, St. Tammany Parish.

 

GREAT EGRET (Casmerodius albus)   Common to abundant resident in coastal marsh        and other wetland types.

 

The Great Egret nests in all weland habitat types, including the barrier islands.  Its nests are usually on the highest point of the woody vegetation or in the tree canopy.  The largest breeding concentration found by Portnoy (1977) was a colony of nearly 4000 adults.

 

SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thusla)   Common to abundant resident

 

The Snowy Egret is one of the most characteristic birds of the coastal marsh.  It nests abundantly in marsh and swamp habitat.  In 1976 one colony on Delta NWR in Phragmites  contained 12,000 adults.  Numbers on New Orleans Christmas Bird Counts have increased since the early 1970's.  At least 1000 were seen on Fourchon Rd., Lafourche Par., on June 17, 1984, and nearly twice that number there on June 17?, 1989.

 

LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea)   Common to sometimes abundant resident

 

The Little Blue Heron nests most commonly in swamps and fresh-water marshes, often with Snowy Egrets.  According to Lowery (1974), many leave Louisiana to winter in Central America.   Since 1970, numbers on the New Orleans CBC have ranged from 7 in 1974,  to 3247 in 1985, owing in part to their gregariousness.  Usually one will see a few to several on a trip to the coast.


TRI-COLORED HERON  (Egretta tricolor)   Common resident

 

            The preferred habitat of this species, which is better (more properly?) known locally by its former name, Louisiana Heron, is salt marsh, but it breeds in fresh and brackish areas as well.  In 1976 two colonies in Barataria Bay totalled 33,000 adults (Portnoy, 1977).  Typically the Louisiana Heron occupies the lowest of the available nesting sites.  An increase in numbers since the early 1970's is indicated by the New Orleans CBC data.

 

REDDISH EGRET (Egretta rufescens)   Uncommon resident

 

The Reddish Egret nests on the islands adjacent to the Mississippi delta, and especially in the Chandeleur chain (see Portnoy, 1977).   It  formerly nested in Black Mangrove thickets on  Freemason Island, with Louisiana Herons, but several freezes since 1962 have caused Black Mangrove to retreat  to about 29 o   latitude at its northernmost.  In the summer of 1976, the largest colony found by Portnoy was on Lonesome I., where 210 breeding adults were counted.  In recent years this island has been shrinking drastically because of the susidence of the delta, and the rich heron colony there may soon be a thing of the past.   At least a few Reddish Egrets breed in the heronry near the mouth of Belle Pass in Lafourche Par.  Reddish Egrets are rarely encountered away from the coast, the main exceptions being associated with tropical storms.

Although white-phase individuals are relatively rare in Louisiana, there are  15-20   records for southeast Louisiana, and perhps one or two are recorded annually, usually near Grand Isle (perhaps 1:25?). Of 41 adults seen on the Chandeleurs June 21-23, 1973 (RJN,RBH,AWP,HDP), 5 were white-phase.  Away from their small nesting colonies, Reddish Egrets are most frequently seen in the Fourchon-Grand Isle area, and most commonly in fall.  Outside the nesting areas, the largest number recorded is 15 in Lafourche Par. on Aug. 22, 1977.  There are at least nine New Orleans records of this primarily coastal species, all or almost all associated with tropcial storms.  These include Sept. 4-Oct. 2, 1977 (RDP,MM), a product of tropical storms "Anita" and "Babe,"  fall 1981 in Metairie (FB--photographed), and Aug. 6-15, 1982 in New Orleans (DM,MM,RDP).  While an Aug. 16, 1985 record was associated with Hurricane Danny,  records on Sept. 5-7, 1986 on Highway 11 and Feb. 8, 1987 at Lafitte NP were unrelated to any storm activity.  The latter record is the only non-coastal record after October.  One in New Orleans on Aug. 26 (DM,PY) was a direct result of Hurricane Andrew, one  there on Sep. 2, 1998 (DPM,PY) was a product of Hurricane Earl, and another, on Sep. 9?, 1998  at Irish Bayou (RDP) followed Tropical Storms Francis and. Hermine.   One on Sep. 29 (PY,DPM,BR) New Orleans--Georges.  One seen in New Orleans on Sept. 11, 2004 (DM) was four days in advance of Hurricane Ivan.

 

On Sept. 30, 1978, a color-banded individual was observed at Grand Isle (MB) that had been banded during the summer of 1977 at Rockport, Texas.

 

CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)   Common to abundant resident

 

Cattle Egrets first appeared in Louisiana in the fall and winter of 1955-56.  They nest mainly in fresh water  swamps and marshes, often in huge colonies, but will nest on marshy islands at the edge of the delta as well (e.g., Lonsome I.).

 


GREEN HERON (Butorides striatus)   Üncommon to common summer        resident;  rare, but regular in winter near the coast.

 

Small numbers of Green Herons (briefly Green-backed)  are recorded in winter, mostly in the vicinity of Venice.  Although they are primarily solitary nesters, colonies are not extraordinary,  e.g., 25+ nests in the oaks at Ft. Jackson,  May 17, 1983 (Joe Neal).  Expected dates are March 25 to October 25; extrreme dates of occurrence are Mar. 2, 1956 at Venice (JPG) [or Feb. 27, 2000 in the Venice area (MM,RDP,PW--3)] and Nov. 9, 1958 at New Orleans (SAG).  Keep in mind, however,  that winter records are rather common, with one to a few occurring on every Venice CBC, for example.

 

BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)    Uncommon to common  resident, mostly near the coast.

 

This species favors brackish or salt water and is less common in the immediate vicinity of New Orleans than in or near the coastal marsh.    It nests commonly on the Chandeleurs, including Curlew and Breton Islands, has nested on marshy islands such as Lonesome I., and in large heronries with White Ibis and various herons on Delta NWR.  It is also common in Barataria Bay, where colonies may contain up to 4000 adults.

 

YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON  (Nycticorax violacea)   Common summer         resident, rare winter resident locally.

 

Although less frequent in the coastal marsh and on offshore islands than the previous species, the Yellow-crowned Night Heron is more widely distributed and more likely to be seen near inhabited areas and in bottomland hardwoods or cypress-tupelo swamp.  Frequently its calls are heard overhead at night during migration.  Although there over two dozen  winter records, and while the Yellow-crowned Night Heron seems to be more regular in winter than previously, it should nonetheless be considered unexpected.  Immatures, especially, should be identified with care.  Note the brighter red eye color, if possible, and especially the rather grayish body plumage of this species, compared to the rather brown, buffy coloration of the young Black-crowned Night Heron.  Night herons in flight are easy to distinguish, the Yellow-crowned having longer legs so that the toes extend well past the tail.

  Expected dates are March 10  to October 10; extreme dates of occurrence are Mar. 5 , 2000[2004?] in New Orleans (GO&JB) and Nov. 26, 1978 at Reserve (MW).

 

FAMILY  Threskiornithidae   IBISES AND SPOONBILLS

 

WHITE IBIS  (Eudocimus albus)   Common to abundant resident

 

            The White Ibis is common in or near the marshes and swamps of southeastern Louisiana.  While it may be found anywhere, from hardwood bottoms to the coast (and even the barrier islands), it is most frequently seen along the west side of Lake Pontchartrain, from near the Bonnet Carre Spillway to Manchac, to Pontchatoula.  The largest known White Ibis colony in Louisiana, near the north shore of Lake Manchac, contained 60,000 breeding adults in 1976 (Portnoy, 1977).

 

GLOSSY IBIS (Plegadis falcinellus)   Uncommon resident near the coast


Southeast Louisiana is the only place where the two species of plegadis  breed, so that it is here that the identification is most immediate.  Because of the similarity of the two species, it is difficult to be sure about relative abundance.  Generally, it seems to be true that the Glossy Ibis is the more common  of the two in  Plaquemines Parish, in the vicinity of Venice, and that, as is true of the distribution on the large scale, the balance begins to shift to the north and west.  Neither species is frequently seen near the coast in the vicinity of Grand Isle, although they breed together on islands in Barataria Bay.  Plegadis ibis are often seen west of the city along the west side of Lake Pontchartrain and along U.S. 90.  In the immediate vicinity of New Orleans, they are most likely seen along U.S. 11 in the eastern part of the city.

While identification of immatures should not generally be attempted, adults are not especially difficult to identify if seen well.  The White-faced Ibis shows a white fringe of feathers around the "face" , but only in breeding season.  Nonetheless, the red eye and reddish facial skin are diagnostic of the White-faced Ibis, in contrast to the bluish-gray facial skin of the Glossy Ibis, and especially the bluish to almost gray-white lores.  The eye is brown.

Plegaids  colonies vary in size from less than 100 to more than 5000 breeding pairs.

 

WHITE-FACED IBIS (Plegadis chihi)   Uncommon to common resident in marshy   habitat

 

On the whole, the White-faced Ibis is the most likely of the two species to be encountered in southeast Louisiana, but not by a large margin.  To the east, the opposite is true, and toward southwest Louisiana, the Glossy Ibis almost disappears altogether.  A 1974 die-off of this species in Texas was attributed to high levels of DDE, dieldrin, and aldrin (all chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides).

 

ROSEATE SPOONBILL  (Ajaia ajaia)  Uncommon to rare post-breeding   wanderer in summer and fall; now breeding

 

Although Southeastern Louisiana is much to the east of the main populations of this species and it is usually only  encountered in the late summer or early fall, after breeding,  spoonbills are now breeding at the lower end of Bayou Lafourse near the mouth of  Belle Pass, based on observations in April 1999, when a few score were found nesting with several species of herons and White Ibis.  They may also nest, as they have in the past, on Isle Derniere (May 26, 1978, JMV) or neighboring islands in Terrebonne Parish.  Nestlings were brought to New Orleans' Audubon Zoo from Terrebonne Bay in 1980 and 1982.  A Roseate Spoonbill was captured on the gulf 40 miles south of Grand Isle on Apr. 7, 1951 (J.N. Gowanloch, La. Conserv. 3, 4, 24 (1951)).

 


  There were, at most, two records for Se. Louisiana  prior to be 1959. Beginning with a record in September 1981 (Sept. 6, Grand Isle (RDP,NN,JR,SN)) sightings  in coastal Southeast Louisiana have become almost routine, usually  from Fourchon Rd., with records in  every year except 1982.  Also of  historical interest are the records of  6 at Venice on Sep. 26, 1987 (NN,RDP), and another there on Oct. 3, 1993 (RDP); summer records have significantly increased in the Venice area (Tiger Pass)  in recent years. There are now over 15  records for the immediate vicinity of New Orleans, mostly post-breeding wanderers:  Aug. 10, 1968 (WW,LW,JK) and  July 3-.August 13, 1989 (....) both on US 11 in New Orleans East, one at Slidell, .... 1989, July 5, 1992, Bayou Sauvage NWR (AS,GS--7)  one on the 1992 New Orleans CBC, Dec. 26, 1992 (GS,RSe), etc.  The latter is the only known winter record away from the coast.  Recently there have been New Orleans records associated with Hurricanes/Tropical Storms Francis, Georges, and Isidore, the latter storm producing  an Audubon Park record.  Following Hurricane Lili, at least five were seen in City Park, on Oct. 3, 2002.  DPM (11/04)

 

 

 

FAMILY Ciconiidae  STORKS

 

WOOD STORK ( Mycteria americana)   Casual post-breeding wanderer

 

The paucity of records of this species is a little surprising.  Post-breeding  dispersal takes it into  wooded river valleys in East Texas through Arkansas. in late summer, and it is  regular at that time of the year in southwest to central Louisiana, e.g., Cameron Parish, the Morganza Spillway, north along I-49 in Rapides Parish, etc., sometimes in large numbers.  It may occur in the lower Pearl River drainage in late summer and early fall., but there are no data to substantiate that conjecture, and perhaps Southeast Louisiana represents a hiatus in its post-breeding dispersal.   In any case,  there are at best a dozen records for southeastern Louisiana.  G.E. Beyer, in the early part of the century, claimed to have found Wood Storks nesting in St. Tammany Parish, in two colonies of 40 birds each on the Bogue Chitto and Bedico rivers.  While these may in fact have simply been post-breeding wanderers, one should read the description by Beyer, et al (1908) before making up his mind.  The records are:  Jan. 21, 1932, Point-a-la-Hache (HCO--15);  Dec. 19, 1932, Main Pass (HCO); July 24, 1978, Labranche (FB); Nov. 21-Dec. 13, 1978, New Orleans (Jim Whelan,NN,et al); Aug. 18, 1980, near Honey Island Swamp (JR); and Oct. 5, 1985, Goose Point (AS,GS--9).  Finally, four were seen over the New Orleans lakefront on  Nov......., 1989 (AS,GS), and one was seen on Fourchon Rd......  More recently, ten were seen over New Orleans on July 19, 1992 (GS,AS) and there were at least three records in late summer 1993 over New Orleans and Metairie.  There were two  New Orleans   records in September 2004 (MP?).  There is also a report from Port Louis on the north shore of L. Pontchatrain.

 

 

ORDER Phoenicopteriformes 

 

FAMILY Phoenicopteridae  FLAMINGOS

 

 

 

ORDER Facloniiformes

 

FAMILY Cathartidae  VULTURES

 

BLACK VULTURE  (Coragyps atratus)   Uncommon  to common resident and       breeding bird.

 


While the Black Vulture is not uncommon south of New Orleans and north of Lake Pontchartrain, it is not especially common elsewhere and seems rarely to be found over the coastal marsh.  Brown and Amadon (1968) remark that the Black Vulture is probably the most common of all western hemisphere birds of prey, largely because of large Mexican populations.  Recent biochemical taxonomic research places the vultures in the stork family.

 

TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)   Common resident and breeding bird.

 

The number of Turkey Vultures recorded on New Orleans Christmas Counts has risen since the early 1970's, a fact which may simply reflect changing land use patterns.  Turkey Vultures nest on the ground in brushy tangles and briar patches, or in hollow logs or stumps.  They common sleep in roosts of significant size.

 

FAMILY Accidpitridae  HAWKS, HARRIERS

 

OSPREY  (Pandion haliaetus)    Uncommon migrant,  regular in winter especially near            Venice, breeding in the lower delta, perhaps elsewhere

 

This beautiful hawk may be seen anywhere in migration, but is regularly found in winter mainly in the vicinity of Venice.  But winter records  from the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain and near the south shore of the lake, formerly virtually unknown, have become much more frequent.   Ospreys have been breeding in the Venice area (and perhaps elsewhere) since at least  1974, beginning with a  nest that was used for at least  seven years, noted first on March 30, 1974  (MM,m.ob.),  plus two currently active nests below Venice. Donald Bradburn reports that he observed nesting near Lacombe in the 1930's, up through 1942.   Among other early records suggestive of breeding, there are  June 23, 1974 in St. Bernard Parish (RJN, et al), and on the Mississippi River below Venice on Aug. 9, 1985 (DM,RDP--2). 

Although the Osprey is found on virtually every winter trip to Venice, with numbers of five or more not unusual, and winter records from the New Orleans area are increasingly common. Earliest records include  Dec. 26, 1983 (FB,CK) at New Orleans,  one on US 11, Feb. 4, 1984 (DM,NN), etc.  

Expected dates are March 25 to May 1 and September 20 to November 25, although the numerous winter records the late fall and early spring dates uncertain.  Extreme dates of occurrence in spring are Feb. 26, 1967 at Venice  and May 28, 1984 at Venice (NLN,DM); in fall the dates are Aug. 11, 1957 at New Orleans (SAG) and Dec. 7, 1958 at Ft. Jackson (DS).

 

AMERICAN SWALLOW-TAILED KITE (Elanoides forficatus)   Uncomon in     summer

 

The Swallow-tailed Kite is one of the best-loved birds of Southeastern Louisiana; one of the high points of spring is the sight of the first migrating Swallow-tailed Kites in mid March.  They breed in the Pearl River basin, and north and west of Lake Pontchartrain, and are often seen near pine upland edges of the hardwood bottoms.  They can be found in Honey Island Swamp from April  through at least late August, but are not often seen anywhere in fall migration. George Beyer wrote, in 1879, that "During the early part of September, it may be seen on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Borgne, etc., in flocks of fifteen or twenty individuals." 

 


In the absence of specific  knowledge of a  nest location, some of the best places to see a Swallow-tailed Kite .are in the vicinity of  old US 11 in the Honey Island Wildlife Management area, especially on the dirt roads which go south from it, and the stretch of Interstate 59 between the Pearl River and the Mississippi line, which is much more open.   The call is a short, sharp kleet!, kleet-kleet! (most often), or kleet-kleet-kleet! (RDP).

 

For over a decade, .Jennifer Coulson has been studying Swallow-tailed Kite nests in the Pearl River basin and and west to at least Mandeville,, banding juveniles and attaching radio transmitters to some individuals which have been tracked to South America.  In the summer of 1999, Coulson counted over 150 individuals in an aerial survey of both the Louisiana and Mississippi sides of the Pearl River bottoms, and 149 were counted in 2000.  In the summer of 2002, Coulson’s aerial surveys yielded 216 individuals, and 29 of 33 nests, mostly in the Pearl River bottoms, fledged at least one young.

 

 

Expected dates are March 1 (Feb. 20?)  to about September 1, and though a few are seen before March 1, not many are seen before mid-March.   Feb. 27, 1993 in Plaquemines Parish (JS) and Feb. 28, 1959 at Grand Isle (ART,EDL,MEC).  A bird seen on February 15, 2003 was (MW) was just beyond the western edge of the checklist area.   Latest ever is Aug. 31, 1972 at Pontchatoula (AWP,Ted Joanen), except that a radio tagged bird was still present in .......as late as   2002. ..[late? Sept. 2004 JC?]  Apparent migrants have been seen as late as the end of May in lower Plaquemines Parish.

 

  WHITE-TAILED KITE (Elanus caeruleus)   Rare vagrant or winter visitor

 

            It is difficult to know exactly what the status of this kite (now White-tailed Kite again, after briefly being lumped with Black-shouldered Kite) is in Southeastern Louisiana; what is written today may be proved wrong tomorrow.  Before 1983 there were but two records for this region, nearly a century apart:  Oct. 11, 1890 at Kenner (GEB) and Nov. 27, 1977 near Raceland (NN,RDP).  Up to that time, there was only one other record for Louisiana, but that was of a nesting in north Louisiana.  Then, in the fall and winter of 1982-83, two pairs wintered in Southwest Mississippi near US 90 and the Louisiana border, and apparently two separate pairs nested in St. Tammany Parish the following summer, including one north of La 36 near the St. Tammany townsite, discovered on June 5 (RDP).  This pair apparently nested twice and fledged young in late August (JH,JFH,HP), with an adult seen as late as Sep. 5 (JH).  Records during December 1983 and January 1984 near Abita Springs may have been of one or more of these birds.   There was a sighting at White Kitchen in February 1985 (Krista Morgan)  and there have been one, possibly two sightings at the "Turf Farm" south of La 36 between the intersection of La 1088 and Abita Springs.  The large open fields north of the lake resulting from clearcutting offer excellent habitat for these birds.  More recently,  single birds were seen near Alliance and near Myrtle Grove during the spring of 1989, and then again in September and October  (three occasions, Sep. 17-Oct. 7  NN,RDP,m.ob.), 5 -1/4 miles south of Lake Hermitage Road.   This drained area, almost prairie-like, is again excellent habitat for Black-shouldered Kites; they may very well have nested there, since as many as four were seen in September 1989.   There were additional records in the fall of 1993:  Nov. 21 at Alliance (NN,RDP,GG) and Nov. 26 at Myrtle Grove (NN,DM,PY..--2).    More recently, there was a record from near Bohemia, on the east bank of the river, Jan. 16, 1999 (GO), and two records in the fall of 2000, both on Nov. 26: Crescent Acres dump (JC,TC) and below Myrtle Grove (DM,MM,RDP).


In the past five years or so, records seem to have become scarcer, and it is not known whether a few still hang out near Myrtle Grove.  There have been no recent records from the Florida parishes.  In the last 15 years, this species has become regular in Southwest Louisiana, especially from Lake Arthur west to Holly Beach,  and nesting is documented there.

 

MISSISSIPPI KITE (Ictinia misissippiensis)   Common summer resident.

 

The Mississippi Kite is a conspicuous summer resident of sizeable deciduous woodlands in Southeast Louisiana.  It still nests within the city limits of New Orleans, expecially on the west bank of the river and in the eastern part of the city.  Good places to look for it are on the Mississippi River batture above New Orleans, along I10 in New Orleans East, near Paris Road, in the Bonnet Carre Spillway, and so on.   There is some indication that numbers are declining locally, but  it is difficult to sort out the effects of a true decline from the massive changes in habitat near the city, which makes them hard to find in areas where they were once common.  In fall, Mississippi Kite migration becomes conspicuous after about August 1.  The call is a drawn out, very thin whistled note,  usually consisting of two parts, a sort of “wheet-sweeeeee” [or seet-wheee!].   The only likely confusion is with Broad-winged Hawk, which,  however, is thinner still, and ordinarily consists of a single note.

Expected dates are April 5  to September 1, although an occasional individual will be seen well into September.   Extreme dates of occurrence are Mar. 4, 1956 at New Orleans (SAG) [Apr. 1, 2001 Metairie (R. Creef)][late March 2004, PW,DM] and Oct. 9, 1989 at Grand Isle (AS,GS).

 

BALD EAGLE  (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)   Rare breeding bird (September-March) and     rare to casual winter visitor.

 

There are more than a dozen active Bald Eagle nests in Southeast Louisiana, representing a remarkable recovery from the days when pesticides had severely threated the species’ survival.  One of the best known nest and one of the most accessible to viewing is  at White Kitchen, St. Tammany Par., just east of the intersection of US 90 and 190, on land now owned by the Nature Conservancy.   Other nests are on Lake Salvador, near Jesuit Bend, north of Paradis, below Lafitte,  and in the Good Hope oil field. Birds nesting near Paradis are sometimes seen flying over US 90 Des Allemandes or Paradis.   At least 5 were recorded on the Dec. 27, 2003 New Orleans CBC.

 

 Nesting birds arrive in late September and depart by about the first of April, as soon as young are fledged.  Wintering individuals may be seen occasionally, almost anywhere, but especially in the Bonnet Carre Spillway area.   There are at least 150? pairs currently nesting in Louisiana.  Typically, the birds nest in the transition zone between cypress swamp and fresh marsh (fide Rich Martin).

 

Some typical arrival dates are Sept. 16, 1973 in the Pearl River bottoms, Sept. 16, 1976 at Lafitte (FB), Oct. 2, 1977 at White Kitchen (PS), and Sept. 22, 1989 at Paradis.  The latest record is May 13, 1984 near des Allemandes (RDP,DM).  One of the  few summer  records for the area is of one in the summer of 1991 at Bayou Sauvage NWR.

 

NORTHERN HARRIER  (Cicus cyaneus)   Common winter visitor to the coastal    marsh.

 


The Northern Harrier ("Marsh Hawk") is a familiar sight coursing low over marshes and fields in winter, easily identified by its somewhat "rocking" flight on dihedral wings, and white base of the tail.  It should be noted that the much rarer Black-shouldered Kite often can be mistaken for a Marsh Hawk, although its greater inclination to hover often will give it away.  New Orleans Christmas Cout data indicate a decline in the mid-1960's, a slight recovery around 1970 followed by further decline into the early to mid 1970's, and finally a peak in the late 1970's.

Expected dates are October 10  to April 5; extreme dates of occurrence are Sept. 5, 1993 at Grand Isle (RDP) [previously Sept. 20, 1987 at Grand Isle (MM,AS,GS)] and Apr. 15, 1961 at Venice (SAG).

 

SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (Accipiter striatus)   Uncommon winter resident.

 

This small woodland hawk is much the commoner of the two regular accipiters in Southeast  Louisiana; it is occasionally seen in large numbers during fall migration, following a cold front around the end of September.  On such occasions, perhaps dozens might be counted, although vastly greater numbers are sometimes noted in coastal Southwest Louisiana.  The "sharpy" can usually be recognized by its combination of a long tail with sharp "corners" and a head which projects only modestly beyond the wing.  The male is only about  the size of a blue jay, but the female is  considerably larger, making confustion with male Cooper's Hawk possible.  Although there is concern over the status of this hawk--as there should be with all raptors--its number have held relatively constant over the past 20 years.  A winter day a-field will usually yield one or more Sharpys..

Expected dates of wintering are October 5 to April 15; extreme dates of occurrence are Sep. 21, 1960 in Lafourche Par. (RDP,MM,NN,SP) and May 17, 1976 (NN). Out of season reports include: Aug. 5, 1890 at Mandeville (GEB) and July 14, 1962 at Reserve (RJS). Summer?

 

COOPER'S HAWK  (Accipiter cooperii)    uncommon winter visitor,                        erratic in breeding season, but apparently becoming more common.

 

As breeding populations in the northern and eastern United States declined, Cooper’s Hawk became correspondingly scarce in this area in winter.  In recent years, however, beginning in the 1980s, there has been a dramatic increase in numbers, and increasingly frequent evidence of nesting in the area.  Because of the similarity in size of male Cooper's and female Sharp-shinned Hawks, this species should be identified with care.  Cooper's Hawk has a head which projects well beyond the wing and its long tail is conspicuously rounded (although the tailed on a Sharp-shinned Hawk can look rounded if it is spread).  Coooper’s Hawks have a wider white tip to the tail, straighter wings, and the adults have a stronly capped look (Zimmer, 2000).  A female is more likely to be confused with a Broad-winged Hawk than a sharpy.

Cooper's Hawk breeds sparingly, but increasingly, in the area, usually in fairly deep woods, although few nests are known.  It is definitely known to have nested near Livingston,  just west of the checklist area, and is seen during  the breeding season with increasing frequency, notably in the vicinity of Empire and Venice, but increasingly almost anywhere, and has recently bred in the city itself (fide PY, TC,JC).   Recently, a pair nested and raised 3 young in Fleur de Lis Park, New Orleans, during June 2000 (fide JS).   It is not known whether breeding Cooper’s Hawks are resident, or winter elsewhere, but Cooper’s Hawks numbers increase markedly as northern birds migrate south beginning in October.


George Beyer claimed to have shot a female on Aug. 2, 1890 and a male on Aug. 11 of the same year, on "Pine Island," near Madisonville.   A recent August record is Aug. 8, 1988 at Grand Isle (RDP,MM?). etc.

 

Expected dates of wintering are October 5 to April 1.

 

NORTHERN GOSHAWK (Accipiter gentilis)   Accidental in winter.

 

There is one record of this magnificent raptor from the edge of the checklist area.  It is of a bird shot at Amite on November 30, 1972.  The bird had been banded near Duluth, Minn. on Aug. 30 of the same year.

 

RED-SHOULDERED HAWK (Buteo lineatus)   Common resident.

 

The Red-shouldered Hawk is the standard breeding buteo of deep woods and swamp throughout the area.   Its loud and distinctive cry carries a long distance, making it possible to hear one of these birds almost anywhere in Southeast Louisiana.  There is even a record of one soaring over Curlew Island in the Chandeleurs.   Red-shouldered Hawks are probably most common in cypress-tupelo swamp,  where they commonly nest--as they do in other deep woodland areas, near the top of a  large tree.  The population  declines which occurred in the 1960s and 1970s  in the northern U.S. were not experienced in southern Louisian, with numbers on New Orleans Christmas Bird Counts remaining essentially constant since the 1950's at about 0.5 individuals per party hour.  The essential field marks, often easier to see in flight than those given in the field guides, are the crescent-shaped "windows" near the wing tips (base of primaries).  Red-shouldered Hawks are relatively long-winged and long-tailed, and of course one can often see the red shoulder or the tail stripes of the adult.

 

BROAD-WINGED HAWK  (Buteo platypterus)    Common migrant, regular           (uncommon to common) local breeder, and casual winter visitor near the coast.

 


This small buteo is encountered in Southeast Louisiana mainly as a migrant, though rarely in the kinds of numbers that are typical of its favorred migration routes (including southwest Louisiana, in fall).  It does, however, breed regularly north of Lake Pontchartrain in mixzed pine-deciduous woods, often near creek or river bottoms.  In summer its thin whistled call will often be heard even when the bird cannot be found (take care, however, not to confuse it with the similar call of the Mississippi Kite).  It continues to be found in the breeding season in small numbers south of the lake as well, as evidenced by records by Yaukey in June of 1995 from Jean Lafitte NP (June 6) and in Metairie near the Earhart Expressway (June 12 and 15).  It is also common enough on the coast in winter so that it has virtually come to be expected at Venice.  This should by no means lull one into careless identification of a Broad-wing in winter.  In spite of upwards of 40 well-documented winter records, including some calling birds, Broad-winged Hawks in winter should be assumed to be extraordinary and should be reported, with careful details.  Many of the birds seen in the winter are immatures and can be identified by their small size, broad wings, brownish striped tail, prominent superciliary stripe, and, especially, the dark trailing edge of the wing (not a unique feature, but a very helpful one).   Most birds will be immatures, which have a tail with is a chocolate color with narrow darker transverse bands; from below the tail is grayish, again with narrow dark bands.    There are a number of excellent photographs of winter Broad-wings from the lower delta (RDP,DM).

Expected dates of migrants are April 1 to May 5 and August 10 to November 15; extreme dates of occurrence  in spring are March 26, 1978 at Grand Isle (MM,NN,JR), and in fall, July 28, 1979 at New Orleans (JR--4) and Dec. 2, 1961 at Triumph (SAG).  There is no way to know whether the latter bird was overwintering.

 

SWAINSON'S HAWK  (Buteo swainsoni)   Casual fall migrant, casual to accidental  winter visitor.

 

There are at least 25 records of this western raptor, all but 6 between Sept. 7 and  Nov. 19.     The most likely time to encounter a Swainson's Hawk in the area is from mid-October to late November,  near the coast.The distribution of 15 records is as follows:  Sept. (3), Oct. (2), Nov. (7), Dec. (2), Jan. (1), and  Feb. (1).  A Swainson's Hawk, apparently captured in New Orleans East in 1980, was in the New Orleans Zoo through March 1983 (RDP, Bill Clark; photos AS).  Most  records are of birds in fall migration, but, somewhat surprisingly, there are 6 records in the period Nov. 26–Feb. 7.  There are no records from spring migration.

 

Swainson’s Hawk is readily identified by its “negative” underwing pattern, but its wing shape is also fairly distinctive: narrow, pointed, somewhat swept-forward looking.

 

  The records are:  Jan. 5-7, 1969 at  Reserve (RJS), Sep. 7, 1970 at Golden Meadow (RJN,RJS), Sep. 11, 1978 at Leeville (RJS,RH); Nov. 26, 1978 at Ft. Jackson (JR,NN,RDP); Oct. 14, 1979 at Venice (RDP,MB,JR--5); Nov. 10, 1979 at Laplace (MW,RJS); Sep. 30, 1980 at Reserve (MW); Nov. 5, 1982 in Bonnet Carre Spillway (RJS); Dec. 2, 1984 at Madisonville (MM,DM,NN,RDP); Nov. 16, 1986 at Venice (JW,GC); Feb. 7, 1987 at Venice (SWC,DLD,DM); Nov. 8, 1987 at New Orleans (RDP--2); Nov. 19, 1987 at Port Sulphur (...); Oct. 6, 1988 Port Sulphur to Venice (NN,RDP--7); Nov. ..., 1989 (RDP,NN); Dec. 23, 1990 (GC,NN,RDP--ph); Oct. 29, 1992 at New Orleans (KVR). 1998? (PW--photo?).  Venice 1999-2000 CBC, [2--SWC,DLD, JB, et al].  Nov. 17, 2002 at Grand Isle (DM).  Nov. 5, 2003, Grand Isle (MM,CS); late March 2004, Chalmette (JC); Oct. 15, 2004 at Grand Isle (SWC,DLD–10), Dec. 11, 2004 New Orleans (DM,PW) (also Dec. 10, 2004 Bayou Sauvage (Richard Hale, et al).

 

ZONE-TAILED HAWK (Buteo albonotatus)   Accidental

 

The single record of this species remains one of the most remarkable birds ever recorded on a New Orleans Christmas Count; it is of a female found on Dec. 23, 1985 by Tristan Davis and others and identified the next day (SAG,NN,RDP, PW, CK,CS,JH, JHSr,GO).  It was captured later in the day (Dec. 24) by Davis and Nancy Newfield (et al), and was taken to New Orleans' Audubon Zoo Bird Rehabilitation Center.  The bird, which was found to have been shot, eventually died while being exercised in anticipation of release.  Excellent photographs were obtained in the field (RDP) and in the hand.  This is the only record for Louisiana.

 

RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)   Common winter visitor, breeding sparingly       in the Florida Parishes

 


The Red-tailed Hawk is the common wintering Buteo   of Louisiana.  It can be found anywhere there are reasonably open fields for hunting.   Especially large flights of Red-tails might be seen on the heels of cool fronts in middle to late October.  Red-tailed Hawks evidently breed sparingly north of Lake Pontchartrain; certainly there have been recent summer records from that general area.  Individuals vary from the very dark melanistic birds (including the rare race harlani , "Harlan's Hawk, which has been recorded on at least six occasions between Oct. 29 and Jan. 16) to the very light  krideri  ("Krider's Red-tail").  Two invariant characteristics are the blotched or patchy back and the dark leading edge of the wing.  The distinct petagial marks help distinghish the Red-tail from some other buteos.  The Red-tailed Hawk has held its own on New Orleans Christmas Bird Counts since 1960 at about 0.6 birds per party hour.  For details on plumage variation, see the Birding article by......

 

The expected dates of occurrence are October 1 to April 1; extreme dates are Aug. 13, 1959 at New Orleans (SAG) and Apr. 25, 1976 at Venice (MM,NN,RH).  The "summer" records include June 22, 1957 at Covington (SAG).

 

FERRUGINOUS HAWK (Buteo regalis)    Casual to accidental winter visitor.

 

This large, light-plumaged buteo has suffered declines over much of its breeding range.  It is casual in Louisiana with records coming  primarily from the western or southwestern part of the state, in areas such as Gum Cove or  the rice fields of south-central Louisiana.  There is less appropriate habitat in SW. Louisiana, but fields north of Lake Pontchartrain and south of New Orleans near Myrtle Grove might attract this beautiful hawk.   Because of the great variation in plumage of the Red-tailed Hawk, observers should be extremely cautious about identifying a buteo thought to be of this species.  It is big-headed and short-necked, it has prominent wrist marks, and darkish-feathered tarsi.  The white wing "patches" are distinctive, but are similar to those sometimes seen in light phase Red-tails.

 Although there are four reports of    Ferruginous Hawk from  Southeast Louisiana,  only the first is thoroughly documented.   The records are Nov. 1, 1957 to Feb. 2, 1958 near Slidell (SAG,MEL,BM,BJD); Feb. 23, 1971 at the Rigolets (JK); Dec. 7, 1974 at Ft. Jackson (LS); and Nov. 19, 1978 at Venice (BC?). 

 

ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK (Buteo lagopus)   Casual winter visitor.

 

There are at least nine records of the Rough-legged Hawk , which only rarely makes it into Southeast Louisiana--though none since 1984.  Although care is essential in its identification, it is, nonetheless, a rather distinctive hawk.  Long-winged, with a long tail which is white at the base but has a rather large dark terminal band,  and characterized by a prominent dark band on its lower belly, the Rough-legged Hawk appears light headed when perched or flying (the Red-tail is usually dark-faced).  Note, of course, that the Red-tail shows a white base to the tail.  Rough-legs like to hover, but so do Red-tailed Hawks.

The records, which span the period October to March, but which concentrate in December and January are:  Mar. 12, 1933 at Grand Isle (GH*); Jan. 27, 1937 at Grand Isle (GLT); Dec. 14, 1968 at New Orleans (DS); Dec. 27, 1977 at Reserve (MW--2); Feb. 8, 1981 at New Orleans (NN, et al); Jan. 30-Feb. 14, Bayou Sauvage (DM,m.ob.); late Oct., 1982 in Tangipahoa Par. (fide NLN); Jan. 1984 on US 11 (DM, et al); Nov. 22, 1988 at Lacombe (AS,GS,CK).

 


GOLDEN EAGLE  (Aquila chrysaetos)   Accidental in winter.

 

Although Oberholser (1938) reported Golden Eagles shot near Bogalusa and Maringouin prior to 1930, the only definitive recent record for SE. Louisiana is of one w shot in the Pearl River bottoms during November 1975.    Since the Golden Eagle does wander widely and occurs annually in  southwest and central Louisiana, it might be expected to occur here occasionally, and there are reports suggestive of that.

 

AMERICAN KESTREL  (Falco  sparverius)    Common winter resident;    uncommon to rare breeding bird mostly north of Lake Pontchartrain.

 

This small falcon is the commonest of the hawks of  Louisiana, and will be seen hovering over prey or watching from a telephone wire or branch of a dead tree, almost anywhere away from the immediate crush of civilization.  It is, in fact. the only  hawk--except perhaps for migrating Mississippi Kites, that is likely to be seen in or near the typical residential neighborhood--along a drainage canal, or on a transmission tower.  Kestrels do breed north of Lake Pontchartrain, but in numbers small enough to be rather inconspicuous;  for the most part, they are winter visitors.   Although the species has been known to breed in uptown New Orleans, that was surely unusual.  Though some think the Kestrel may have declined since the 1950's, Christmas Count data accumlated since 1960 indicate essentially constant numbers (0.6 birds per party-hour).  Based on the AOU Checklist, two subspecies occur,  F. s. sparverius  and F. s. paulus, the latter being the breeding form.

 

An interesting record is May 16, 1985 off Southwest Pass of the Mississippi River (MM).  The expected dates of wintering are September 1 to April 5; extreme dates away from breeding areas are July 24, 1982 at Irish Bayou (MM) and May 31, 1978 at New Orleans (JR).

 

MERLIN  (Falco columbarius)   Uncommon to almost rare winter visitor.

 

After a low in the 1960s, Merlin numbers  increased significantly, only to decline again somewhat in the last few years.  Yet it is still true that a fall or winter trip to Grand Isle or Venice will often  turn up one or more of these magnificent small  falcons.  Beginners often have trouble separating them from the smaller and  narrower-winged Kestrel, but to those familiar with them, they are very different birds--very strong fliers and very agressive birds of prey, with relatively broad wings and a distintive flight.  And, of course, they are heavily streaked below.   During the 1970's and 1980's, a good place to find a Merlin was on the East Campus of UNO.

 

Expected dates of wintering are October 1 to April 15, while extreme dates of occurrence are Sep. 5, 1984 at New Orleans (NN) and June 1, 1932 at Grand Isle (fide HCO).

 

PEREGRINE FALCON  (Falco peregrinus)   Uncommon winter visitor.

 


The Peregrine is unquestionably the most magnificent of the birds of prey which winter in Louisiana.  Peregrines evidently establish wintering territories and can often be found on favorite perches and rooting locations:  water towers, radio antennae, high-rise buildings, etc.  In Southeast Louisiana, a good place to see this bird is in the vicinity of Fourchon Road, or the nearby beach, an especially on the watertower along the road.  Sometimes the one will be found on a communications tower instead, or near the beach.  Fortunately Peregrine populations have recovered significantly as a result of the protection afforded by the Endangered Species Act and the removal of chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides from the environment, so that seeing one is considerably easier than 20 years ago when any observation was exciting,  and three in one day, as in the .Fourchon area on Sep. 30, 1978 (MB,JR), was extraordinary.

 

Even with increased numbers, it is unusual to see more than one or two in a day in the field, and they are considerably more common near the coast than inland.  One wintered in the New Orleans CBD for several years--and may still--beginning in the winter of  1981-82.

 

An injured Peregrine found in lower Lafourche Parish in the winter of 1984-85 had been banded earlier in the year in the Brooks Range of northern Alaska.

 

Expected dates are October 1 (September 25) to April 15; extreme dates are Sep. 7, 1959 at Reserve (RFC,MW) and May 9, 1987 at Grand Isle (MM,DM).

 

 

 

ORDER  Galliformes

 

FAMILY  Phasianidae  QUAIL, PHEASANTS, GROUSE

 

WILD TURKEY (Melagris gallopavo)   Common to resident of deciduous    and pine flat woodlands with adjacent open areas.

 

The secretive habits of the turkey make estimates of its numbers difficult.  They are rarely, if ever, encountered south of Lake Pontchartrain, being most common in pinewoods with adjacent fields into which they will venture to feed.  Recently turkeys have been most often seen by birders near the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area  and at the Mid-South Turf Farms on La. 36 between Abita Springs and St. Tammany.  Occasionally,  when the Pearl River is in flood, the Honey Island stretch of old U.S. 11 can be a good place to see turkeys.   Most areas have been restocked with turkeys by the LWFC.

 

NORTHERN BOBWHITE  (Colinus virginianus)    Common to uncommon resident.

 

The familar Bobwhite quail is somewhat common in open, grassy areas with scrub or brush for cover, and along woodland edges.  The Bobwhite has declined significantly in numbers during the past twenty years, at least near New Orleans.  It  is hard to know whether this only reflects habitat loss near the city, or a more general decline, due to peticides, changed land-use practices, fire ants, or other unknown causes.

 

ORDER  Gruiformes

 

FAMILY  Rallidae   RAILS, GALLINULES, COOTS


YELLOW RAIL  (Coturnicops novaboracensis)    Rare and secretive winter resident.

 

Although there are 13 records of this elusive rail from Southeast Louisiana, there are but three since 1928, certainly a tribute to the intrepid observers of a half-century ago.  On the other hand, there may have been significant declines on the wet prarie nesting grounds of this rail which have affected its abundance here.  The Yellow Rail is one of the most sought-after "regular" species of Southeast Louisiana--to little avail.  In recent years there have been scattered opportunistic records from  Southwest Louisiana, and Yellow  Rails can often be found  during rice mowing operations in southwest-central Louisiana, near Crowley and nearby towns.  It is not really known whether the occurrence of Yellow Rails in inland tall grass fields is only a feature of migration, with winter taking place on the coast, or whether they perhaps winter somewhat inland as well.  Should one encounter mowing operations from mid-October on, or perhaps marsh burning near the coast, he should stop and watch for the possibility of flushing of Yellow Rails.  All of this applies, of course, to the Black Rail as well, which is more secretic yet.  Of the Yellow Rail, Beyer wrote that "hunting dogs very frequently catch them alive."  Specimens of several of the records listed below still survive in the Tulane collection.

 

The records of Yellow Rail span the period November 5 to April 8.  There are no January records, perhaps only reflecting reduced field work during this month.  The known records are:  Nov. 19, 1865, New Orleans (fide HCO)*; Apr. 4, 1874, New Orleans (fide HCO)*; Mar. 14, 1891, New Orleans (fide HCO)*; Nov. 5, 1892, New Orleans (fide HCO)*; Dec. 26, 1893, Diamond (fide HCO); Dec. 15-25, 1901, Plaquemines Par. (HLB); Feb. 25, 1902, Plaquemines Par. (HLB); Mar. 26, 1926, Grand Isle (ESH)*; Apr. 4, 1926, Grand Isle (ESH)*; Apr. 8, 1926, Grand Isle (ESH)*; Mar. 31, 1928, Grand Isle (ESH)*; Dec. 31, 1977, New Orleans (SAG); Dec. 23, 1978, Laplace (RBH,BC); Nov. 8, 1982, New Orleans (TB).

 

BLACK RAIL  (Laterallus jamaicensis)   Rare and secretive winter resident.

 

There seem to exist very few verifiable records of the Black Rail in Southeast Louisiana, including an undated one mentioned by Lowery (1974), and an individual collected at Grand Isle on Apr. 1, 1937, reported by Oberholser (1938).  The  most interesting and most recent record is of  a bird, evidently a migrant, captured by a falconer’s Harris’ Hawk on the Crescent Acres Landfill in Arabi on Nov. 12, 1999 (JC,TC).  There is also a recent sight record from the spring of 1995 at Grand Isle (fide DW).  This paucity of records presumably can be attributed mainly to the near impossibility of flushing the Black Rail.  There are several recent sight records from Southwest Louisiana, mostly opportunistic, and some from Dauphin Island, Al.  There is an old report of nesting in Brazoria Co., TX, though some skepticism may be warranted.

 


 Black Rails are probably most common in Spartina patens  meadows, which unfortunately offer fabulous cover, or perhaps in saltgrass-salicornia  salt marsh (Bent, 1926).  Stewart and Robbins (1958) describe the habitat in Maryland as "a mixture of salt-meadow grass (Spartina patens)  and spike grass [saltgrass, Distichlis spicata]."   In the salicornia-saltgrass habitat, as on Grand Terre Island, for example, they would be much more easily flushed than in S. patens, if indeed they occur in that habitat.   Recent evidence suggests they might be found at upland edges of saline marshes, on the theory that they “don’t like to get their f eet wet.”  They are known to sing at night during the breeding season, perhaps after 10 p.m., and are readily attracted to a recorded version of their "song."   Audubon, in his Ornithological Biography, wrote "I have received a letter from my friend J. Trudeau, M.D., in which he says that his father shot a considerable number of these rails last winter (1836-37) in the vicinity of New Orleans."  Trudeau must have had a good dog, but one wonders what “the vicinity of New Orleans” means, since there is little salt marsh near the city.

 

CLAPPER RAIL  (Rallus longirostris)    Common resident of mostly saline marsh.

 

Although especially common in salt marsh, where the King Rail rarely if ever occurs, this species will intrude into the coastal brackish marsh, where it may interbreed with its cousin. Because Louisiana Clapper Rails have a very rich coloration, one cannot distinguish these species on the basis of the supposed rich color of the King Rail.  On the other hand, the Clapper Rail will always have a grayish face.  Other characters, such as the less dramatically contrasting white and black of the flanks, are less useful.  The calls are more similar than some think, although the King Rail does have a richer, fuller call, contrasing with the sharper kik-kik-kik of the Clapper Rail.  Typical habitat is the Spartina alterniflora  salt marsh which is so ubiquitous along the coast.

 

KING RAIL (Rallus elegans)   Rather common resident of intermediate and brackish             marsh, mostly near the coast.

 

There is some feeling that perhaps the King Rail has declined in numbers in recent years, at least by comparison with the Clapper Rail, but there are no data to support this conclusion.  King Rails is more likely to found near New Orleans, where the marsh is less saline than nearer the coast, but of course there is extensive fresh and brackish marsh below New Orleans, including the bird-foot delta of the Mississippi.  For information on the life histories of the King Rail and the previous species, consult the AOU Monograph by Meanley (1969), which is based in considerable measure on observations made in Louisiana.

 

VIRGINIA RAIL  (Rallus limicola)   Uncommon winter resident.

 

To some extent the Virginia Rail looks like a diminutive version of the King Rail, and often is found in the same brackish habitat.  It is far more often heard than seen, and often its vocalizations go unrecognized.   One of its called resembles a long, slow, drawn-out King Rail call; another is a harsh "rare-ick' " , and there are other assorted noises.  There is a report of nesting, with young photographed, from below Leevile, on May 25, 1969 (JK,WW).  This writer has not seen the photographs.  Another report of a juvenal bird also suggested nesting (NLN).  The maximum number recorded is 31 on Apr. 10, 1983, near the Pearl River at U.S. 90, during flood conditions.  Virginia Rails not infrequently turn up in residential backyards during fall migration.

 

The expected dates of occurrence are October 1 to April 15;  extreme dates are Sep. 4, 1981 at New Orleans (JR--dead) and Apr. 22, 1989 in St. Tammany and Lafourche Parishes (DM,NN,RDP).

 

SORA  (Porzana carolina)    Uncommon to fairly common winter visitor.

 


The Sora is found mostly in fresh to brackish marsh, where it can be quite common.  There has been some decline in numbers during the past two decades, but there is disagreement on how great that decline has been.  The only quantitative inforemation is that numbers recorded on the New Orleans Christmas Bird Counts have dropped since the late 1960's and early 1970's.  In evaluating these data, one has to take into account the destruction of wetlands near the city.  Often a vigorous clap will cause Soras to begin calling.  There is one "out-of-season" record, June? 28, 1992 at Bayou Sauvage Ref. (NN,RDP).

Expected dates of occurrence are September 10 to April 15, while extreme dates are Aug. 23, 1956 at New Orleans (SAG) and May 6, 1971.

 

PURPLE GALLINULE (Porphyrula martinica)   Uncommon summer resident of     mostly fresh marsh.

 

Although fairly common in the fresh water marshes of Southwestern Louisiana, the Purple Gallinule is often difficult to find in this part of the state.  Most of the recent records have come from the Venice area, from the marsh just east of White Kitchen, and from along Paris Rd. in eastern New Orleans.   The latter habitat has largely been destroyed.  Maximum number recorded is 20 on Paris Rd. on July 25, 1982 (RDP).  The Purple Gallinule will only be found on ponds overgrown with aquatic vegetation (water lilies, water hyacinth, etc.).  On Lacassine NWR in Southwest Louisiana, nests were mostly in maidencane, with densities of 0.5 individuals per acre.

 

Expected dates are April 15 to about September 15; extreme dates of occurrence are Apr. 6, 1936 at Grand Isle (AD*) and Oct. 7, 1983 at Chalmette (fide CM).

 

COMMON MOORHEN  (Gallinula chloropus)  Locally common resident.

 

The Common Moorhen  ("Common Gallinule") primarily inhabits freshwater ponds and marshes, often with cattails, rushes (Juncus, sp.), and reeds.  It seems to be comfortable with deeper water than the Purple Gallinule, which is not often seen swimming.  It is also apparently  more tolerant of salinity than its showier cousin.  Good places to  find this species are below Venice along the road to Tidewater and on US 11 in the eastern part of the city.  Although relatively uncommon, moorhens might be found in the vicinity of Grand Isle, especially on Theriot Rd. at Port Fourchon.

 

AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)     Common to abundant winter resident, rare to uncommon summer resident.

 

The American Coot is present in large numbers from  about September 1 to May 1.  The frequency of summering makes more definite conclusions hazardous.  Breeding should be looked for.  American Coots have increased since the mid-1960's on New Orleans Christmas Bird Counts.  Upwards of one million coots winter in Louisiana, and as many as 20,000 have been counted in one pond near Des Allemandes (RDP).

 

FAMILY  Gruidae  CRANES

 

SANDHILL CRANE  (Grus canadensis)   Rare to accidental winter visitor.

 


There are at least three records of the Sandhill Crane for Southeast Louisiana, all since 1957.   It could be expected occasionally in open, wet fields, most likely north of Lake Pontchartrain, since it winters regularly in small numbers in north-central Louisiana near Cheneyville.   In view of a significant increase in reports from Southwest Louisiana in the late 1990s, one may expect occasional records here.

 

The known records are:  Oct. 19, 1957 at White Kitchen, St. Tammany Parish (SAG,RF), Nov. 12, 1977 at Reserve (MW),  records at Covington, presumably of the same or related birds, beginning with Feb. 3..., 1988  (JH,m.ob.),  and ....Dec. 26, 1991 (JH--4); etc.........1992.

 

 

WHOOPING CRANE  (Grus americana)   FORMERLY

 

The only evidence of the occurrence of the Whooping Crane in Southeast Louisiana is based on two reports by Audubon:  a specimen brought to him by his hunter Gilbert....? on Nov. 21, 1821, and nine that Audubon himself said he saw killing an alligtor  on April 16, 1822.

 

ORDER Charadriformes

 

Suborder Charadrii

 

Forty-three or forty-four species of "shorebirds" have been recorded in Southeast Louisiana, including the Eskimo Curlew which has not been seen in Louisiana in this century and is probably extinct.  Of the 36 regularly occurring species,  12 are essentially migrants,  two are resident (Killdeer and Willet),  only two are summer residents (Wilson's Plover and Black-necked Stilt), and the remainder, about 20, are winter residents, though they may be considerably more common in migration than in mid-winter.  The status of the American Oystercatcher is still somewhat uncertain, but it is presumably  a permanent resident.

 

FAMILY  Charadriidae   PLOVERS

 

BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER  (Pluvialis squatarola)   Common to very common    winter resident, mainly on the coast.

 

The Black-bellied Plover is one of the most characteristic birds of the gulf beach, ponds edges near the gulf, and short-grass fields near the coast.  It is present  only in winter, but that means year-round except for a two-month period  centered on mid-July.  There are, however, rather frequent records for that period as well.  It is not infrequently found in the vicinity of New Orleans, in the Bonnet Carre Spillway, and  in similar  areas somewhat removed from the coast.  Normaly the species is present from mid-July to early June, but non-breeding birds are often found in the 5-week period when most birds are on the breeding grounds.

 

AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER (Pluvialis dominica)   Uncommon to sometimes            common spring migrant; occasional fall migrant.

 


  The golden plover will ordinarily only be found on short grass meadows or prairie, and almost exclusively in spring, when it is one of the very earliest of all northbound migrants.  Because its fall migration route carries it far from this region, the golden plover is quite uncommon in fall.  Very occasionally this species will be found on a mudflat or the gulf beach.  In New Orleans the golden plover and other shorebirds which favor short grass habitat may be found on the East campus of the University of New Orleans or perhaps Lakefront Airport.  The best coastal location is on the "Exxon Fields" near the east end of Grand Isle.  The modern high count is 600 in New Orleans on March 18, 1979, but Audubon in his journal for March 16, 1821 described a flock of "millions of golden plovers" near the lakefront and Bayou St. John.  He also gave a lower and more specific figure of 144,000 and said that one hunter had taken 63 dozen from the flock.  The conditions were a blow from the northeast following two or three days of warm weather.  The birds were lean, having just completed the trans-gulf passage.

 

In princple, at least, the Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva.) could stray to the area, although its identification would be very problematical.  Am. Golden Plovers are longer-winged and a whiter, more prominent supercilium, and grayer underwing.  In alternate plumage, the side-stripe is much more restricted, reaching down only to about the bend of the wing (Zimmer 2000).

 

Expected dates are March 10 to April 20 in spring, and Aug. 20 to November 10 in fall migration.  Extreme dates of occurrence in spring are Feb. 27, 1966  (JK) and May 24, 1979 (JR), both at New Orleans; in fall the extremes are Aug. 6, 1978 (MB) and Nov. 28, 1960 at New Orleans (SAG).

 

MONGOLIAN PLOVER  (Charadrius mongolus)   Accidental winter vagrant

 

The lone record of the species, also known as Lesser Sandplover, is of an individual seen and clearly photographed in color (AB  31, 140 (1977) at the Coast Guard station on the east end of Grand Isle on April 22, 1975 (CL,DD,ED), was the first record for the contiguous 48 states.  There has since been one additional record  from Cameron Parish.  Although the Grand Isle individual was in alternate (breeding) plumage,  it is more likely that future records, if there should be any, would be of immatures or basic-plumaged birds, as was the case in the Cameron record.  In that case they would resemble Wilson's Plovers; see Hayman, et al (1986) for identification details.  Most importantly, the legs are black, unlike Wilson’s, whose legs are a dull flesh/pinkish to gray.

 

SNOWY PLOVER  (Charadrius alexandrinus)   Uncommon to rare migrant and winter resident on sand flats and beaches on or near the  gulf.

 

The Snowy Plover is uncommon on the beaches of Southeast Louisiana, but now much commoner than 10-20 years ago, with perhaps 2-4 records in a given winter, usually on Fourchon Beach. . Snowy Plovers are quite easy to find, in small numbers,  at Rutherford and Holly Beaches in Cameron Parish, and  have nested there recently.  The only generally accessible beaches where Snowy Plovers might be found in southeast Louisiana are Fourchon beach and Grand Isle itself, though other locations are accessible by boat, including Grand Terre to the east and E. Timbalier to the west.    As elsewhere, however, undisturbed sandy beaches and beach ridges are becoming increasing scarce.

 


Snowy Plover is noticeably heavier-billed than Piping Plover and has dark (gray, gray-green, to black) legs.  Wilson’s is 10-15% larger, is browner,  has lighter legs, a  very heavy black bill, usually a complete breast band

 

Records span the period Aug. 5 (1886) to Apr. 4 (2004, PW,MM,RDP–2).  The maximum is probably 5 seen on Fourchon Beach on Sept. 8, 2002 (DM,MM).

 

WILSON'S PLOVER  (Charadrius wilsonia)    Common summer resident of           sand-strand habitat on beaches, beach ridges, and barrier islands.         Uncommon to rare in winter.

 

This plover is a conspicuous feature of coastal beaches and sand-flats in summer and breeds wherever sufficient undisturbed sandy habitat is available along the coast, especially on the barrier islands.  Its loud sharp call and staccato rattle immediately betray its presence.  Efforts should be made to protect breeding habitat by human interference during the breeding season, especially in areas accessible to ATV's;  the habitat is also used by Least Terns and Black Skimmers for breeding.  High count is 47 on Fourchon Beach, March 24, 2001 (DM,RDP).  There are two  New Orleans records, the first  associated with a tropical storm:  Sept. 4, 1977 (RDP), and July 26, 1998 (DPM,PY).  Winter records are rather numerous,  but Wilson's Plover is far from regular at that season; peak numbers at that season are 20 on a Piping Plover survey, Jan. 2006 (fide SWC).

 

A census of the beaches of SE Louisiana in the late spring of 2005 yielded over 700 pairs of Wilson’s Plovers (fide RDemay).

 

Expected dates of occurrence are about March 5  to October 5? (November 1?); extreme dates of occurrence are Mar. 1, 1991 [2004 PW,MM,RDP] at Grand Isle (NN, RDP,AS,GS?) and Nov. 27, 1977 at Grand Isle (RDP,NN).[Muth 1991].  Two at Fourchon Beach on 8 February 2004 (MM,PW,RDP), raise the possibility that Wilson’s Plovers may arrive in early to mid-February.

 

SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus)   Uncommon to common           migrant, mostly on the coast, uncommon in winter.

 

            The Semipalmated Plover is the commonest of the small (Charadrius) plovers, except, of course, during the breeding season, when only Wilson's is expected.  Like the others, it is almost always found near the gulf beach, although records along the shore of Lake Borgne would be expected and there are, in fact,  New Orleans records.   The call is a whistled chee-we', which is similar to that of the Black-bellied Plover.

 

            The maximum count is 256 on Fourchon Rd. on Apr. 25, 2004 (RDP) [80 in the vicinity of Grand Isle (especially Fourchon Beach) on Sept. 4, 1994 (NN,MM).  Recent "summer" records include June 19, 1983 (RDP,DM,JN), June 17, 1984 (RDP,DM),  June 22, 1985 (RDP,NN--25!), and June 21, 1987 (6+),  all on Fourchon Beach.......3 on June 9 and 10 on June 11, 1998 Gosier/Breton (SWC,DLD)

 


Although expected dates of occurrence are August 1 to June 1, migration periods are something like August 1 into early November and early March to about June 1.  Extreme dates, which may be meaningless in view of the "summer" records above, are July 8, 1958 at Grand Isle (ART) and June 10, 1930 on Grand Gosier I. (EVK).

 

PIPING PLOVER  (Charadrius melodus)     Uncommon, to sometimes common      migrant near the gulf beach and uncommon to rare winter resident.

 

Although the Piping Plover is considered threatened, its numbers have not decreased noticeably along the coast of Southeast Louisiana.  Of course there are no solid data to support that conclusion, but it seems to be shared by most observers who have birded the area for 10-20 years.  Nonetheless, because of its status, numbers should always be recorded and submitted, preferably to LSU Museum of Zoology.  Although the Piping Plover can usually be found at Fourchon Beach or on Grand Isle in winter, it is much more common during its migration passage, when sometimes as many as 20 will be seen along Fourchon Beach.  Though it is  almost never seen away from sand flats near the gulf beach, there are three New Orleans records, including Aug. 6, 1982 (DM) and Aug. 14, 1983 (DM).  There are two "summer" record, June 27, 1976 on Curlew Island in the Chandeleur chain (RDP,LO'M,NN). And June 11 on Breton Island (SWC,DLD).  The Piping Plover  rarely vocalizes in Louisiana.

 

During the Piping Plover survey of early February 1991 (fide Rich Martin,LDWF), on the order of 300 were found on the Chandeleur Islands, and .....on the beaches of Grand Isle and Elmer's Island.

 

Expected dates of occurrence are August 5 to April 25; migration periods are from early March through April and early August  through October.  Extreme dates are  July 28, 1991 on Fourchon Beach (RDP,GC--6)  [and Aug. 1, 1982 at the same location (RDP,NN,DM--8)] and Apr. 26, 1969 at Grand Isle (RDP,DS).

 

KILLDEER  (Charadrius vociferus)     Very common to sometimes abundant permanent      resident.

 

This familiar plover may be found anywhere there are short grass fields, lawns, golf courses, and even mudflats.   The Killdeer nests on the ground and may often be seen herding its atricial young around and showing mock-injury display to distract potential predators.

 

            FAMILY Haematopodidae  OYSTERCATCHERS

 

AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER  (Haematopus  palliatus)    Local         resident, breeding on barrier islands

 


The American Oystercatcher occurs primarily on the shell-rimmed barrier islands off the delta, especially in or near the Chandeleur Chain, where it nests in small numbers.   It is assumed to be a permanent resident, but since its favored habitat is little visited in winter, this remains an assumption.  It has been found on the west shore of Lake Borgne, e.g., Shell Beach, on at least three occasions.  There is one New Orleans record, which is one of the few actual winter records for southeast Louisiana, on January 21, 1983 at Lakefront Airport (DC), following unusually high tides in St. Bernard Parish, from whence come most of the records.  The only other “inland” record is  from the east side of L. Pontchartrain, in St. Tammany Parish on Sep. 29+/- (Dan Lane), following Hurricane Georges   An early “spring” record for Southeast Louisiana is March 2, 1991 on Grand Terre Is. (RDP,NN,BA,CF)..   There are  recent records for Grand Isle:  May 30, 1992 (Joe Kleiman, D. Roark), and ......(DM,...?) , and April 7, 2001 at Fourchon Beach (DM--2); 11 May 2003, Fourchon Beach (RDP--3).  High count is 46 along the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, on....... (DM,RDP,BR).

 

Nests are known from Freemason Is. on May 16, 1913 (WMS) and Isle a Pitre, June 3, 1933 (HCO), and a flightless fledgling was photographed on Curlew Is. on June 26, 1976 (RDP,NN,LO'M).[Larry, nest 1998]   Other nest records include.....July 2, 2000 (DM,RDP,PW--2 pairs with 2 young each).  Audubon reported 15 on Isle Dernieres in April 1837 and as many as 21 have been counted on a single trip to ther Chandeleurs in recent times.  Trips to Grassy Island and Half Moon (or Grand) Island, both off the mouth of the Pear River, have always yielded a pair or two, and they were seen consistently on Lonesome Is. near the mouth of the Gulf Outlet, but as of 1985 that island was rapidly disappearing.

 

Expected dates are not well known, approximately April 1 to September 15(?).  Extreme dates of occurrence are Mar. 26, 1917 in Mississippi Sound (AMB) and Oct. 3, 1984 on North Island (JT, JD--3).

 

FAMILY  Recurvirost riae  AVOCETS AND STILTS

 

BLACK-NECKED STILT  (Himantopus mexicanus)    Common to very common   summer resident in suitable habitat.

 

The Black-necked Stilt is a common and conspicuous breeder in the coastal and near coastal marsh, wherever nesting and feeding habitat is available.  In recent years increased numbers have been found to be wintering at such places as the ponds on US 11, near Grand Isle, and at the Bonnet Carre Spillway.  Prior to 1974 (Jan. 10--MW) there was no winter record.  The highest winter count was 50+ on US 11 on Dec. 31, 1982 (RDP).  In 1938, Oberholser said of this species, admittedly on the basis of limited field work, "The Black-necked Stilt is a rare permanent resident in southern Louisiana of very much less frequent occurrence than in former years."  A trip to Fourchon Rd. in Lafourche Parish in July should yield as many as several hundred.

 

Expected dates of occurrence are March 25 to Sep 10; extreme dates are almost impossible to give, but the  earliest date in spring can be taken to be Mar. 16, 1986 at Grand Isle (NN,RDP), mainly because late winter records are not frequent.

 

AMERICAN AVOCET (Recurvirostra anericana )   Uncommon to fairly common winter resident near the coast, in bays, open marshy habitat, and beaches.

 


Although the American Avocets are somewhat more common in coastal southwest Louisiana, they can be found in moderate numbers in coastal Southeast Louisiana in winter, primarily  in the Port Fourchon area in Lafourche Par.   Occasionally one or a few out of season individuals can be found in June or July.    There are only a few  New  Orleans records, including  July 23, 1979 (JR), Oct. 31-Dec. 26, 1982 (RDP,DN),  Aug. 4, 1991 on US 11 (NN,RDP), and December ...., 1994 (RDP,GC--...) on US 11 in Bayou Sauvage NWR....Sep. 13, 1999 (DPM,PY); Oct. 3?, 2004 (RDP,DM).

 

Avocets may be expected between about August 15 and May 15.  Mid to late June records represent lingering birds or perhaps southbound migrants.   The extremes are July 17, 1977 at Grand Isle (MM,NN,RDP) and  May 22, 1971 (DN)  , also at Grand Isle (DN), and  May 22, 2003 on Fourchon Beach (MM,RDP). June records include June 20, 1982 (RDP,JR,DM,MM), June 19, 1983 (DM,JN,RDP),  June 1, 1997 (DM,RDP), all from Fourchon Rd.  A group of 80 on Baptiste Collette Bayou, all in high alternate plumage on July 2, 2000 (DM,RDP,PW) were remarkable.  Peak numbers are 700 on Fourchon Rd., 11/12/2000 (RDP). 2004....

 

FAMILY Scolopacidae  SANDPIPERS

 

GREATER YELLOWLEGS  (Tringa melanoleucus)   Common winter        resident;           probably can be found in every month.

 

Although the Greater Yellowlegs (and the Lesser, as well) breeds in Alaska and Canada and winters south to Tierra Del Fuego, it is a regular winter resident and there is barely a two month period when it is not to be found in Louisiana coastal marshes.  Indeed, it is not infrequently found, in small numbers, in mid to late June on mudflats near the coast.  While ordinarily this species is considerably less common than its smaller cousin, this is sometimes not the case.  The Greater Yellowlegs is essentially the size of a Willet and has a much longer bill than the Lesser.    The two species are also easily separated by call, that of the Greater Yellowlegs being a three or four note "whistle," compared to the softer two-note call of the Lesser Yellowlegs.

 

Although the expected dates of occurrence are from about August 1 to May 10, arrival of apparent south-bound migrants has been noted as early as July 14 (1979, Bonnect Carre Spillway (RJS,MW), and there are several  mid-June records, including two  from Fourchon Rd. in Lafourche Parish:  June 20, 1982 (RDP,MM,JR,DM--100) and June 17, 1984 (DM,RDP--1).  Also a July 2, 2000 record from Baptiste Collette Bayou (DM,PW,RDP), and June 23, 2003 Grand Terre I. (CW,SW).

 

LESSER YELLOWLEGS  ( Tringa  flavipes)   Very common winter resident,          especially on the coast, probably can be found in every month.

 

Although the Lesser Yellowlegs is common from July  through  May, its numbers are largest in migration, when counts may approach or exceed 1000 individuals.  It is the most familiar medium-sized shorebird in the Louisiana marshes and  while it is most common near the coast, it can be found on mudflats and marshy pond edges throughout the area.  Expected dates of occurrence are July 25 to May 10, with extreme arrival and departure dates of June 27, 1970 (New Orleans, JK) and May 24, 1970 (Grand Isle, RDP).  "Out of season" records include June 19, 1983 (RDP,JN,DM) and June 17, 1984  (RDP,DM--5), both in Lafourche Parish.

 

SOLITARY SANDPIPER  (Tringa solitaria)   Uncommon migrant


The Solitary Sandpiper is typically found on the edge of a freshwater pond or in swale in a grassy field; it will rarely, if ever, be encountered on a mudflat or the gulf beach.  The call is a loud and distinctive wheet-wheet-wheet! , which could be confused only with that of the Spotted Sandpiper.

Expected dates of spring and fall migration are March 20 to May 5 and August 10 to September 20.  The extreme dates in spring are Mar. 1, 1992 at Grand Isle (AS,GS) [previously March 5, 1900 at New Orleans (AA)] and May 23, 1979 at New Orleans (JR,RDP); in fall the species has been recorded as early as July 26, 1991 (NN)  and as late as Oct. 1, 1978 (JR), both from New Orleans.  There are at least 7 winter records:  Feb. 15, 1913, New Orleans (HHK), Nov. 27, 1964, Ft. Jackson (SAG), Dec. 28, 1965, Venice CBC, Dec. 30,. 1971, Ft. Jackson (SAG,RDP,RJN,DN), Dec. 10, 1974, New Orleans (JK), and Dec. 27, 1984, Venice (SAG--3).  The most recent record is from St. John the Baptist Parish on Feb. 12, 1992 (MW,RJS), not strictly within the province of this list.  Maximum number recorded is 152 on Apr. 4, 1992 near the Jefferson/St. Charles Parish line (PY).

 

WILLET (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus)   Common to Very Common resident, most on     the coast.

 

The Willet is one of only two or three permanent residents among the shorebirds.  It is quite uncommon away from the coast, although over two dozen records have accumlated over the years from Reserve, Metairie, and New Orleans.  In the coastal marsh and on the gulf beach the Willet is conspicuous and noisy.  It nests on raised areas--ridges,etc.--in the saline or brackish marsh.   Recent records have come from the Recovery I area of Bayou Sauvage NWR in New Orleans East.

 

SPOTTED SANDIPIPER (Actitus macularis)   Common winter visitor

 

The Spotted Sanpiper is characteristic of pond edges, seawalls, and stream banks--seemingly the more barren the shore the better--where it usually occurs singly.  It is rarely seen on mudflats or with the large groups of resting or feeding shorebirds which are encounted on the coast.  Even the beginner quickly learns its distinctive fluttering or stacatto flight pattern caused by its short wing strokes; the sharp weet-weet! call is also diagnostic.  The Spotted Sandpier was reported as breeding in New Orleans by Beyer (fide Oberholser), but it is not clear on what evidence that claim was based.  The fact that it is present into late May and that southbound migrants appear in July may have led to confusion on that point.

            The expected dates of occurrence are July 25 to May 20, with extremes of July 6, 1978 at Delacroix(AS) and June 9, 1933 at Grand Isle (HCO).

 

UPLAND SANDPIPER (Bartramia longicauda)   Uncommon migrant found on short-grass fields.

 

While  not as common as 30 years ago, the Upland Sandpiper may nonetheless be expected on short-grass fields, such as the UNO east campus and perhaps Lakefront Airport,  especially during March, and often in the company of Golden Plovers or Buff-breasted Sandpipers.  Its tall stance and small head (giving it a "pin-head" look) are distincitive, as is its call.  Its "whip-per-it!" call can often be heard at night during fall migrantion,  especially in late July and early August.  According to Beyer (1900) they were "eagerly hunted and highly praised in lower Louisiana as a game bird."


Expected dates of occurrence are March 20 to May 5 in spring, and August 1 to September 20 in fall;  extreme dates for spring migrants are Mar. 12, 1978.... and May  26, 1961 at New Orleans (SAG); in fall they are June 29, 1961 at New Orleans (SAG) and Nov. 11, 1977 at New Orleans (?) (JR).  Beyer, et al (1908) gave a March 9 record.

 

ESKIMO CURLEW (Numernius americanus)   EXTINCT?

 

Although the Eskimo Curlew has not been recorded in Louisiana, with certainty, since 1889, spring records from the Texas coast in the mid-1950's and one or two fall records from the Atlantic coast, leave open the faint possibility that one might again turn up on the coast of Southeast Louisiana.  The known records are:  Apr. 5-10, 1837, Barataria Bay (JJA), Mar. 30 and Apr. 4, 1881 (fide HCO--collected), and Mar. 16, 1889 at New Orleans (fide HCO--collected).

 

WHIMBREL (Numenius phaeopus)   Uncommon spring migrant, rare to uncommon migrant in fall,    along the coast.

 

The Whimbrel is a regular, uncommon to sometimes common spring migrant near the coast, most often  near Grand Isle, from Fourchon Rd. to the island itself.  As a fall migrant, the Whimbrel is  less common, but apparently becoming regular.  There are also  two winter records.  The only known inland records are from Frenier on the west edge of the area, Apr. 30, 1959 (RJS--), and two New Orleans records, Mar. 27, 1974 (WAM) and Apr. 8, 1983 (fide MM).  Fall records are now too numerous to list, but range from July 17, 1977, Lafourche Par (MM,RDP,NN--2) , to Oct. 8-9, 1983 at Grand Isle (CS,AS,GS,CK).  Seven were seen on Grand Isle on Aug. 4, 2002 (RDP).  There is also  unclassifiable   July 1,  1999 (PW, PC) and June 30??,2004 (RDP).   The two winter records are Dec. 19, 1932 at Main Pass (HCO) and Dec. 10, 1989 at Grand Isle (AS,GS,MM).  Bristle-thighed Curlew has an unbarred rump and a very different voice.

 

The largest concentration has been 17 on May 6, 2001 at Fourchon (MM,PW).

 

Expected dates in spring are April 20 to May 20; fall records span the period July 17-Oct. 3, and Whimbrels might be "expected" from about Aug. 15 to Sep. 15.  There is one out of season record, June 22, 2003 on Grand Terre Is. (Chris Witt,Satya Witt).  Extreme dates in spring are Mar. 19, 1972 at Grand Terre Is (HDP,RJN,MM,RDP) and May 25, 1989 at Grand Isle (....).

 

LONG-BILLED CURLEW (Numenius americanus)   Occasional to accidental in    winter, rare on the barrier islands in "summer".

 


The Long-billed Curlew is distinctly  uncommon in Se. Louisiana, with less than 30 records,   all but two of which have been from the vicinity of Grand Isle or the Chandeleur or other barrier islands.  The two records away from the coast are winter records:    Mandeville (Dec. 17, 1976) and New Orleans (Nov. 12, 1885).   According to Oberholser, E.S. Hopkins "found reported it common at Grand Isle, April 8, 1925, April 22, 1926, and April 7, 1928."   There is one March and three April records, six "summer" records spanning the period June 7-Aug. 25.  There are four "winter" records from Nov. 12 to Dec. 17, including the two above.  The others are   a nineteenth-century record from Lake Borgne, Dec. 5, 1886, mentioned in Oberholser (1938), and a sighting on Nov. 19, 1978 on E. Timbalier Island (AS,RDP,NN,MM). Some of the "summer" records are:  June 7, 1918, Chandeleurs (AMB); June 25, 1969, Isla-a-Pitre (RJN); July 31-Aug. 1, 1969, North Is., Stake Is. (RJN,KPA,RDP); June 25-27, 1976, Curlew Is. (LO'M,RDP,NN--3);  July 9?, 1989, Curlew Is. (RDP); July 31, 1990, Curlew  Is. (RM);   July 14, 1998 (SWC); Curlew Is., July 2, 2000 on S. Gosier (1) and N. Breton Is. (2) (DM,RDP,PW); Grand Isle, Aug. 25, 2002 (MM,PW).

Recent records include  Mar. 18, 1961 at Grand Isle (SAG), Aug. 20, 1967 at New Orleans (JK),  Sep. 26, 1982 at Grand Isle (NLN,BC,SN), and April...., 1998 at Grand Isle (RDP,MM,m.ob.)...Aug. 31, 2003 (PW,MM,RDP), Sept. 2004 (JF) Spring 1998 (RDP,MM), July 3, 1998 ......(CF) .....two records Jan 2006.

 

HUDSONIAN GODWIT (Limosa haemastica)   Occasional migrant.

 

In Southwest Louisiana the Hudsonian Godwit (known in southwest Louisiana as "Ring-tailed Marlin")  is uncommon to common in in late April in short-grass marsh, especially in the rice fields south of Rayne, Jennings, and Crowley.  It is almost unknown there in fall.  In Southeast Louisiana, where it is much rarer at any season, the seasonal distribution is less clear; but the statistics are poor, there being only six records, which, somewhat surprisingly, are all inland.  In short, one should  probably expect  to find the Hudsonian Godwit, if at all,  in spring.  The records are (all but the last from New Orleans):  Sep. 6, 1875 (GK--collected); Sep. 27, 1895 (GK--collected); Apr.  13, 1978 (JR); May 4, 1978 (NN--14); May 23, 1979 (JR,m.ob.); Oct. 1-9, 1983 at  the Bonnet Carre Spillway (MW,MA).

 

MARBLED GODWIT (Limosa fedoa)    Common or uncommon migrant, uncommon          in winter, casual in summer on barrier islands; strictly coastal.

 

The Marbled Godwit can be found near the coast (especially Fourchon Rd, and Fourchon Beach) almost anytime from mid-July through May,  in numbers which range from one or two in mid-winter to 75-100 during migration periods, especially spring.  Closer scrutiny of its temporal distribution seems to  show that  migrating Marbled Godwits begin arriving in late February (exemplified by  a Feb. 26, 1961 record on North Is. (LEW,SGC--19) and 104 on Fourchon Rd. on Mar. 3, 1985 (RDP,MM,NN),  even though in some years none are seen before April 1.  Similarly,  while fall migrants may pass through between  mid-July and early October,  godwits can often be found into November, and have been reported on the Grand Isle CBC (Jan. 2, 1984 --2; Dec. 30, 1984--17). [first fall 2002=9/8 fide MM].There are at least 10 June records, the earliest being June 11, 1971 on North Is. (RDP,RJN,MM); on June 19-21, 1973 a total of 20 were seen on the Chandeleurs (RJN, et al).  Records from Fourchon Rd. on June 20, 1982 (RDP,JR,MM,DM--8) and June 21, 1987 (RDP--10) are the only mainland "summer" records.....2004 (RDP,PW).  Strongly coastal in its distribution, there are very few New Orleans records, most recently Oct. 16, 2004 (PW,DM).

 

With the caveats implied above, the expected dates of wintering are July to May.  For migrants spring arrival is around March 1 with an expected departure of  May 1; in fall, July 15-Oct. 1.   Extreme spring dates are Feb. 26, 1961  (LEW,SGC)  and May 31, 1950 (DRB), both from North Is., while the fall extremes are July 8, 1990 at Grand Isle (RDP,DM,GC--16) and Nov. 19, 1978 on E. Timbalier Is (NN,MM,AS,RDP--50) and Nov. 19, 1981 at New Orleans (DM--3).[ work on this]

 


RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres)   Common winter resident on the gulf   beach.

 

With the Sanderling, the Ruddy Turnstone is the typical shorebird of the immediate gulf beach.  Inland occurrences are  unusual, but there are records during migration from the Bonnet Carre Spillway and the Lake Pontchartrain seawall.  Indeed Reinoehl found as many as 30 on the lakefront (May 18, 1979).  Although the turnstone will not  be found in numbers on Southeast Louisiana beaches in June and July, records from that “hiatus” period are not rare.  They include June 28, 1967 at North Is. (SAG,RDP, et al),  June 20, 1982, (JR,MM,RDP,DM),  June 17, 1984  (RDP,DM--10), June 23, 1991 (RDP--24), etc. all on Fourchon Beach, Lafourche Par. 

 

Expected dates of occurrence are August 5 (?) to June 1, with extreme dates being July 31, 1969 on North Is. (RDP,RJN) and June 12, 1971 on Chandeleur Is. (RDP,RJN,MM).

 

RED KNOT (Calidris canutus)   Uncommon to common migrant on the gulf beach;   uncommon to scarce winter visitor.

 

Although the Red Knot is rarely seen away from the gulf beach, it will sometimes be found on mudflats near the beach at the height of migration.   Winter occurrences are erratic, and it may take the coverage of a Christmas Count to turn up knots, but they should nonetheless  be regarded as somewhat regular in winter.  Their gregarious habits--they  are almost invariably  found in flocks, of 15-100 individuals--contribute to their "spotty" distribution. Red Knots are recognized by their plump appearance, the short  to medium length bill, the wing stripe, and their flocking habits.  Although they are usually gray, many will be molting into alternate plumage in late spring, and a few will  have retained it as they move south.  As is true with other species which may be present on the gulf beach during the breeding season, birds present in June will be in basic plumage.  Maximum number: 530 at Grand Isle, May 1, 2004 (RDP,PW,DM).

 

            There are at least seven records from mid to late June or early July, so that knots have been recorded in every month.  Note that 105 were recorded in June 1987 and 120 in early July 2000.  Ordinarily they can be expected f rom from August through the end of May, but numbers are much greater in migration, with peaks occuring from mid or late March through May, and August through October.    The "summer" records are:  June 25-27, 1967 on Curlew Is. (SAG, RDP, et al); four records from  Fourchon Beach: June 20, 1982  (MM,DM,JR,RDP), June 19, 1983  (RDP,DM,JN), June 27, 1985 (AS,GS), and June 21, 1987 (RDP--105); June 27, 2000, Curlew Is. (SWC,DLD--30); July 2, 2000, N. Breton Is. (DM,RDP,PW--120).   Maximum numbers recorded are 530? on ...2004 (DM,RDp,PW).

 

The only inland records other than from the Bonnet Carre Spillway are from New Orleans:  Oct. 31, 1979 (MB), and Nov. 17-24, 1991 at New Orleans (DM, et al).

 

  Expected dates of occurrence (somewhat uncertain because of the June records listed above)  are July 20 to June 1; extreme dates are July 17, 1977 in Lafourche Parish (RDP,MM,NN) and June 12, 1971 on the Chandeleur Is. (MM,RJN,RDP).

 

SANDERLING  (Calidris alba)     Very common winter resident on gulf beaches


The Sanderling is the typical shorebird of the gulf beach  from August through at least May, often feeding actively at the edge of the surf.  Although in  late April and May some individuals will be in alternate (breeding) plumage, most Sanderlings, at any season, will be in immature or basic plumages.   In migration Sanderlings are sometimes found on the Lake Pontchartrain seawall, with a maximum of 8 on May 27, 1978 (JR).  During 1977-80 Reinoehl found Sanderlings on the lakefront in the periods Apr. 25-May 29 and Aug. 11-Oct. 18, which gives one an idea of when they migrate.

 

The numerous June records make it difficult to be very definite about  arrival and departure dates in fall and  spring:  June 27, 1976 on Curlew Is. (RDP,LO'm,NN--100), June 20, 1982, (JR,MM,DM,RDP), June 19, 1983 (JN,DM,RDP),  June 17, 1984 (DM,RDP), and June 23, 1991 (RDP--156) all on Fourchon Beach, Lafourche Par, etc....July 2, 2000....  Approximate dates of occurrence are August 1 to June 1.

 

SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER   (Calidris pusilla)   Regular spring and fall migrant,         sometimes common

 

Since the paper of Allan Phillips pointing out that there was no specimen evidence of the occurrence of this species on the gulf coast in winter (American Birds 29: 799 (1975), there have been no credible sight records between November and March.  Clearly the Semipalmated Sandpiper is a regular migrant  from  August to  October  and March through May, though more information is needed to define the migration periods more precisely.  On May 28, 1991 in the vicinity of Grand Isle, almost all peeps were Semipalmated.   Occasional winter records may occur, and indeed there are credible records for Southeast Louisiana on Nov. 23 and 28,  Dec. 20 and 28, and Feb. 4 and 7.  Yet even these should be regarded with caution since at the time  Semipalmated Sandpipers were considered regular througout the winter.  Any "peep" suspected of belonging to this species, between November and March,  should be carefully scrutinized, and every  attempt should be made to obtain definitive photographs or to induce the bird to call.

 

Oberholser reported the species as "abundant" in January and December 1932, including specific records from Main Pass on Dec. 19 (300) and Dec. 23 (1400).  These records must now be regarded with skepticism..

 

The Semipalmated Sandpiper is slightly smaller and typically grayer than the Western, it has a "dark-eyed" look, its bill is straighter,  more nearly of uniform thickness, and generally shorter  than that of the Western, and its call is  a "cherk" or "chrrup" or "kriip." (jert!–Zimmer) It is much less likely to be found on the front beach than Western Sandpiper.  Both species have partially webbed toes.  This species closely resembles Little Stint, which has not been recorded on the gulf coast,  even to the extent of having a rather similar call, but see Viet and Jonsson (1984) or Colston and Burton (1988).   In Louisiana, this species will generally be seen in alternate plumage in the spring, and in worn alternate or juvenal plumage in fall migration.

 


Expected dates of occurrence are April 10 to June 5 and July 25 to October 15, with some uncertainty.   Extreme dates in spring are Mar. 5, 1961  (SAG) [Mar. 14, 2004 (RDP,MM,DM–video]and June 13, 1935  (TDB--coll), both at New Orleans; the fall extremes are July 8, 1956 at New Orleans (SAG) and Oct. 28, 1935 at Grand Isle (GHL--coll.).  Peak abundance of Semipalmated Sandpipers comes fairly late in spring migration, perhaps late April.  A June 17, 1984 record from Fourchon Rd. (RDP,DM--12) is arbitrarily regarded as a "summer" or "out of season" occurrence, though the birds were probably late northbound migrants.

 

WESTERN SANDPIPER  (Calidris mauri)   Common to adundant winter resident

 

Western Sandpipers can usually be identified by their  rather long black bill which sometimes perceptibly droops at the tip, and by the rusty crown, auriculars, and scapulars, with traces of the latter remaining in winter.  There is, however, an overlap between short-billed male Western Sanpipers and long-billed female Semipalmated Sandpipers.  A short bill, alone, is not sufficient to support an identification as Semipalmated; bill shape  (slightly drooping, with a hint of a bulbous tip) is crucial, and vocalization is desirable.   Long-billed Western Sandpipers, however, cause no problem, and more often than not the flocks are homogeneous, so that a suspected Semipalmated in a large flock of Westerns will often be found to be a  short-billed Western when closely examined.Western's have a "jeet" call which in no way resembles Semipalmated.    An important article on the previous species, this one, and the Least Sandpiper, plus Rufour-necked , Little, and Temmincks's Stints is Veit and Jonsson (1984).  See also Colston and Burton (1988).  Maximum number recorded is 1500 at Fourchon Beach on April 9, 1994 (MM,DM,RDP,JR) .

Expected dates are July 20 to June 1, while extreme dates of occurrence are July 7, 1991 on Fourchon Beach (RSB,GW--7) [and Sep. 8, 1981 at Grand Isle (JR,MB)] and June 4, 1935 at New Orleans (TDB--coll).  There are at least two out of season records:  June 20, 1982  (MM,DM,JR,RDP) and June 19, 1983 (RDP,DM,JN), both on Fourchon Rd. in Lafourche Parish. July 2, 2000 N. Gosier Is. (DM,RDP,PW).

 

LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)   Very common winter resident, mostly     coastwise

 

Although the Least Sandpiper is common on beaches and mudflats from July through early June, its numbers rarely equal the concentrations of Western Sandpipers (and sometimes Semipalmated as well) during their peak migrations.  Although it is usually seen at or near the coast, that is primarily a reflection of the scarcity of shorebird accessible shorebird habitat away from the coast.  It is sometimes seen on the Lake Pontchartrain seawall in New Orleans during migration, on the campuses of UNO after rains, and on US 11 when water is low.  To a much greater extent than the other "peeps", the Least Sandpiper shows a fondness for feeding on rock jetties and seawalls.  The call, a distinct "kreep", is the most  easily learned of the "peeps."   This, along with yellow legs, brownish coloration of its upperparts, and heavy pectoral streaking, makes it easy to identify.   A Temmink's Stint might well be written off as a Least, because of the yellow legs, but its cricket-like call is distinctive, and Long-toed Stint resembles Least Sandpiper very closely.

 

Expected dates for the Least Sandpiper are July 20 to approximately June 1; extreme dates of occurrence are July 9, 1979 at  (FB) and June 7, 1933 (HCO--coll.), both at Grand Isle.

 

WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER (Calidris fuscicolis)    Uncommon to quite common         spring migrant, primarily in May

 


The White-rumped Sandpiper often is the most common small shorebird in mid to late May, but is absent otherwise.  Its fall migration routes carry it way fromn the region.  It, like the next species is quite long-winged.  It will  stand out on a mud-flat in late spring by virtue of being somewhat larger than the usual peeps, because of its gray plumage with very distinct chevron-like breast markings, and relatively heavy black bill.  The call is a distinctive "squeaky tzeet", to adopt Johnsgaard's (1981) description.  Maximum numbers:  400 at Grand Isle on May 18, 1981 (NN,DM).

 

Expected dates of occurrence are May 1 to June 1; extreme dates:  Apr. 20, 1986 at Grand Isle (MM,RDP) and June 11, 1981 at New Orleans (JR).     There are only two fall records, Aug. 13, 1968  (JK) and Sept. 2 and 6 (JR), all from New Orleans.  There are also three"summer"  records:  June 20, 1982 on Fourchon Rd. (MM,JR,DM,RDP), July 9?, 1989 on Curlew Is. (RDP), and July 3 , Plaquemines Par (CF).

 

BAIRD'S  SANDPIPER  (Calidris bairdii)   Rare  migrant  

 

Baird's Sandpiper, which migrates mostly to the west of the checklist area, hence is more common in Sw. Louisiana,  is found  on damp short-grass fields or on  mudflats, sometimes quite near the gulf beach.   In part because it is less frequently encountered than the other peeps, Baird's is perhaps the most frequently mis-identified, and certainly poses a non-trivial identification problem.  Baird's is very long-winged (wing tips extending beyond the tail), awareness of which fact can forestall most of these identification difficulties.   It  is buffy on the breast, like a Least Sandpiper, but larger, longer billed, is dark-legged, has a pale face, and its back is scaly or blotchy.  It has a rather horizontal carriage and a tail with very little white on the sides.  The call resembles that of the Least, but is more nearly a "kriip." 

 

Expected dates of occurrence are somewhat uncertain, but generally April 15 to May 20 in spring and mid-July  through September.  Extreme dates in fall are Mar. 20, 1983 (DM) and May 28, 1966 (JK--12), both at New Orleans, and in fall, July 10, 1970 at the Rigolets (JK,WW,LW) and Oct. 3, 1959 at Grand Isle (LCB,DGB,SLW,BLM).

 

PECTORAL SANDPIPER  (Calidris melanotos)    Common spring and fall migrant

 

The Pectoral Sandpiper is most common on  the same soggy short-grass fields which are favored by Baird's and Buff-breasted Sandpipers, but will not infrequently be found in shallow marshy situations as well.  Although it is not readily confused with any common shorebird, both its close relative the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, which has not been recorded in Louisiana, and the reve, or female Ruff, can resemble this species.  The call of the Pectoral Sandpiper is a "prrp" or "pritt," quite different from the two-note "krip-krip" call of the Sharp-tailed (Johnsgaard, 1981).  The breast of the Sharp-tailed has no abrupt cutoff, forming a pectoral band, but fades into the lower breast.  See British Birds 73: 33-345, for identification details.

 

Expected dates of occurrence in spring are March 10 to May 10;  in fall  August 1 to November 1.  Extreme dates in  spring  are Mar. 4, 1979  (JR)  and May 23, 1979 (JR), both at New Orleans.  Fall extremes are July 11, 1981 at New Orleans and Nov. 14, 1972.  There are two winter records....... and one "summer" record:  June 29, 1961 at  New Orleans (SAG). [spring 2004?] Winter: Dec..... (RDP), 26 Feb. 2004 (DM)

 


PURPLE SANDPIPER  (Calidris maritima)            Accidental in Winter

 

The Purple Sandpiper is known for its predilection for rock jetties and "rip-rap" throughout its range.  Although it is common on the eastern seaboard, and though there have been a number of records for coastal Mississippi (perhaps of the same individuals?), there are only two records of this species for Southeast Louisiana, of a bird found on April 3, 1994 (CL) at the west end of Grand Isle, and which remained until....[4/20], and one at Lakefront airport on the Dec....., 2001 New Orleans CBC (KR,DM).  There are photographs of both birds.  Purple Sandpipers have occurred on at least two previous occasions in Sw. Lousiana.

 

DUNLIN  (Calidris alpina)   Common to very common winter resident

 

On a typical mudflat in Southeast Louisiana, the Dunlin may outnumber all other shorebird species combined, although in recent years its numbers seem to have declined.   Although it is distinctly larger than the three species of small peeps with which is often found , it may sometimes be confused with the Western Sandpiper if no size comparison is possible.  It has a much longer bill than the Western and the bill droops quite clearly.  Its call is also quite different, resembling that of the Least Sandpiper.  Maximum number recorded is 2500 on Fourchon Beach and Grand Isle, April 9, 1994 (MM,DM,RDP,JR).

 

Expected dates of winterring are September 10 to May 25; extreme dates of occurrence are Aug. 10, 1980 at Grand Isle (MM,NN,DM) and June 11, 1971 on North Is. (RDP,MM,NN).  There are at least two out-of -season records:  June 28, 1967 on North Is. (SAG,RDP, et al) and July 10, 1970 at the Rigolets (JK,WW,LW)....1992 at Grand Isle (AS,GS).....

 

CURLEW SANDPIPER (Calidris ferruginea)   Accidental vagrant

 

There are about ten records for Louisiana of Curlew Sandpiper,  including only two from Southeast Louisiana.  The first was  August 22, 1975 on Fourchon Road in Lafourche Parish (MM,NN), and the second, in alternate plumage, was seen on 4 May 2003 on Fourchon Beach (RDP).  Although the Curlew Sandpiper is a close relative of the Dunlin, it is often described as more strongly  resembling a Stilt Sandpiper , also a member of the genus Calidris .    Compared to the Dunlin, it has a longer, slightly more decurved bill, and a white rump.  In breeding plumage, of course, it is unmistakeable.   Records from the rice fields of south-central Louisiana suggests that the Curlew Sandpiper might be as regular in spring as fall.  In late spring an individual molting into basic plumage could be quite red below.

 

STILT SANDPIPER (Calidris himantopus)     Common to sometimes very common            migrant, uncommon to rare in winter

 


The Stilt Sandpiper, which similar in size to, and superficially resembles both Lesser Yellowlegs and the dowitchers, is often abundant in migration; the maximum recorded is 1000+ on Fourchon Road on April 30, 1984 (DM).  In spring the rusty head markings are distinctive, as are the barred underparts.  The bill, which is considerably longer than that of a yellowlegs, is shorter than that of the Short-billed Dowitcher and usually has a pronounced droop.  The Stilt Sandpiper has more of an eyeline than the Lesser Yellowlegs, and has greenish legs and a white rump.  It often feeds "waist-deep" in water, and gives a "querp" call and a social chatter.  Stilt Sandpipers are sometimes found in winter, but are quite uncommon, at least in Se. Louisiana; most winter in South America.

 

Expected dates in spring are March 25 to May 10 and in fall, July 25 to about October 15.  Extreme dates of  spring occurrence are  Mar. 7, 2000 (PW) at Port Fourchon  [Mar. 18, 1984 on Fourchon Rd. (DM,RDP)]  and May 22, 1971 at Grand Isle, and fall extremes are July 16, 1989 on Fourchon Rd (MM,NN,RDP) and Nov. 10,  1979 at Grand Isle.  Although winter records, which include: Feb. 11, 1975 at Grand Isle (RJN,BC), Dec. 1, 1991 in Lafourche Parish (DM,GG,RDP--10),  Dec. 29, 1991 at Venice (DM), Jan. 17, 1999 at Fourchon (DM,MM,PW--300), and 8 February 2004 (MM,RDP,PW) are not numerous, it  is clear from recent records and  studies in the rice fields of south-central  Louisiana indicate that the Stilt Sandpiper is a rather regular wintering species (J. La. Ornith. 1: 35 (1991)), which can sometimes be abundant, at least in south-central Louisiana.

 

BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER (Tryngites subruficollis)   Uncommon migrant

 

The Buff-breasted Sandpiper is found almost exclusively  on  the same short-grass fields often favored by Lesser Golden Plovers and Upland Sandpipers (which, do however, tolerate somewhat higher grass).   In this area, this habitat can be found at Lakefront Airport, the campuses of UNO, the Exxon field on Grand Isle, etc.  Very occasionally Buff-breasted Sandpipers are seen on a coastal mudflat or beach.   Although this species is rarely common, a maximum of 115 were seen at New Orleans on Sep. 20, 1980 (JR).

 

Expected dates in spring migration are April 5 to May 1; in fall they are August 10 to September 25.  Extreme dates are  spring:  Mar. 14, 1978 (JR) and May 16, 1980 (JR); fall:  July 24, 1982 (MM) and Oct. 25, 1970 (RDP)--all from New Orleans.

 

RUFF (Philomachus pugnax)    Accidental

 

Although there are now three records of  Ruff from Southeast Louisiana, the first two were from the same location,  the main campus of the University of New Orleans:  August 12-20, 1978 (MB, m.ob.), of which a photograph appeared in the Aug. 20 New Orleans Times-Picayune (ph-Fred Barry), and August 12, 1980 (NN, et al).  Both records have been ratified by the LOS Bird Records Committee.  The 1978 record was the second report for Louisiana and the first documented occurrence.  The most recent record is of one on Grand Isle on Aug. .....2001 (MM,RDP,PW; photos).

 

The Ruff is likely to occur only in basic (non-breeding) plumage.  It is a rather distinctive medium-sized shorebird with an upright stance,  a small head, thick neck, a bill which is pale at the base, and has white at the sides of the tail which is often seen as two "oval" patches.  Often it has considerable black blotching below.  The female ("Reeve") is about the size of a Lesser Yellowlegs, while the male is definitely larger.  The Reeve could be confused with a Pectoral Sandpiper, although it lacks the pectoral band.

 

SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodramus griseus)   Abundant migrant,        common winter resident, mostly on or near the coast.


Generally the Short-billed Dowitcher is the commoner of the two species of dowitchers in winter; it is  more likely to be found in saline (beach) or estuarine  situations than its congener.   Very few  Long-billed Dowitchers are encountered in the Grand Isle-Fourchon area, while in the rice fields of south-central Louisiana Long-bills dominate.   Identification by plumage is certainly possible (see, for example, Kaufman's Advanced Birding or Zimmer 2000),  but by far the safest approach is to flush any bird in question and, in the case of this species, to listen for the distinct, somewhat mellow, "tu-tu-tu.." call.   Frequently a flock will not call, whatever the provocation, and then one will have to rely on plumage characteristics, if a close look is possible.  As many  as 1000 have been recorded at one time:  April 9, 1994 (MM,DM,RDP,JR). 

 

According to Jack Reinoehl, the temporal distribution along the New Orleans lakefrton in migration during 1977-80 was April 3-May 19 and July 23-September 20.  On the Atlantic and Pacific coasts this species arrives earlier than its cousin in fall by 10-14  days; in Southeast Louisiana, for example, all dowitchers recorded in fall migration in 1990 before July 22 were Short-billed.  There are a number of mid to late June records of late spring migrants, early fall migrants, or non-breeding lingerering dowitchers, including Lonesome Island on June 26, 1981 (RDP) and Grand Island (Half Moon Island), June 13, 1982 (MM,DM,LO'M,RDP).  Other records from this intermediate period, specifically for this species, are   July 8, 1981 at Grand Isle (JR,MB) and four June records from Fourchon Rd., Lafourche Par: June 20, 1982  (RDP,DM,JR,MM), June 19, 1983 (RDP,DM,JN), June 17, 1984 (RDP,DM--75), and June 27, 1985 (GS,AS).; July 2, 2000 on N. Breton Is. (DM,RDP,PW); June 23, 2003 on Grand Terre Is. (CW,SW–3).

 

Expected dates are August 1 to (May 25), with extreme dates of occurrence being June 11, in 1930 (North Is., fide HCO) and in 1984 (Grassy Is., RDP,.NN,DM, LO'M).  The migration peaks are broadly mid-March to the end of May and late July into October. The June 11 dates are somewhat arbitrary, given the number of late June and early July records.

 

LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodramus scolopaceus)    Common migrant, regular to common winter resident

 

Although definitive identification is best made by call--in this case the sharp "keek" call of the Long-billed Dowitcher, this species can usually be identified in breeding plumage  by the fact that the red of the underparts extends well onto the lower belly, whereas the Short-billed Dowitcher has a white belly of greater or lesser extent.  Other characteristics are mostly unreliable, except the tail pattern, which can be used in any plumage.  The Short-billed Dowitcher may show a tail pattern consisting of widely spaced-thin bars, when seen at close range;  the present species shows thick black bars separated by thin white bars (not all individuals are distinguishable).  See Kaufman for details.  Long-billed Dowitchers are more common in fresh water situations, e.g., inland locations.

 

Expected dates are August 1 to June 5 and extreme dates of occurrence are July 11, 1975 and June 6, 1918 on the Chandeleur Islands (AMB).

 

COMMON SNIPE (Gallinago gallinago)   Fairly common in  winter.

 


The Common Snipe is typically found in wet fields, often in quite large numbers.  Though certainly not as common as they once were Common Snipes have increased somewhat on recent New Orleans Christmas Counts, after a minimum in the early 1970's.  Expected dates of occurrence are September 20  to April 20, while extreme dates are Aug. 5, 1966 at  (JK) and May 7, 1978 (JR), both at New Orleans.

 

AMERICAN WOODCOCK (Philohela minor)    Uncommon winter resident.

 

Information on the nesting of the woodcock in Southeast Louisiana is quite sketchy, being based on a single record of early nesting activity on  Jan. 29, 1890 at Covington (GEB)--Beyer's dog supposedly retrieved a young bird, and three summer records:  Aug. 9, 1958 at Reserve (DW--coll.), June 12, 1977 in the Honey Island swamp (LO'M, RDP), and June 12, 1988 at Franklinton (NN).  It is thus ordinarily encountered as a winter resident, typically in damp or swampy woodlands.

 

Expected date of arrival is somewhat difficult to specify, since although there are occasional late August records, the species is rarely encountered before about November 20.  The “expected” departure date adopted here is March 1, which may not be realistic.  Extreme dates are Aug. 25, 1969 at Grand Isle (RJN) and Sept. 7, 2003 at Grand Isle (RDP);  and, in spring,  April 17, 1929 at Grand Isle (fide HCO) and April 17, 1959 at Covington (JBK),

 

WILSON'S PHALAROPE (Phalaropus tricolor)   Uncommon migrant, significantly             more common in fall than spring

 

This is the common phalarope in Louisiana, especially in fall when it may be common near or on the coast.  In alternate plumage, the three species are unmistakeable, especially the more colorful females.  In basic plumage the differences are much more subtle, but Wilson’s is easily distinguished from its relatives, the Red-necked and Red Phalaropes, by its white tail and strong wing stripe.  Most birders know of the phalaropes' prediliction to engage in a circular or spinning feeding behavior and of the fact that the females are more brightly colored than the males.  Wilson’s Phalaropes are much more common in Southwest Louisiana.

 

Although expected dates are somewhat uncertain, they can be taken to be approximately August 15 to September 25 in fall and April 15  to May 15 in spring, although there are only about a dozen spring records.  Extreme dates in fall are July 9, 2003 at New Orleans (Mary Radford, Daavid D’Aquin) and  July 17, 1988 at ....(MM) and Oct. 22, 1978 at Grand Isle (SAG,MEL); in spring the extremes are April 9, 1994 (MM,DM,RDP,JR) and May 18, 1981 (NN,DM), both on Fourchon Road in Lafourche Parish near Grand Isle.  The single winter record was the first for Louisiana:  Feb. 7, 1982 on Fourchon Road (MM,DM,LO'M,RDP,SN,JR).

 

 RED-NECKED PHALAROPE )Phalaropus lobatus)   Casual to accidental fall visitor

 


The Red-necked Phalarope is one of the two species of phalaropes which are somewhat to strongly pelagic in winter, the other being the next species.  Although both may  winter in the gulf off Lousiana--especially the Red Phalarope, there are no records to support this conjecture (see, however, records off Alabama).  The five records of this species are all from Fourchon Road in Lafourche Parish, and seem to indicate that the most likely time to find Red-necked Phalaropes is in late September.  This species can be told from the next, once Wilson's is eliminated, by the long, fine,  bill and streaked back and wing coverts; the crown is dark as well.  The Red Phalarope has a stocky bill and a gray back.  The records are Sept. 18-25, 1976 (RH,RJS), May 22, 1977 (RJN), Sep. 20, 1981 (JK,LH), Se p. 12-18, 1982 (MM,NN,NLN,TD), and  Sep. 3, 1989 (RDP....).

 

RED PHALAROPE (Phalaropus  fulicaria)   Accidental in fall or winter; possibly     wintering on open water of gulf

 

There are two records of this species for Southeast Louisiana, of one found on Fourchon Road during the fall of 1989, present from........(CL,.....), and another on   Oct. 10, 1998, in Metairie on the south shore of Lake Pontchartarin (RDP).  For the possibility of wintering on the gulf, see Duncan and Havard, and Clapp, et al.

 

Suborder Lari

 

FAMILY Laridae  SKUAS, GULLS, AND TERNS

 

POMARINE JAEGER (Stercorarius pomarinus) Uncommon but perhaps  regular   pelagic migrant, strictly             offshore.  Probably present in winter as well.

 

There are at least 10 records of this skua, all but one  from April or May and all off the mouth of the Mississippi River where the continental shelf is reached only a few miles from shore.  This is consistent with the data presented in Williams (1965), which indicate that April and November have produced the greatest number of jaeger records along the northern gulf coast.   This small number of records is apparently  more reflective of lack of coverage than true.  Indeed there have been multiple records of this jaeger from oil plaforms on the continental shelf  near, or within the area of this checklist, during the study of use of these platforms by transgulf migrants during 1998-2000.   Some of these have been in winter, and records at that season in coastal  Sw. Louisiana, e.g., the Sabine CBC, have become regular.  In short, the Pomarine Jaeger is probably  the most likely jaeger off  Southeast Louisian at any season.  See Duncan and Havard (1980) and Rowlett (1980) for additional information.         Most records of jaegers in Louisiana and the nearby gulf coast have been of immature birds, whose identification is much more difficult than is generally believed.  The Pomarine is approximately the size of a Ring-billed Gull, bulky-looking, bull-chested, and with a somewhat labored flight, but these are mostly relative characters which can be appreciated only if one knows all the jaegers well.   The centrail tail feathers, when seen well, are diagnostic.  The Pomarine Jaeger has the most extensive white in the primary feather shafts of the jaegers.  Adults have a “helmeted” look due to the cap extending below the bill into the malar region, and a very dark breast band (Zimmer 2000).  See Kaufman (1990) and Harrison (1983)  for details on jaeger identification, and ......Ohlson for exhaustive information on all the skuas.

 


            The records are:  May 19, 1971 20 miles off South Pass (RJN), April 4, 1985, 20 miles SSE of Southwest Pass (MM--2), May 12, 1985, 20 miles SSE of Southwest Pass, and May 28, 1990, 17 miles SSW of South Pass (SWC,DD,MM?,DM,RDP--coll.).  Two Pomarine Jaegers were reported in Jefferson Parish on Aug. 27, 1992 (PY), in the wake of Hurricane Andrew and another was seen the next day (DM).  The most recent record is of a sub-adult seen and photographed on an LOS pelagic trip out of Venice on August 8, 1998,........(RDP,DPM,MM,DP,m.ob.); Nov. 6, 1999, 44 mi SE of Port Forchon (m.ob.--ph, fide SWC, DLD)......

 

PARASITIC JAEGER (Stercorarius parasiticus)   Uncommon to rare transient       offshore, occasional to accidental in winter

 

As indicated above, this has generally been thought, until recently, to  be the commonest of the jaegers on the northern gulf coast.  This supposition may have resulted in hasty identification of some birds.  Most individuals seen have been immatures (since the jaegers take up to four years to reach maturity) and pose a difficult identification problem.  Even in the case of adults some care is necessary especially with respect to the tail feathers, the tips of which are frequently broken.  See Finch, et al (1978), Harrison (1983),  Kaufman (1990), or Zimmer (2000) for identification details, and especially...Ohlson...Adult Parasitics have a rather gray breast band.  They also tend to have a lightish “nose” above the bill (Zimmer 2000).   The records are distributed as follows:  January (1), February (1), March (1), May (2), June (2), July (2), and September (1), making it somewhat difficult to say when one would be most likely to find Parasitic Jaegers along the Louisiana coast, although spring and fall are generally considered to offer better chances.  In spite of this fact, winter records are regular off Cameron, in southwest Louisiana, and summer records off the mouth of the Mississippi River are not infrequent.  One might examine the flocks of gulls and terms which follows shrimp and other fishing boats for an occasional jaeger.  Although few of the records given below have been acted on by the Louisiana Bird Records Committee, the July 13, 1981 record has actually been rejected because of the problem of indentification of  immature birds.  Every one of the records given below could be the object of at least some sceptism since generally speaking information on plumage is not available.  Hurricane Andrew, which struck the Southeast Louisiana coast on Aug. 26, 1993 spawned several records of unidentified jaegers, some of which may have been of this species.

 

The ten records of this species, all but one prior to Andrew, are as follows:  March 1, 1948, off the mouth of the Mississippi River; June 4, 1958, 45 miles SSW of Grand Isle (MM,BMM); September 12, 1961 at New Orleans (SAG), in the wake of Hurricane Carla; February 6, 1971 off Empire (RJN); May 3, 1972, 25 miles off South Pass (RJN); July 13, 1981, 5 miles off South Pass (NN,RDP); July 20, 1981, 20 miles off South Pass (AS); May 6, 1985, 20 miles SSE of South Pass (MM), and January 4, 1986 at Fourchon Beach (DM,RDP,JR,PM).  This latter record was the only one of a jaeger from shore in Southeast Louisiana prior to Hurricane Andrew, although there are several such records for Cameron Parish, including all three species.LOS pelagic trips  on.....and June 13, 1998...yielded an immature jaeger thought to have been of this species, but the possibility that it may have been of the next species has not been ruled out.  

 

LONG-TAILED JAEGER (Stercorarius  longicaudus)    Accidental on the gulf; a single      record

 


There are two certain records of this smallest of the jaegers.  The first was of a bird collected approximately 17 miles SSW of South Pass on May 28, 1990 (DLD,SWC,DM,MM?,RDP).   This record, the second for Louisiana, pointed up the need for cautious identification of immature jaegers, since all three may occur on the gulf anytime between spring and fall.  The other record is of one ......2002 The Long-tailed Jaeger has no breast band.

 

 

 

LAUGHING GULL  (Larus atricilla)   Abundant resident

 

The Laughing Gull is common throughout the year and can always be found along the coast or on Lake Pontchartrain.  It nests in large numbers on the barrier islands off the delta, especially in the Chandeleurs, and Curlew Island in particular.  In 1976 Portnoy found 15 colonies in Southeast Louisiana containing 19,000 breeing adults, with a maximum size of 5400.  As many as 11,000 breeding pairs have been counted on North Island.  Numbers recorded on New Orleans Christmas Counts have undergone a large increase (factor of 5?) since about 1965.

 

FRANKLIN'S GULL  (Larus pipixcan)   Uncommon to rare migrant in fall, rare to   casual in spring

 

Although this species is more or less regular in migration in Cameron Parish in Southwest Louisiana, it is rarely encountered in Southeast Louisiana.  Most recent records have been from the New Orleans lakefront,  primarily because of the good coverage there.  Identification in other than adult plumage requires some care, and mid-winter records are always suspect.  The photograph of the first winter bird in Farrand (1983) gives a good idea of what the non-breeding Franklin's Gull looks like, with a half-hood and prominant white eye crescents.  

The paucity of spring records makes assigning expected dates impossible,  and indeed there are only two records available to the author, April 12, 1961 at New Orleans (SAG) and April 16, 1980 near Golden Meadow (MM,JW).  In fall the expected dates are October 15 to November 10, with extremes of Sept. 12-21, 1974 at the Bonnet Carre Spillway (RJS) and Nov. 16, 1991 at New Orleans (MM,DM).  The winter records are January 26, 1932 at Larose (HCO--2), December 24, 1932 at Bayou des Allemandes (HCO), Dec. 3 (AS,GS) and Dec. 4, 1989-...(RDP,DM) at New Orleans--two different birds; Dec. 26, 1993 (......).; Jan. 2006 Grand Isle (SWC,DLD).   Oberholser listed six winter records for Louisiana, five of them representing his only observations of  Franklin's Gulls in the state.  Some scepticism seems appropriate in evaluating those records.

 

BONAPARTE'S GULL (Larus philadephia)   Uncommon to sometimes common winter resident

 

Bonaparte's Gulls can usually be found along the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain in winter, often near Seabrook Bridge, and occasionally along canals or over ponds, including sewerage ponds.  Otherwise they will be found near the coast, often in flocks of Laughing Gulls, frequently resting on the waters of the gulf.  Adults flash white primaries from above, and immatures are almost unmistakeable. The ratio of adults to immatures is rather high.  By April some Bonaparte's Gulls will have gained  the black hood.  One is reminded that a good place to look for the rare Little Gull, which has not been recorded in SE Louisiana,  is with flocks of Bonaparte's Gull. 

 


The same can be said of Common Black-headed Gull, which is very much overdue for Louisiana.

It has been found in several occasions in neighboring states and should be looked for diligently here.  It would be expected around small ponds, somewhat like this species.

 

Expected dates of occurrence are November 15 to April 5; extreme dates are Sep. 24, 1956 at New Orleans (BMM,CLE,HAJE) and May 29, 1988 (RDP).  There are two "summer" records:  June 6, 1933 on Breton Island (fide HCO) and ...... on Curlew Island (LO'M).

 

 

RING-BILLED GULL (Larus delawarensis)        Abundant  winter resident,            uncommon to rare in summer

 

The Ring-billed Gull is common on Lake Pontchartrain and along the coast, and is abundant at sanitary landfills.  Large aggregations of Ring-billed Gulls will often be found on shopping center parking lots or on low, wet grassy areas, as, for example, in Lafreniere Park in Metairie.  Indeed any such collection of gulls is guaranteed to be nearly 100% of this species;  it is normally present from October into April.  On New Orleans Christmas Counts, the maximum number is 98,211 in 1992.  Both this and the next species have shown huge increases on CBC's since the early 1970's, perhaps because of better coverage of garbage dumps.  In winter, the birds mainly spend the night on the lake (perhaps the river?) and feed in the dumps.  A few Ring-billed Gulls can usually be found throughout the summer , mostly on the coast.

 

The similar Mew Gull (or Common Gull, the European race) might be expected to occur occasionally in Louisiana.

 

HERRING GULL (Larus  argentatus)    Abundant winter resident, recently breeding in the   Chandeleurs

 

Like the Ring-billed Gull, the Herring Gull is abundant in winter  at local garbage dumps, but can be found on the New Orleans lakefront in considerable numbers as well, especially near Seabrook Bridge..  The New Orleans Christmas Count maximum is 48,261 individuals, set in 1992.  While all of the early writers report that the Herring Gull was most abundant on the Mississippi River at New Orleans, that is not now the case.  The reason may be the presence of garbage dumps which they now so strongly favor and the lack of fishing vessels using the New Orleans port.

From October into April the Herring Gull is common to abundant near open water, and there are a few records every summer.  Most birds, in winter or summer, are in immature plumage, not surprising for a "four-year" gull, but in fact the majority are first-year birds.

 

Since about 1990, Herring Gulls have been found breeding on the Chandeleurs, notably Curlew Island, presumably within the species, but apparently with Kelp Gulls as well.

 

THAYER'S GULL (Larus thayeri)      Rare winter resident

 


Because of the difficulty in identifing Thayer's Gull, it is not clear how regular is its occurrence in Southeast Louisiana.  The fact that five or more were seen in New Orleans dumps in late winter of 1982, when they were first discovered, show that in some winters, at least, they are  present in small numbers.   On the other hand, the distribution of records, with three in 1982, two in 1984, and five between 1987 and 2001, in spite of considerable searching, indicates that their occurrence is apparently  sporadic, though a contributing factor has been the closing of New Orleans landfills.  All  but two records (May, 1984 and Feb. 26, 1987) have been of first year birds, and the former record, though supported by such experts as California's Guy McCaskie, has been rejected by the LBRC.

 

Adult birds, which will rarely be seen here given the local rarity of the species and the fact that it takes four years to reach maturity, have a dark eye, but one must be careful in using that character since Herring Gull can appear to have a dark eye if not seen well.  Thayer's Gull has a noticeably rounded head  and a relatively slender bill which in first winter plumage is all or mostly black.  The primary and secondar feathers contrast very slightly if at all with the coverts and the overall plumage is typically a very pale buffy brown.  Seen from below, the primary feathers are fully transluscent in contrast to the Herring Gull, in which the outermost primaries are not.  The primaries have crescent-shaped barring on them and often there is a dark smudge around the eye.  Good sources of information on identification are Gosselin and David (1975), Lehman (1980), and Kaufman (1990); see also the photograph in American Birds 39: 183 (1985).  In theory, confusion could result not only from a petit female first year Herring Gull, but from an Iceland Gull or Glaucous-winged Gull, neither of which have been recorded even near Lousiana.

 

[Recent work cast some doubt on one or more of the Louisiana records of Thayer’s Gull, including one or more listed above.  One simply will have to await the outcome of further studies.]

 

The ten records, which span the period December 23 to March 29 (or later?) are:  February 14, 1982 at New Orleans (MM--photo,DM,NN); February 28, 1982 at New Orleans (SWC,MR,DM,MM,RDP--3?, one collected); March 14, 1982 at New Orleans (SWC,MR,VR,DM,MM,RDP--2?, one collected); May 9-13, 1985 on Fourchon Beach (NLN,BCV,DM,RDP--photo; rejected by LBRC); December 23, 1984 at New Orleans (DM,JH); February 26, 1987 (SWC,DLD,AS,GS) at Venice; March 29, 1987 at New Orleans (RDP); ...1988 CBC...etc DM,JH  Dec. 30, 1989 (SWC,DLD) in Arabi;  and February 24, 1991 at New Orleans (PL,SF,AS,GS)....

 

LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL  (Larus fuscus)       Rare winter visitor

 


One of the more remarkable examples of changing distribution or abundance among the birds which occur in Southeast Louisiana is that of the Lesser Black-backed Gull.  Not recorded until February 1982, there are now upwards of 30 records, from either New Orleans (lakefront or dumps) or the Lafourche--Grand Isle vicinity.  Most of these records have been of  adult birds, with perhaps one first-winter record, one or two second-winter record, and one thir-year sub-adult.   There are records for every month, distributed as follows: June (2), July (1), August (1),  September (2), October (1), November (2), December (1),  January (1), February (3), March (2), April (3), May (1). In recent years  this species has been found on the beaches of Cameron Parish in every September.  Lesser Black-backed Gull is the most likely of the dark-backed gulls to be seen in Southeast Louisiana, and is characterized by its moderate size (size of Herring Gull or smaller), yellow   legs, charcoal rather than black mantle, and red orbital ring. There is one mirror on P10.  While immature birds are reasonably distinctive, with a black bill, double secondary bar, and a tail which is white at the base, the reader is referred to Harrison or Grant for details.

 

The 25+ records include:  Feb. 14-28, 1982 at New Orleans (DM,m.ob.--photos MM,RDP), the first record for Louisiana; Mar. 11-Apr. 22, 1984  at Fourchon Beach (DM,NN,m.ob.--photos RDP--see AB.., a third winter bird;  Feb. 6, 1987 at New Orleans (RDP,NN);  Feb. 27, 1987 (DM,GS--same as previous?);  March 22, 1987 at New Orleans (RDP);  June 21, 1987 on Fourchon Beach (RDP); Jan. 9, 1988 at New Orleans...(second winter?);  an adult Feb. 6, 1988  (NN,RDP); June 5?, 1988 on Curlew Island (TP--second year);   Sep. 11-29, 1988 at Fourchon Beach (DM,GR,MM,NN,RDP);  Oct. 8, 1988 on Fourchon Beach (DM,RDP); . Grand Isle; July 8, 1990 on Fourchon Beach (DM,RDP,GC);  Aug. 26, 1990 ?; Nov. 11, 1990 ...(...--photo;2); ....CBC...

May 26, 1991 at Grand Isle (CS,PW,GC,DM,MM,RDP--first? summer); Nov. 16, 1991 at New Orleans (MM,DM--first year); St. Bernard Parish, on the New Orleans CBC on Dec. 21, 1991 (CM,DD,SWC--4); at the same dump on the 1992 New Orleans CBC on Dec. 26 (....--5)  ; Jan. 3, 1993 at Venice (.....)......?...winter 99-2000 DM, KVR--NO; PW,DPM--Venice; Apr-May 2001 (MM, et al); Jan. 2002 at Mandeville (SWC,DLD).  Venice CBC, Jan. 2, 2004 (RDP,EW, et al). Mar 6&, 2004, New Orleans (DM,PW).

 

CALIFORNIA GULL  (Larus californicus)     Occasional to accidental winter vagrant

 

There are three records for Southeast Louisiana of this gull from the Great Plains:  one seen briefly at the BFI (Crescent Acres) dump in Arabi on Feb. 18, 1989? (CM,SWC,DLD?), nother collected there on Dec. 26, 1992 (SWC,DLD....), and one on the  New Orleans CBC on Dec. 23, 2000 (MM,DM,GG).   For identification details, see Harrison (1983),  Grant (....), or Olsen and Larsson (2005).  Briefly, however, the California Gull is intermediate in size between Ring-billed and Herring Gulls, has a rounded-looking head, and a relatively slight bill.  In adult plumage, the mantle is distinctly darker than that of a Herring Gull, its legs are green to greenish-yellow, the eye is dark, and the bill usually has both black and red spots on the lower mandible.  Primaries P9 and P10 have mirrors.  There is not much of a window in the primaries.  First year birds are more difficult, but have the same slight build as the adult, a pink bill with black tip (which Herring may show), pinkish legs,  a wing pattern dominated by dark primaries and a dark secondary band, a dark tail with only slightly lighter coverts.

 

KELP GULL  (Larus dominicanus)   Sparse breeder on Curlew Island; hybridizing with Herring Gull

 


The discovery of  Kelp Gulls along the Southeast Louisiana coast, primarily on Curlew Island, beginning in the summer of 1989 is one of the most remarkable of all Louisiana bird records.  They were not known previously from the northern hemisphere.  Two birds, first identified as Lesser Black-backed Gulls, were seen and photographed  July 7-8, 1989 (LO'M, RDP).  The birds were strongly paired.  The following summer, on ....., two birds were again seen (LO'M--photos,JPG), and later that summer a single bird thought to be of this same species was seen in company with an adult Herring Gull and a juvenile gull (RM).  From the behavior of the three birds, it was thought that the juvenile gull might have been the result of mating between the "Kelp" and Herring Gulls.  In the summer of 1991, one Kelp Gull was seen, along with a first or second summer gull which may have been an immature Kelp Gull.  Both the adult and the immature bird were well photographed (LO'M).  The adult birds were Herring Gull sized, with very black mantles, a very massive bill, yellow feet, and a light  eye with a red orbital ring.  The initial identification of L. fuscus is ruled out by the build of the birds, the massive bill, and the mantle color (except for L. fusucs fuscus).  Yellow-footed Gull, the only other possibility, is ruled out by the orbital ring color (Guy McCaskie, pers. comm.).  During the summer of 1994, at least four adults were seen on Curlew I. on ..... (LO'M, SWC,DLD), along with several "intermediates", and a probably record came from  Baptiste Collette Bayou on Sept. ...., 1994 (Bob Russell).   LOS pelagic trip...  A pelagic trip out of Fourchon Pass on April 17, 1999 encountered at least two adult Kelp-type gulls, at least one evidently not a hybrid (SWC,DLD; JS–photos).   As of this writing (2004), it appears that there may no longer be any pure Kelp Gulls breeding on the Chandeleurs (DLS,SWC), although summer trips may turn up 30-40 hybrid “Chandeleur Gulls,” with mantle colors that range from barely darker than that of a Herring Gull to nearly as black as a pure Kelp (DLD,SWC,DM,RDP, et al).

 

Dittmann and Cardiff have documented the interbreeding of Kelp and Herring Gulls on Curlew Island since 1994.  During the past decade, Curlew has harbored one or more pure Kelp Gulls, perhaps several pure Herring Gulls, plus various hybrids, some with very dark backs, some very light mantled.  Some are F1 hybrids, others are backcrosses resulting from hybrids mating with Kelps.    In the late 1990s,  observations by Cardiff and Dittmann (....) made  it clear that there are or have been 2-4 pure Kelp Gulls, plus several Herring X Kelp hybrids at any one time.  These hybrids began  to show up along the Louisiana and Texas coasts.   In what is a conclusion to the Kelp Gull story almost as amazing as their discovery, is the present situation in which it appears that there are no longer any pure Kelp Gulls remaining in Louisiana,  leaving only the hybrid so-called “Chandeleur Gulls. (Dittmann and Cardiff). Trips to the islands in 2002 and 2003 have found up to 20 or more hybrids with a variety of combination of Kelp and Herring characteristics, but no Kelp Gulls.  In late May 2003, 20-22 hybrids were seen on Curlew, Gosier, and Breton Islands (RDP,MM,DPM).

 

It is at least conceivable that a dark-backed gull seen by Ted Parker on Curlew Island (and also reported as L. fuscus) in 1988 ??? was in fact a Kelp, and Kelp Gulls have been found breeding in Yucatan, where they may have been present since 1987 (Howell and Webb.....).  This could be the source of the Curlew Island birds (or vice versa), but hardly addresses their appearance in the northern hemisphere.

 

 

GLAUCOUS GULL  (Larus hyperboreus)      Casual winter visitor

 


Prior to the winter of 1981-82, the Glaucous Gull was the only species of rare vagrant gull which had been recorded in Southeast Louisiana.  There are now at least 16 records, distributed more or less evenly over the period 1961 to the present, although there have been only three records since 1985 and seven of the records occurred in the period 1982-85.  All records, save one, have been of first year birds.  The records are:  March 4, 1961 on Lake Pontchartrain Causeway (SAG,MEL); Jan. 10, 1971 at New Orleans (RJN,RDP,HDP,PS..); Feb. 12-20, 1972 at Mandeville (HDP,ANR); Dec. 7-31 at New Orleans (JR,m.ob.); Jan. 23-Feb. 28, 1982 (SWC,VR,DM, RDP, m.ob.--coll); Feb.7, 1982 at Grand Isle (MM,DM,LO'M,RDP,SP,JR); Feb. 27, 1982 at New Orleans (SWC,MM,DM,RDP,MR--2?, one collected LSUMZ 1033495); winter 1981-82 Grand Isle/Grand Terre?; April 17-21, 1984 on Fourchon Beach (VR, et al, DM,RDP); Dec. 1, 1984 at New Orleans (GO,m.ob.,RDP--photos AB  39: 177 (1985),PW,MM); ..1985 (PW--photo); ....Grand Isle (JH--photo); Dec. 8, 1991 at New Orleans (DM,NN--photos); Dec. 21, 1992 in St. Bernard Parish (CM,DD,SWC--photo); April 17, 1994 at Grand Isle (MM,NN, RDP,GG,PW,GS; photos).[GI CBC plus  June 1998 DPM,MM,RDP Baptiste Collette]

 

GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL  (Larus marinus)    Rare winter visitor

 

There are at least 27 records of this large dark-backed gull, including the first three records for Louisiana, all since the winter of 1981-82, averaging not much over one record per year.  All but two of the records have occurred between   Sep. 20 and April 13,   plus May 27 and June 18 records.  At least 7 records have been of birds in first basic plumage.   The records are:  Nov. 14, 1981 at New Orleans (DM,JR,NN,RDP--photos), the first record for Louisiana; Feb. 26, 1982 at New Orleans (MR,SC,MM,DM,RDP--first year); March 28, 1982 at New Orleans (MM--photos AB 36: 862 (1982),DM,m.ob., first year); Jan. 5, 1985, Fourchon (RJS,DM?); Aug.--Sep. 20, 1987 on Fourchon Beach (RDP,PW,GS,MM--photos RDP,MM,GS);  Mar. 28, 1988 Fourchon (MM-photo?); Oct. 8, 1988 on Fourchon Beach (DM,RDP)?; Mar. 26, 1989 at Fourchon Beach (RDP,DM,LO'M--photo?) ; Nov. 19?, 1989 on Fourchon Beach (JH--photo?); Jan. 13, 1991 (DM,MM,NN,RDP) at Fourchon Beach; Oct. 27, 1991, Fourchon (RDP,NN); Dec. 1-7, 1991 Fourchon (DM,RDP,GG,AS,GS);  Dec. 21, 1991 in St. Bernard Parish (CM,DD,SWC--photo);   .... 1992, St. Bernard Parish (DM,JD);  Jan. 30, 1994 on Fourchon Beach (NN,RDP...), a first year bird; May 27, 1994 at Grand Isle (NN,RDP), an adult (ph); a first year bird at Seabrook Bridge on L. Pontchartrain in July and August...., 1994 (DM, m.ob.).; an adult at Seabrook Bridge  Dec. 4-?, 1994 (RDP, et al), and a first year bird on Fourchon Beach on March 4, 1995 (CS,PW--ph., vid.)  97-98.....RDP, MM, etc.; Jan. 17, 1999, Fourchon (RDP--video).  Feb. 6, 2000 Fourchon Beach (PW,JS).  Nov. ??, 2002 Fourchon Beach (MM,DM); 18 June 2003 (SWC, DLD, et al), Port Eads--first year bird; first year bird 27 Feb. (DM,RDP,PW–ph,video)  and ....Mar, 2005 (RDP–ph, video) at mouth of Belle Pass; !3 April 2005 (MM), first basic, Grand Terre I.

 

The Great Black-backed Gull is almost unmistakeable in either plumage in which it is likely to be seen.  The blackness of the mantle is rivaled in this area only by Kelp Gull, whose status is now very uncertain.  The pink legs separate it from Kelp Gull and the smaller Lesser Black-backed gull.  In first winter plumage, the very white head contrasting with a boldly checkered mantle plus the massive black bill are distinctive   See Harrison,  Grant, or Olsen and Larsson.  One should, of course, always keep in mind Slaty-backed, Western, Yellow-footed, and of course Kelp Gull when examining large dark-backed  gulls.

 

 

 

BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE (Rissa tridactyla)    Accidental

 

Although there are well over a dozen records of Black-legged Kittiwakes for Louisiana, there are but two for Southeast Louisiana, all offshore.   All records have been of immatures.  The records are:  Jan. 4, 1972, 20-30 miles off the Mississippi delta (RJN,HDP) and April 1, 1985, 5 miles south of Southwest Pass (MM).

 


 SABINE'S GULL  (Xema sabini)       Accidental vagrant

 

There are four  records of Sabine's Gull for southeastern Louisiana during approximately the last quarter-century.  The first was  of a bird seen at Barataria Pass, at the east end of Grand Isle, on September 11, 1976 (RH,RJS); this record has been ratified by the LOS Bird Records Committee.   The second record, of one photographed on Curlew Island, on ...... (LO'M), has not been passed on by the BRC.   The third record was of one briefly seen at South Shore Harbor, L. Pontchartrain, on ....   PY, and the final record ...PW Miss. R. near spillway 9/7/98 There are also at least two records for coastal Mississippi.

 

GULL-BILLED TERN  (Sterna nilotica)      Uncommon resident, nesting on barrier             islands

 

The Gull-billed Tern breeds primarily on the barrier islands off the Mississippi River delta, in rather small numbers.  In 1976 Portnoy found only one colony  in Southeast Louisiana, on Curlew Island, harboring 6 adults; two colonies in Atchafalaya Bay had 128 adults.  This observer has seen a least a few colonies on Curlew on nearly every visit, with numbers typically totalling 20-25 birds.   During the summers of 1981 and 1982 over 60 pairs nested on Grassy Island off the mouth of the Pearl River (LO'M,RDP,MM,DM).   None were found there by Portnoy.  Its nest is a scrape in the sand or shell detritus.      There was previously only one nesting record away from the coast, on spoil at the Rigolets, but more recently Gull-billed Terns have been found breeding on roof-tops, specifically  the UNO Assembly Center and Clearview Shopping Center in Metairie (Smalley, et al 1991).  They bred  regularly in the latter location for on the order of a decade,  and could be  seen  feeding in the nearby drainage canals between May and August.  Since May, 1995, when 80-90 pairs were present (167 counted), the colony has numbered around 120-150 adults....On April 30, 2000 the number of adults peaked at 347 and on June 2 there were at least 121 fledglings (RDP).  On May 29, 2001 approximately 300 adults were present.  Yaukey observed about 100 nests on the UNO Assemby Center in late May 2001 as well, and they also appeared to be nesting at Lake Forest Shopping Center that summer (RDP).

 

During the winter Gull-billed Terns can be found near the coast in small numbers.  .  In summer often one or two will be found at the ponds in Bayou Sauvage NWR on US 11 in New Orleans East.

 

CASPIAN TERN  (Sterna caspia)    Common resident, nesting on sand strand habitat

 

Although the Caspian Tern can be found on Lake Pontchartrain, it is most often found along the gulf coast.  Although it is common, its numbers rarely approach those of the Royal Tern.  Caspian Terns nest in sand-strand habitat on the barrier islands, in colonies numbering from a few dozen to 100 or so adults.  Two colonies were found in Southeast Louisiana by Portnoy in 1976, with a total of nearly 200 individuals.

 

ROYAL TERN  (Sterna maxima)   Very common to abundant resident, nesting on    barrier islands

 


The Royal Tern breeds in colonies of several thousand birds on the barrier islands, mainly at the lower end of the Chandeleur chain.  Traditional areas of concentration have been Stake Island (in 1990 part of Curlew Island).  Estimates of numbers have varied widely from year to year, reflecting changes in the islands (Stake and Curlew were washed away by Hurricane Camille in 1969), the effects of summer storms on nesting success, and differences in  technique and expertise of the observers.  Highest recorded numbers are 10-15,000 young on Curlew in 1975 (JV) and 29,000 breeding adults on May 10, 1985 (RDP).  Arthur (1931) estimated 27,000 breeding Royal and Sandwich Tern nests on Grand Gosier Island, based on his conclusion that the nest density was one nest per square foot.  This writer has counted 10 nests per square meter, which agrees very well with Arthur's estimate.  Portnoy  found about 16,000 adults on the Chandeleurs in 1976.

In 2003, following Isidore and Iris in the fall of 2002, there were 25,000 or more nests of Sandwich and Royal Terns on S. Gosier Island (DM,MM,RDP), indicating perhaps twice that many breeding adults.  The number of pairs of Royal Terns may have been as high as 8-10,000.

The Royal Tern can be found on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain, especially east of Lakefront Airport anytime other than the height of the breeding season, and on the coast throughout the year.

 

SANDWICH TERN  (Sterna sandvicensis)    Abundant nester on barrier islands,      uncommon to rare along the coast year round

 

The Sandwich Tern breeds in huge mixed (but stratified) colonies with the Royal Tern on the barrier islands, but principally in the lower Chandeleurs.  Portnoy found about 47,000 adults in Southeast Louisiana, including 45,000 in two colonies on Curlew Island.  Maximum estimates are 30-50,000 young in the summer of 1987 (JV) and 49,000+ breeding adults on May 10, 1985 (RDP), both on Curlew Island.  This writer estimated less than 25,000 Sandwich Terns on Curlew on July 7-9, 1989, plus up to 20,000 young.  For further details on these colonies, see Purrington (1989?).  On 26 May 2003, there were perhaps 15,000 breeding pairs on S. Gosier Island, in the nesting season following Isidore and Iris.

Outside of the breeding season, or away from the islands, the Sandwich Tern is often difficult to find.  Although winter records are relatively scarce Sandwich Terns are often very common on the gulf beach (Fourchon, Grand Isle) after early  July,  and well into late summer. They arrive on the breeding grounds in early April, and can be found in small numbers along the coast at that time.   There are only two New Orleans records:  Dec. 26, 1982 (BC,RJN) and Aug. 16, 1985 (RDP), latter associated with Hurricane Danny.

 

[ROSEATE TERN  (Sterna dougallii)  ] HYPOTHETICAL

 

Through the mid-1980s, there were at least three reports of Roseate Tern from Southeast Louisiana and at least two sight records from southwest Louisiana.  None of these records was considered adequate to add the  species to this list or to the state list and the LBRC has recently removed Roseate Tern from the official list of Louisiana birds.  The recent record of first or second summer bird  at the mouth of Belle Pass, Lafourche Par. on ..... (DM,MM,RDP,PW) is about as definitive as a sight record can be, but no photographs were obtained and the record is not likely to be accepted the the LBRC. 

 


 Roseate Tern certainly ought to occur here occasionally and there are Texas records to support this conclusion.  See Kaufman for extensive details on identification.  Oberholser, in The Birdlife of Louisiana (1938) mentions a report by Stanley C. Arthur (Arthur, 1918) of one having been collected at Grand Chenier in February 1915, but a close reading of Arthur's publication must engender a great deal of scepticism about any record in it.    The reports of this species for Southeast Louisiana are:  Sep. 10-13, 1961 at New Orleans (SAG), in the wake of Hurricane Carla; Sep. 11, 1976 at Grand Isle (RH,RJS), this a bird heard giving its "chivvy" call;  and Elmer's  Island near Grand Isle on April 15, 1984 (fide VR).  The most recent record is of one at the mouth of Belle Pass, Lafourche Par., on.......

 

COMMON TERN  (Sterna hirundo)     Common late spring  migrant, uncommon to rare      winter visitor

 

Although the Common Tern is very strongly coastal, there are occasional New Orleans records.  This tern is only common on the gulf beach, and only from late May through perhaps late July, with almost all individuals being in basic plumage, i.e., either young or non-breeding adults.  The Common Tern is also present along the coast in winter in very small numbers, but often will be missed on a coastal trip in that season.  There is one breeding record, June 11, 1971 on Monkey Island at the lower end of Chandeleur Island (RJN,MM,RDP--photo), but adults in alternate plumage have been seen on the islands in summer.  On June 21-23, 1973, three adults were seen along with several probable young on Curlew Island (RJN,AWP,RBH,HDP).  Three were also seen June 19-20, 1975 in the Chandeleurs (fide JS), but this is during the period when non-breeding birds are still relatively common.  According to Oberholser, Bent reported 25 pairs on Battledore Island on June 21, 1910, but later withdrew the record.  Recent New Orleans records include Sep. 24, 1977 (JR), Sep. 20, 1979 (JR), and Nov. 22, 1981 (RDP, et al).  The maximum concentration has been 300, on May 9, 1982 (RDP,MM,NN,DM) and August 12, 1990 (RDP....).  Late July numbers include 68 on Fourchon Beach on July 22, 1990 (RDP,NN), 75-100  there on July 28, 1991 (RDP,GC), and 94 at  the same location on Aug. 26, 1990 (.....).

The most obvious distinguishing features are the dusky wing-tips (primary feathers) in flight, short tail (with outer web of outer feather dark), and a strong carpal bar, prominent in young and less so in adults.  In young and non-breeding birds, the "winter" head pattern is distinctive (though see the Arctic Tern).  There is not much difficulty in distinguishing this species from Forster's Tern, though inexperienced observers should be very careful since young Forster's Terns may have a short tail and dusky wing tips.  Distinguishing Common from Arctic Tern is more difficult, but relevant only if one is trying to turn up the latter species, which has not yet been recorded in Southeast Louisiana.  One should consult Kaufman (1990) for details.  In breeding plumage note the short tail, the dusky primary feathers, and usually  a reddish-orange rather than a yellow-orange bill.  It appears that the most likely time to find Arctic Tern in Louisiana is June.

Generally speaking, Common Terns are common on the coast only from late May through July, although they may be expected into September.  Most, but not all of the "summing" birds are in immature plumage, presumably mostly first summer birds.  They are relatively uncommon throughout the winter,  but always present.

 

FORSTER'S TERN  (Sterna forsteri)    Common resident

 

The Forster's Tern is the common small tern of Southeast Louisiana, easily found on Lake Pontchatrain, anywhere in the marsh, and even along residential canals in New Orleans East and Metairie.  It breeds on marshy islands and on the periphery of the Mississippi delta (see Portnoy, 1977).  Several thousand nest on Grassy Island, for example.

 


 LEAST TERN  (Sterna antillarum)    Common to abundant summer resident

 

The Least Tern breeds wherever appropriate habitat is to be found--including shopping center rooftops!  Rooftop nesting seems to be increasing as natural habitat near the city disappears or is subject to disturbance.  In many cases these rooftop nesting birds feed in nearby drainage canals which carry residential and even industrial runoff, clearly a cause for concern.  On the barrier islands, a typical colony will contain a few hundred breeding adults.  Winter records are usually the result of misidentification.

Expected dates are April 1 to September 1, while extreme dates of occurrence are March 18, 1984 at Grand Isle (RDP,DM) and Sept. 20, 1979.  There is one credible winter record, Jan. 22, 1932 at Octave Pass (HCO).

 

BRIDLED TERN  (Sterna anaethetus)      Rare, but regular offshore in summer

 

Bridled Terns are regular in summer in small numbers off coastal Southeast Louisiana, usually at least 30 miles offshore.   Although the pelagic records span the period May 5 to September 29 (2004), Bridled Terns are most common in midsummer.   Often they will be found  at or near the "rips" or ocean fronts 10-50 miles offshore, where matts or rafts of sargassum occur, often  resting on boards or pieces of styrofoam along these grasslines at the  interfaces between blue and green water.  Many of the Bridled Terns are young, which are not pictured well in many of the guides.

The records prior to the summer of 1992 were:  July 24, 1977, 30 miles off  Empire (NN); July 21, 1979, 70 mi SSE  of Grand Isle (JK,RDP--photos,MM,NN,JS,MB,JR, et al--6+); Sept. 2?, 1983, 19 miles SSE of South Pass (RDP--photo); June 10, 1985, 20 miles SE of Southwest Pass (MM); Aug. 31, 1985 at 28o20'N, 90o50'W (MM); May 28, 1989, 20 miles SSE of South Pass (RDP,MM,DM--6); and  June 1, 1990? 17 miles SSW of South Pass (RDP,DM,SWC,DLD--30).   In the late summer of 1992, Hurricane Andrew struck the Louisiana coast just west of the checklist area, producing records of Bridled Tern inland at Lafitte National Park on Aug. 27? (DM).    Tropical Storm Isidore produced several records on Sept. 26, 2002 on the Mississippi R. and on L. Pontchartrain and Hurricane Lili, a week later, produced at least 3-4 more (MM,DM,NLN).   Peak count is 59 25-50 miles SSE of South Pass on May 27, 1995......Bridled Terns are usually most common after the breeding season.

 

The earliest spring record is May 5, 2004 (SWC,DLD, et al) off the mouth of the Mississippi R.and the latest is from Hurrican Lili:  Oct. 3?, 2002 at New Orleanss.

 

Finally, there is an old record attributed to H.C. Olberholser some time after June 2, 1932 from Grand Gosier Island, and reported in the Eleventh Biennial Report of the Department of Conservation for 1932-33.   Oberholser himself does not mention it in his The Birdlife of Louisiana 

 

SOOTY TERN  (Sterna fuscata)     Local breeder on the Chandeleurs

 


Until the 1960's there had been only one breeding record of the Sooty Tern in Louisiana, that on June 5, 1933 on Curlew Island (HCO).  Then, in 1964 and 1967 nesting records were obtained on Curlew and Stake Islands, respectively (SAG,RJN,RDP,et al) and there is now a small, but stable colony of Sooty Terns breeding near the lower end of thee Chandeleur Islands (Purrington, 1970).  As many as 67 adults and at least 19 nests have been counted on a single census of the islands. After Hurricane Camille, which washed away Stake and Curlew Islands, the colony shfited to Monkey Island at the end of Chandeleur Island, along with the huge Royal-Sandwich Tern colonies.  When Curlew  re-established itself (it has now, as of 1991, grown to include the sites of Stake I. on the north end and Errol I. on the south), the colonies returned to Curlew.

In 1998 Hurricane Georges virtually washed Curlew Island away, but in the summer  of 2000, terns were breeding on Curlew and there were two Sooty Tern colonies, totalling 36 adults.

Sooty Terns generally nest near the main tern colonies, often close to or mixed in with small Black Skimmer colonies, and almost invariably build a nest in or under the edge of some brushy or shruby vegetation, although the nest is a scrape in the sand.  Banding operations on Curlew I. in the late 1970's resulted in the banding of a number of nestlings and the netting of birds banded on the Dry  Tortugas (HHJ,LO'M).  One banded in the Tortugas on June 12, 1940 was found dead near Pontchatoula on Aug. 10, 1940 (fide JHL).

Occasionally the Sooty Tern is encountered on pelagic trips off the mouth of the river, as on May 28, 1989 (DM,MM,RDP) and on June 1?, 1990 (RDP,MM?,DM,SWC,DLD), about 20 miles off South Pass.  There are several New Orleans records, all storm-related, including one 8-9 miles from the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain, seen from the Causeway bridge on Aug. 30, 1977 (HP), and two at the east campus of UNO on July 11, 1979 (MB, m.ob.).  Sooty Terns were found dead following Hurricane Andrew's landfall on Aug. 26, 1992 at......As many as 150 were estimated in the wake of T.S. Isidore on Sept. 26, 2002 (Farnsworth, DM,PW,RDP) and  5-7 were seen after Lili, October 3, 2002 (MM,DM,RDP,PW).  Only once has Sooty Tern been seen from land in Southeast Lousiana, except during storms:  May 30, 1992 at Grand Isle (JK,DR).   Extreme dates are May 3, 1972, 20 miles off South Pass (RJN) and September 16, 1961 at Leeville, found dead following Hurrican Carla.

 

 

 

BLACK TERN  (Clidonias niger)      Common migrant, abundant on the coast, and   regular non-breeding summer resident on the coast

 

Although the Black Tern is nominally a migrant through Southeast Louisiana, it is actually the commonest bird out of sight of land on the gulf in the summer and numbers as high as 2500-3000 have been found resting on shore in late July (July 28, 1991 on Fourchon Beach--RDP,GC).  Most, but by no means all, of these birds will be in immature or non-breeding plumage.

Expected dates of occurrence are May 5 to October 1; extreme dates are April 8, 1984 at Grand Isle (MM,DM,NN,RDP,ME?) and Nov. 8, 1985 at New Orleans (NN).  There are four winter records:  Jan. 23, 1932 at Pass-a-Loutre (HCO), Jan. 16, 1959 at Grand Isle (ART), Nov. 22 1970 on the Empire Canal (RJN,LO'M), and Feb. 6, 1971 at the same location (RJN,RJS).

 

BROWN NODDY  (Anous stolidus)      Accidental

 


There is one  definite record of Brown Noddy for Southeast Louisiana, that of a bird found alive at a Norco, LA refinery on in September 1961, in the wake of  Hurricane Carla (...) and beautifully photographed at close range; the record will be publihsed in the Journal of Louisiana Ornithology.   The other records of  Noddy are  of one seen in an aerial survey on Oct. 25, 1980, 220 km offshore (Wayne Hoffman, pers. comm.), and one or more that were recorded on the eastern edge of L. Pontchartrain in the wake of Tropical Storm Isidore on Sept. 26, 2002 (Jerry Carlisle).  At this point, the record has not been acted upon by the L.O.S. Bird Records Committee and it is doubtful whether Black Noddy could be ruled out  Brown Noddies might stray into the northern gulf in the summer, but the most likely scenario would involve a tropical storm.

 

BLACK SKIMMER  (Rhyncops nigra)      Common resident along the coast

 

The Black Skimmer is largely coastal in its distribution, and breeds primarily on spoil areas, sand spits, and barrier islands.  It is, however, sometimes seen inland near New Orleans and at the Bonnet Carre Spillway.  Recently Black Skimmers have begun breeding in small numbers on shopping center rooftops, notably the Lake Forest and Clearview Shopping Centers.  The first such nesting was noted in 1980 (MM).  Well-known nesting sites are on Grassy I., several places in the Chandeleurs (especially Curlew and Grand Gosier Islands),  and on Fourchon Beach, where human disturbance is extreme.  Flocks containing up to 2000 individuals might be encountered on the sand spits bordering Barataria Pass in winter (including the east end of Grand Isle) or on Fourchon Beach.

 

Family Alcidae  ALCIDS

 

ANCIENT MURRELET  (Snynthliboramphus antiquum)        Accidental

 

In one of the more remarkable of all records for this area, a moribund Ancient Murrelet was picked up from the waters of Lake Pontchartrain by fishermen on May 6, 1954 (Lowery 1974).  This, it probably goes without saying, is the only record for Louisiana, indeed, the only confirmed record of an alcid.

 

[MARBLED MURRELET (Brachyrapmphus marmoratus) HYPOTHETICAL]

 

An individual of this species, or perhaps more likely  its close relative the Long-billed Murrelet  (M. perdix)--previously considered a subspecies of Marbled Murrelet)-- was apparently salvaged on Grand Isle or on nearby Grand Terre I, based on photographs shown to Mac Myers on 13 April 2005 by an employee of the LWFC.

 

 

ORDER Columbiformes

 

Family Columbidae  PIGEONS AND DOVES

 

ROCK DOVE  (Columba livia)     Very common resident, breeding

 

The introduced Rock Dove, native to Eurasia, is a familiar resident of cities and farms.

 

BAND-TAILED PIGEON  (Columba fasciata)        Accidental

 


That there are three records of this pigeon of the western forests is rather remarkable.  The Band-tailed Pigeon is slightly larger than the Rock Dove, and has a banded tail, a white stripe on the nape, and a dark-tipped yellow bill.  The records are:  Jan. 21, 1954 at Napoleonville (John Thibaut),  Dec. 1, 1969--a bird found dead on the roadside on US 11 in eastern New Orleans, and one seen at Pilottown on Dec. 6, 1981 (DM,JW).

 

EURASIAN  COLLARED DOVE   (Streptopelia decaocto) Introduced; common and increasing

 

 

Although Eurasian Collared Dove was first found at Ft. Pike  on ......(MM,NN), collared doves are becoming increasingly common all over the area (indeed, all the way to the Pacific coast)  and are likely a  permanent part of our avian landscape, for better or worse.   They first became common in the vicinity of Audubon Zoo, where they have been seen since about 1989? (fide James Beck ...),  .  Their presence in Louisiana may be due to the combination of range expansion from Florida and direct introduction, or perhaps only one of those explanations.   The report that they have been present at Ft. Pike for as long as 22 years (fide RC; Am. Birds 47 (1993) 422), if true,  suggests that they were introduced there, since the range expansion is a much more recent phenomenon.  Observers should be careful not to confuse this species with the Ringed Turtle Dove or "Domestic Dove" (S. "risoria") which has no wild population.  See Smith, American Birds 41 (1987) 1370. 

 

The call is a “coo, coo, cook!” but there is also a “growl” or “mew” call.

 

WHITE-WINGED DOVE  (Zenaida asiatica)       Uncommon to  rare in winter, mostly        in the delta

 

The White-winged Dove is a faily regular straggler to the area from the southwest, and is take by dove hunters.  It prefers open brushy habitat and is most frequently found near the coast and especially in the Boothville-Vencie area.  The maximum is  290? on the Dec. 29, 2001 Venice Christmas Bird Count (RDP, et al), all essentially in one flock.  New Orleans records have become more common in recent years including one in a Metairie backyard--SP,RDP)[winter 1994, including Apr. 9-10, 1994, Metairie], up to 15 in uptown New Orleans (PW–2004), and for the Reserve area.  There were regular summer records at Delta NWR at Pilottown during the late 1960's, and a confirmed nesting there in 1971.  White-winged Doves had summered there in 1969, staying until Aug. 17 (when Hurricane Camille struck), were present until June the following year, and on June 19, 1971, definite proof of nesting was obtained.  The other summer records are June 29, 1951 at Grand Isle (LGG) and a pair on Breton Island on June 13, 1967 (JMV).   Individual  at Grand Isle on May 22, 1993 (PW,CS) and May 27, 2001 (PW) were very late.

Expected dates are October 20 to April 1, while extreme dates of occurrence, except for the records listed above, are Aug. 26, 1967 at New Orleans (JMH) and May 2,  1980 in Metair (SP,RDP).

 

MOURNING DOVE  (Zenaidura macroura)     Very common to abundant resident

 

This ubiquitous and familiar bird breeds commonly in both rural and residential areas and is often abundant on levees, in brushy fields, and waste areas.


PASSENGER PIGEON  (Ectopistes migratorius)     EXTINCT

 

Le Pae du Pratz reported the Passenger Pigeon abundant along the Mississippi in 1758 and Audubon found it abundant in Louisiana in 1826.  Other records include Nov. 23 and Dec.5, 1874 at Covington (GEB), and another Covington record on Jan. 26, 1895.  There were no Louisiana records after 1904.

 

INCA DOVE  (Columbina Inca)        Accidental, but established on Grand Isle

 

The initial record of this small dove from the southwest U.S. and Mexico is of one in St. John Parish on Oct. 26, 1992 (RJS).  Recently, beginning in the late 1990s (PW), Inca Doves  have become established on Grand Isle (PW, et al), where as many as a dozen have been seen at one time (Boby Santini).  A few  can often be found in the vicinity of the Grand Isle school, year round, and in the spring of 2004 4-5 were found at another location near the Grand Isle Cemetery.   Inca Doves had established themselves in Southwest Louisian in recent years, and seem to be expanding their range rapidly to the east.  Evidence of nesting was found on May 6, 2001 when two recently fledged young were seen on Grand Isle (PW,MM).  On April 17, 2004 a bird was sitting on a nest on Grand Isle (fide RDP)..  On Sep.....2003 an Inca Dove was found on Bayou Sauvage NRW.

 

COMMON GROUND DOVE  (Columbina passerina)     Rare winter visitor

 

Given the infrequency with which the Ground Dove is seen in Southeast Louisiana, statements about changes in abundance are hazardous.  On the other hand, it does seem to be reported less frequently, even when habitat changes are taken into account.  Most records come from near the coast, at Venice or Grand Isle, in fields or in  brushy, waste habitat, and usually in the fall.  Mid-winter records are quite uncommon.  There are a few sumer records, possibly indicating nesting, including June 30, 1963 at Ft. Jackson (SAG) and a number of occasions in the Reserve area, where it has been found breeding (RJS,MW).

 

Expected dates for wintering birds are October 10 to April 20, with extremes of Sep. 24, 1977 (JR) and May 24, 1958 at Reserve (SAG).[9/19/04 DM,PW? South Point]

 

 ORDER Psittaciformes

 

Family Psittacidae

 

MONK PARAKEET  (Myiopsitta undulatus)     INTRODUCED

 

Rather than agonize over whether Monk Parakeet should be listed or not, we simply note that it has  become established, in many locations in the New Orleans area, generally where there are palm trees.   Examples are S. Claiborne Ave., Mirabeau and Paris Avenues, the Tulane campus, and so on.  The earliest known occurrence was in the late 1960s in Metairie Playground.

 

CAROLINA PARAKEET  (Consuropsis carolinensis)    EXTINCT

 


Ridgway (Bull. U.S. Nat. Mus. No. 50, Part VII, p. 148) mentions the occurence of the Carolina Parakeet in New Orleans.   For information on the historical status of this parakeet in Louisiana, see McKinley.....     

            

ORDER Cuculiformes

 

Family Cuculidae

 

BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO  (Coccyzus erythropthalmus)     Uncommon to quite              uncommon migrant

 

The Black-billed Cuckoo is never common in migration, and is perhaps less so in fall than spring.  It is not uncommon for one to miss this species in a given season.  Interestingly enough, it breeds as close to the region as the lower Appalacians and Oklahoma and, in fact, there is now a breeding record for Louisiana, in the Atchafalaya basin in the summer of 1991.

 

Expected dates of spring migrants are April 15 to May 20 and in fall approximately August 20 to October 20, though the dates are less certain.[4/17/94]  The latest date of occurrence in spring is May 20, obtained in 1940  (TDB) and in 1980 (NN), both at New Orleans.  In fall the extremes are Aug. 11, 1964 (ET) and Nov. 14, 1965 (JK), again both at New Orleans.

 

YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO  (Coccyzus americanus)    Common to sometimes   abundant migrant

 

In migration the Yellow-billed Cuckoo is at times the most common bird in the coastal woods, sometimes numbering dozens to hundreds at Venice or Grand Isle, and especially in the more extensive coastal woodlands of southwest Louisiana.  On the other hand, there are strong indications that it has declined greatly in numbers in Southeast Louisiana as a breeding bird, mirroring a general decline in North America.  This occasionally parasitic cuckoo nests from low bushes (including black mangrove on the barrier islands) to as high as 20 feet above the ground.  It is  especially fond of hairy caterpillars.  Peak numbers in migration are 200+ at Grand Isle on May 7, 1983 (RDP,MM,NN).  Large numbers have been seen in spring migration as late as May 21 (1995-NLN).  There is some indication of a decline, based on numbers seen in migration.

Expected dates of occurrence are April 15 to November 5 and extreme dates are March 30?, 2001, Abita Springs,   and Dec. 1, established in both 1973 (RJS) and 1974 (MW) at the  Bonnet Carre Spillway.  There are three out-of-season records:  March 4, 1957 at Reserve (RJS,MW,RDC), either a bird which overwintered or an extraordinarily early migrant; .....[NO CBC--NLN?]; and Dec. 31, 1987 at Venice (....).

 

[SMOOTH-BILLED ANI  (Crotophaga ani)  ]  HYPOTHETICAL

 


The case of the Smooth-billed Ani is one of the more interesting in the annals of Southeast Louisiana birding.  There are five records for Louisiana, all from Southeast Louisiana, but only one since the first decade of the twentieth century.  There were two specimens taken, but neither is extant, and it is not clear whether either was examined by a competent ornithologist.  H.L. Ballowe, who obtained four of the records between Diamond (just north of Port Sulphur) and Buras, never recorded the Groove-billed Ani in the delta, where it is now regular  in winter.  For these reasons, it seems advisable to be cautious about accepting the records given below, and recently the LOS Bird Records Committee has ratified the decision taken by Lowery in the last edition of his Louisiana Birds, to remove the species from the state list.  The Smoth-billed Ani breeds in south Florida and has wandered to the Florida panhandle and even as far north as New Jersey, so its appearance here would not be out of the question.  Oberholser (1938) mentioned that that the 1893 specimen was in the Tulane University Museum, but did not indicate whether he examined it or not.  In any case, it is no longer in that collection.  G.E. Beyer (Beyer, et al, 1908, p. 443) reported it as of  occasional occurrence in St. Bernard Parish, without dates.  The range of this species has contracted drammatically in Florida in recent years.

 

The suposed records are:  July 18, 1893 at Diamond (HLB--coll.), Jan. 29, 1906 at Buras (HLB), Jan. 14, 1908 at Buras (HLB), Feb. 8, 1908 at Buras (HLB--4), and Jan. 30, 1952 at Delta NWR (CLF--dead).

 

GROOVE-BILLED ANI  (Crotphaga sulcirostris)     Uncommon to rare in winter, mostly near the coast*; decreasing

 

Although the Groov-billed Ani is fairly regular in coastal brush and roseau cane (Phragmites )   especially in the Venice area, it has been distinctly less common in the last several years than previously.  It will occasionally be found in the New  Orleans or Reserve areas, and as many as 25 have been recorded on a New Orleans Christmas Count.  Groove-billed Anis are very gregarious, rarely being seen alone, and have a distinctive "chick-wee'" call.

On July 4 and 5, 1971, adult anis of this species, with young out of the nest, were found in an orange grove at Triumph (RDP--photos,MEL,WB).  Later that summer a nest was collected that was consistent with its being an Ani nest  (fide RJN).  The only other "summer" records, unless one considers Ballowe's July 18, 1893 record to have been of this species, was of one at Grand Isle on June 7, 1992  (MW,RJS) and June 14, 1992 (MM,RDP,GG), apparently different birds.  Three at Grand Isle on Aug. 3, 1991 (PW) hint strongly of summering, if not nesting.   Expected dates are October 10 to April 15 and extreme dates of occurrence are Sep. 16, 1973 at Venice (DN) and April 29, 1980 at New Orleans (JR).

 

ORDER Strigiformes    OWLS

 

Family Tytonidae  BARN OWLS

 

COMMON BARN OWL  (Tyto alba)     Uncommon resident

 

This familiar owl is usually encountered in small patches of woods which offer good feeding opportunities nearby, but may sometimes be flushed from a roadside ditch or be found searching for prey at dusk near a highway interchange or at the edge of a field.  Sometimes one will be flushed from an abandoned house, barn, or boat house where it roots, or perhaps is nesting.  Often there are one or two in the woods at Grand Isle.

 


Family Strigidae

 

EASTERN SCREECH OWL (Otus osio)       Common resident

 

The Screech Owl may be found wherever there are woods which offer adequate cover, but is not often found in conifers.  Because of its secretive habits during the day, one is often not aware of its presence.  It will, however, answer a decent imitation of its call, and while tapes should be used sparingly, it will readily respond to a taped call.  Screch Owls are common in New Orleans' City Park but likely occur wherever there is a large stand of live oaks, and so are found in Lake Vista, in the woods along Bayou Sauvage, and so on.

 

GREAT HORNED OWL (Bubo virginianus)       Uncommon resident

 

The Great Horned Owl is likely to be found in two rather different situations:  in deep, mature woods, and in the coastal marsh where there is an oak motte or hammock.  It will not be found, however, in the bottomland or cypress-tupelo swamps where Barred Owls are so much at home.  Put differently, the Great Horned Owl may occur anywhere there is adequate cover for such a large bird, often merely several large oaks--except the swamp habitat to which the Barred Owl is confined.

 

SNOWY OWL  (Nyctea scadica)         Accidental visitor (in winter)

 

According to Beyer (1900), and repeated by Oberholser (1938), an individual of this boreal species of owl was shot during the winter of 1878-79 at Bayou des Allemandes.  Such a record would be almost totally incredible were it not for the fact that the Snowy Owl is a species renowned for its  irruptive surges southward in response to changes in distribution of its prey, and had one not over-wintered at Shreveport in the winter of 1977-78, where it was seen by many and photographed.  Oberholser also reports that Gustav Kohn knew of a specimen taken at Baton Rouge prior to 1900.   Nonetheless, the injured Snowy Owl found in Chalmette on Nov. 21-22 and brought to Audubon Zoo on Nov. 24 (fide JC) is truly remarkable.   Belatedly, we have learned of a Snowy Owl seen by Tom Coulson in Chalmette in the early 1970s, and Coulson reports that a friend of his had seen one in the 1960s.   Four  Louisiana records, including three in Se. Louisiana, in less than forty years provides a somewhat different picture of the chances of finding one than might have been argued a few years ago.

 

BURROWING OWL (Athene cunicularia)     Rare in winter

 


Although this small owl can be considered a regular winter visitor to the area from the west, it is quite uncommon, even rare, and is surely less common than a quarter century ago.  In recent winters there have been virtually no records at all.  Burrowing Owls may be found roosting in culverts or in piles of  trash or other debris, which offer cover and prey, usually at the edge of open grassy fields which are good for hunting.  Although the east campus of UNO has traditionally been the best place to find Burrowing Owls in the area, much of the habitat is no longer suitable.  Another place to look would be the Exxon fields near the west end of Grand Isle, but one might be encountered almost anywhere there is suitable cover and fields for hunting.  It has frequently been found in the Buras-Venice area.  Although they breed in Texas and Florida, they are found in Louisiana only in winter (though Lowery reported a nesting near Baton Rouge in April 1935).

 

Expected dates of occurrence are approximately November 1 to March 15, but Burrowing Owls have been seen between Oct. 9, 1978, at New Orleans (TC) and May 20, 1972 on Grand Terre (KO,RJN,DN).

 

BARRED OWL (Strix varia)          Common resident of swampy woods

 

As indicated above, the Barred Owl is found almost exclusively  in cypress-tupelo and bottomland hardwood swamps, and apparently does not coexist with the Great Horned Owl.  It is frequently seen in the daytime and will amost invariably be heard calling if one visits its habitat.  Good places to find Barred Owls are in the Honey Island swamp (and in similar river or creek bottom habitat in the Florida parishes), in the Sarpy Swamp-Bonnet Carre Spillway area, in fresh water swamp near Paradis, etc.

 

LONG-EARED OWL  (Asio otus)       Casual to accidental in winter

 

This elusive species has been recorded only once, on Dec. 22, 1931 at Paradis (fide HCO; Bird Lore 34: 70 (1932))  Although it may occasionally winter north of Lake Pontchartrain, that is nothing more than a guess.  There have been two or three relatively recent records in southwest Louisiana.

 

SHORT-EARED OWL (Asio flammeus)        Rare winter visitor

 

There are 14 records of the Short-eared Owl spanning the period Ocober 26 to March 23; the records are distributed as follows: Oct. (1), Nov. (7), Dec. (3), Jan. (2), Mar. (2).  Seven of the records date from before 1900.  It should be looked for hunting low over the marsh near dusk or perched on a fence or in a low tree in the marsh.  It is a very strongly marked bird, so that even in the poor light of dusk or dawn it is easily identified.  The records are:  Nov. 19, 1874 at Mandeville (fide HCO--coll.); January, 1888 at Kenner (fide HCO);   Nov. 10 and 23, 1891 at New Orleans (fide HCO--coll.); Nov. 6 and 11, 1893 at New Orleans (GEB); March 23, 1894 at New Orleans (GEB); March 4, 1931 at Buras (ESH--coll.); Nov. 3, 1968 at Grand Isle (KPA); Dec. 21, 1971 near Slidell (SAG); Nov. 26, 1977-Jan. 4, 1978 at the Bonnet Carre Spillway (MW,RJS,m.ob.); Oct. 26, 1981 at New Orleans (JR,MB); Dec. 2, 1981 at New Orleans (DM); .....1985 at Venice (RDP....);  May 13, 1992 in Barataria Bay (Bill Vermillion, Rich Martin); Nov. 14, 1993 at Bucktown (RDP, et al).

 

NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL  (Aegolius acadicus)       Accidental

 

There are two records of this secretive owl, nearly 90 years apart:  one shot in December 1889  near Madisonville (fide GEB) and Dec. 9-16, 1975 at Reserve (RJS).  Saw-whet Owls do winter near enough to the area to make it worth keeping in mind the possibility that one might occur, probably most likely in the pine flats north of Lake Pontchartrain, but, in fact, almost anywhere.

 

ORDER Caprimulgiformes   GOATSUCKERS

 

Family Caprimulgidae


LESSER NIGHTHAWK  (Chordeiles acutipennis)      Very rare to occasional vagrant

 

The Lesser Nighthawk has been recorded in Southeast Louisiana on at least ten occasions, all since 1957.  The recorded dates span athe period Oct. 2 to May 2, distributed as follows:  Oct. (1), Dec. (3), Jan. (1), March (1), April (2), May (1).  The absence of February records tempts one to suggest that they ordinarily do not successfully over-winter, but the data are clearly skimpy.  In the field, the Lesser Nighthawk is smaller and buffier, with somewhat shorter wings than its relative, the Common Nighthawk, and white bars very near the wingtip.  The flight is also different, but this requires experience with the species.

The records are:  April 7, 1957 at Grand Isle (MM--dead); May 2, 1957 at Grand Isle (RJN--coll.); Dec. 4, 1959 at New Orleans (SAG); Dec. 18 at New Orleans (SAG); Oct. 2, 1965 at New Orleans (JK); Jan. 9, 1971 at Labranche (RJN,RJS); April 9, 1982 at Grand Isle (MM,RDP,DM,NN); Dec. 11, 1988 at Ft. Jackson (RDP,NN,DM,GC); March 30, 1991 at Grand Isle (DM,RDP,,,,).  Most recent, Dec. 29, 2001 at Venice (KR,DM).

 

 COMMON NIGHTHAWK  (Chordiles minor)   Common summer resident

 

The Common Nighthawk is a familiar bird over almost the entire area in summer, from the New Orleans CBD to the barrier islands.  It nests on rooftops and on the ground in waste areas, spoil,  near the beach, and on barrier islands.  The Common Nighthawk occasionally overwinters, primarily in New Orleans' CBD, but there are few recent records.  E.S. Hopkins reported that this species arrived during "April 12-14 every year."  Expected dates are April 15 to November 1, with extremes of Mar. 31, 1925 at Grand Isle (ESH) and Nov. 27, 1964 (SAG).  During the southward movement in fall, large migrating flocks are sometimes seen.

 

ANTILLEAN NIGHTHAWK  (Chordiles gunlachii)    Accidental

 

The sole record of this newly recognized species is from the vicinity of the UNO campus May 27-Aug. 17, 1977 (JR,m.ob.).  Several definitive recordings were made of the call.  The bird may have briefly returned the following May, being present from May 24 to the end of the month (fide JR).  This record has been ratified by the LOS Bird Records Committee.

A possible second record was obtained on June 22, 2000 when a nighthawk with a two-note call was found adjacent to Audubon Park in New Orleans (PW), later seen by many, recorded and video-taped.  The record will be examined the the LOS Bird Records Committee.

 

CHUCK-WILL'S-WIDOW  (Caprimulgus carolinensis)   Uncommon spring and fall           migrant, regular summer resident north of Lake Pontchartrain

 


This goatsucker breeds north of Lake Pontcharttrain, mostly in dry oak woodlands, and in places may be quite common.  Listen for its chuk-wills-widow'! call.  It is also a regular, but somewhat sparce migrant in spring in fall.  Much more interestingly, the Chuck-will's-Widow winters in the lower delta in small numbers, i.e., near Venice, and at Grand Isle.  There are upwards of 50 winter records, and in fact this species is hardly less common in migration than in winter in those coastal areas.  Inland winter records are very much less common.   Audubon said that he "saw many Chuck-will's-Widows about the streets [of New Orleans] and some Night Hawks" on March 15, 1821, which is early for either species, and especially the latter.

 

Chuck-will’s Widow is evidently a circumgulf migrant, which explains its relative scarceness in migration, but it has not infrequently been found on oil platforms near the Louisiana coast.  Whether this reflects movement parallel to the coast or “over-shooting” is anyone’s guess.  The regular wintering makes assigning expected and extreme dates hazardous, but it may be expected from March 25 or April 1 to about May 1 as a spring migrant, and from August 25 to October 20 in fall, though there is usually only a slight increase in probability of seeing the species during the migration period, except on the breeding grounds.  The latest date for obvious migrants  in spring is May 21, 1981 at Boothville (RDP,NN), while the extreme fall dates are Aug. 7, 1982 at New Orleans (DM) and Nov. 13, 1983 at Grand Isle (DM,RDP,NN).

 

WHIP-POOR-WILL  (Caprimulgus vociferus)   Uncommon to rare migrant; rare winter       visitor in the delta

 

The Whip-poor-will  breeds as close to the region as Arkansas and N. Mississippi, but as a circum-gulf migrant, it is  not often encountered from New Orleans toward the coast in migartion.   There are, however, at least a dozen winter records,  including one at New Orleans on ....., on a Christmas Bird Count, though  most of the winter records are from Venice or Grand Isle.  Expected dates in spring are April 1 to about May 1, and in fall, approximately Aug. 20 to Oct. 20, although these dates are quite uncertain.

 

ORDER Apodiformes  SWIFTS AND HUMMINGBIRDS

 

Family  Apodidae  SWIFTS

 

CHIMNEY SWIFT  (Chaetura pelagica)     Very common summer resident

 

Although Chimney Swifts generally nest in chimneys, some nest in hollow trees as they did before the advent of man.  Any swift seen after about November 1 should be carefully checked since there are no known wintering records.  Expected dates of occurrence are March 20 (perhaps the 17th) to October 20, with extremes of March 10, 1958  (DJM,RFC) and Nov. 17, 1972 (RJS), both at Reserve.  There is one very early spring record, of 10 presumed Chimney Swifts at New Orleans on Feb. 28, 1987 (CK), which is so early that it is here considered "out of season."

 

VAUX'S SWIFT  (Chaetura vauxi)    Casual in winter, primarily in the Reserve-        Laplace area

 


Any swift seen in midwinter should be suspected of being of this species, since there are no records of wintering Chimney Swits.  On the other hand, identification is very difficult, especially of fast-moving, poorly marked like these two species of swifts (and some of their cousins from the south).  With but one exception, all of the Southeast Louisiana records are from the Reserve-Laplace area, perhaps because of the patient coverage given by Stein and Weber.  Vaux's Swifts are small, pale underneath, with a buffy rump.  Given the fact that they breed on the west coast of the U.S., it should not be considered out of the question that wintering swifts in south Louisiana might be of a central or South American species.  The result is that while all of the records below are probably of Vaux's Swifts, and almost certainly not Chimney Swifts, they cannot be considered definitively identifed.  So the Vaux's Swift is included in this list on the basis of probability (coupled with Lowery's banding records at Baton Rouge and a recent record based on calling birds), rather than certainty, an approach which is not taken elsewhere in this work.  As many as 20 were present for several weeks in Baton Rouge in February 2004.

Although records span the period October 21 to March 10, the dated records available to this writer are:  Dec. 23-March 10, 1975 at Laplace (RJS,MW); Nov. 10 and 16, and Dec. 17, 1975 at Laplace (RJS,MW) [different birds?]; Dec. 29, 1982 at Ft. Jackson (BC,RJN,MS,MM,DM,RDP); winter 1988....

 

Family  Trochilidae  HUMMINGBIRDS

 

Ten species of hummingbirds are known to have  occurred in Southeast Louisiana (11 for Louisiana), an area in which only one species, the Ruby-throat, breeds.  The other eight species are vagrants,  mostly in winter, some more common than others, of course.  Although many observers have contributed to our knowledge of these vagrants, none has had the impact on local hummingbird studies than Nancy Newfield.  Most have occurred  at her Metairie feeders, including the first state record for Broad-billed Hummingbird and the second state records for Broad-tailed and Allen's.   Indeed Newfield almost single-handedly introduced serious hummingbird feeding to the entire gulf coast and, arguably, to the southeastern U.S.  Before her work, knowlege of these vagrant western hummingbirds was mostly confined to the New Orleans area.  Others who ought to be mentioned in this regard are Ron Stein and Melvin Weber at Reserve and David Muth in New Orleans.  In the 1960's, Thelma von Gohren and Ken McGee obtained the first local records of Buff-bellied and Black-chinned Hummingbirds.  As recently as 1970 only Rufous Hummingbird could be expected in winter, Black-chinned Hummingbirds were considered extremely rare, and no others were known to occur.  Most of the records below, except for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, are of birds at feeders.   See Newfield (....).

 

BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRD (Cyanthus latirostris)        Accidental

 

The first remarkable record of this western hummingbird from Louisiana was of one at Nancy Newfield's feeders from......1990.  The bird was seen by dozens of observers and photographed.  One might have expected many years to elapse before another record.  Rather amazingly, however, another male Broad-billed Hummingbird was seen at Newfield's Oct. 12-13, 1992 (NLN)! Another  was at Gwen Smalley's feeders from Jan. 5-..., 1995 (GS, m.ob.--ph), and there was one at the Louisiana Nature Center in late December, 1999 and January 2000 (GO,....); muth, winter 2001-2  There are now ....records for SE Louisiana.

 

BUFF-BELLIED HUMMINGBIRD (Amazilia yucatanensis)   Rare in winter, usually        at feeders

 


Although the first record of Buff-bellied Hummingbird was obtained in New Orleans in 1965, there have now been at least  50 records,  spanning the period Oct. 11 to March 22.  All but the first of these records have been obtained since 1974, with 10 or more  records occurring in some winters.  During the winter of 1982-3, Newfield banded eight Buff-bellied Hummingbirds in Southeast Louisiana.  The total absence of records during the winter of 1984-5 might be attributable to the effects of the January 1984 freeze, which not only affected Louisiana, but south Texas and northern Mexico as well.

 

Expected datea are approximately October 20 to March 15, with extreme dates of Oct. 11, 1975 (BR) and Apr. 18, 1979 (BR), both at New Orleans.  The records through 1980 (at New Orleans unless otherwise indicated) were:  Nov. 23-Dec. 30, 1965 (TVG--photo to LSUMZ); Oct. 26, 1974-March 20, 1975 (BR,m.ob.--photos); Oct. 11, 1975-Feb. 24, 1976 (BR,m.ob.); Jan. 8, 1977 in Metairie (NLN); March 22, 1978 (KM,MM,RDP, et al), present from March to May;  Dec. 2, 1978-Jan. 14, 1979 (BR); Dec. 13, 1978-Apr. 18, 1979 (BR);  March 20, 1979 (BMcK); Dec. 24, 1979 (ELeB); Oct. 24, 1980 at Metairie (NLN).

 

BLUE-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD  (Lampornis clemenciae)    Accidental

 

The sole record for Louisiana of this hummingbird from the mountains of Mexico and the Southwest was of one at a Slidell feeder from March 7-April 25, 1995 (Peggy Siegert, NLN, m.ob.--ph.,vid.), banded by Newfield.

 

 

MAGNIFICENT HUMMINGBIRD (.....)

 

The only record of this large western hummingbird for Louisiana is of one which appeared at a feeder in Slidell on Nov. 10, 2004 (fide LB, NN), and remained until at least Nov. 19.

 

 RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus colubris)     Common summer        resident, casual winter visitor

 

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is, of course, the only breeding hummingbird in the eastern United States.  Unlike the western vagrants, which are so few in number that one usually sees them only a points of concentration like feeders, the Ruby-throat is regularly encountered in the breeding season, in open woods or woodland edges, almost anywhere away from the coastal marsh.  It became clear in the 1970's, especially through the banding efforts of Newfield, that the typical female or immature Archilochus  hummingbird at feeders in Southeast Louisiana in winter is much more likely to be Black-chinned, than this species.  There are, however, many winter records of this species, and indeed, a few will be found wintering in the area each winter.   In the winter of 1991-2, up to nine were recorded in Louisiana.

The expected dates of occurrence are March 5  to October 15, and extreme dates are March 3, 1958 [2004] (SAG) and Nov. 1, 1895 (fide HCO), both at New Orleans.   Migrants on the coast may be seen as late as late May and as early as....

 

BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus alexandri)  Rare winter visitor,       sometimes not uncommon at feeders

 


As recently as 1970, this species was considered a very rare vagrant in winter, occurring at only one set of feeders in uptown New Orleans (Ken McGee).  This situation seems to have changed less  through increased numbers than through the efforts of observers like Nancy Newfield and Ron Stein, and now many others, to attract hummingbirds and to learn to identify them, especially in female or immature plumage.  Especially important, in the early stages, was Newfield's banding.  So it is that in any given year, there may be upwards of a dozen Black-chinned Hummingbirds at area feeders, a few of which may be adult males, but the bulk being young males or females.   Females present a serious identification problem, but can be told with a high degree of probability by their noticeably longer bill and rather dingy underparts.  When hovering, they usually pump their tails forward and backward.   For details, one should consult Newfield's Louisiana Hummingbirds, or the usual field guides.

 

Black-chinned Hummingbirds can be expected between about October 20 and ....., with extremes of.......... 

 

 

ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD (Calypte anna)          Occasional to accidental in winter

 

There are two records for Southeast Louisiana of this hummingbird, which breeds mostly along the Pacific coast,  both from 1992:  a female Nov. 18 in St. John Parish (RJS,MW,NLN) and a male Nov. 23 in St. James Parish (Tom Sylvest,JS,NLN--photos).  Both were banded by Newfield.  There are several records from Southwest Louisiana and Baton Rouge as well.

 

CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD (Stellula calliope)      Occasional to accidental in winter

 

There are now over two dozen  records of Calliope Hummingbird for the SE Louisiana, scattered over the area, but mostly in the Reserve-Laplace-Norco area, all since 1982.  One may speculate that they had been overlooked up to that point, but that raises a larger question concerning the rapid increase in number of species and inviduals at feeders, which has occurred since the 1970s.  Is this due to the concentrating effect of plantings designed to attract hummingbirds, and the much more extensive feeder now going on, or do more individuals now winter or attempt to winter along the gulf coast?

 

 The first two records for Louisiana were obtained at the same set of residential feeders (Ron Stein's) almost exactly one year apart (the first bird was collected).  The Calliope is quite small and short-tailed, giving it a long-winged appearance.  The initial records were records:  Dec. 6-8, 1982  (RJS,NLN, et al), collected by Cardiff, and Nov. 25-27, 1983  (RJS,NLN,m.ob.), both at Reserve; at Norco during the winter of 1987-88 [Feb. 26?, 1988...](RJS, et al)....also Laplace.....? and many records since.

 

BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD  (Selasphorus platyceras)      Rare vagrant in           winter

 

There are now at well over two dozen records of this hummingbird of the Rocky Mountains for Southeast Louisiana.  As usual, most individuals would be expected to be immatures, and thus to be identifiable by their large size and buffy wash on the sides of the breast.  The earliest  records were:  Dec. 5-20, 1978 (NLN,m.ob.--including RJN,BC,RDP,RJS,MM,NN,MB,etc),. Feb. 26, 1988?; ....Rickets, Nelkin, Muth.....;  Feb. 27-Apr. 9, 1993 in St. John Parish (RJS)..  1995 Slidell

 


RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus rufus)    Uncommon vagrant in winter, mostly at             feeders

 

The  Rufous Hummingbird, which is regular in winter at feeders in throughout the area, is also not infrequently found where there are extensive plantings of turk’s cap  (........), for example, at Venice and on Grand Isle..  Dedicated feeding, especially if favored winter-flowering plants are present (Salvia, bottlebrush, sultan's turban,  fire-spike, Abutilon, Cuphea, turk's cap, etc.) will very likely meet with success.  Newfield banded 29 Rufous Hummingbirds during the winter of 1980-81.

 

Rufous Hummingbirds arrive at Louisiana feeders as early as late August, but those early arrivals are probably mostly returning  birds which had wintered in the same yard or area in the previous year.  Peak numbers may be reached in early October, but on this and other questions, the reader is referred to Newfield’s book.  Most birds depart by mid-March  . Extreme dates are Aug. 2, 1983 and March 22, 1980 (RDP,SP), both in Metairie.

 

ALLEN'S HUMMINGBIRD  (Selasphorus sasin)     Rare winter vagrant at feeders

 

The fact that there are now more than a dozen (?) records of Allen's Hummingbirds from Southeast Louisiana, and others from Baton Rouge, means that care should be taken in identifying any Selasphorus hummingbird in winter.  Although the Rufous Hummingbird is much the commoner of the two species, the presence of this species means than many immatures or females may have to be recorded as Selasphorus sp. or  as Rufous-Allen's, the latter being preferable, assuming Broad-tailed has been ruled out.

The first record of Allen's Hummingbird for Louisiana was of a bird present from Oct. 8, 1975 to March 6, 1976 in Reserve (RJS), which was eventually collected (LSUMZ #81486, identified by Allan Phillips).  The other records include a dying bird collecte on March 12, 1978 which had been present for some time at a New Orleans feeder (MM,NN,RDP,KM,m.ob.--LSUMZ #86998, identified by J.V. Remsen), one netted at the Newfield's feeders on Jan. 6, 1979 (NLN,MB--coll./LSUMZ #89623), another at the Newfield's feeders in January 1987, and one in Reserve during the winter of 1987-88.... ; Nov. 23, 1992 in Jefferson Parish (NLN).  For information on some of these records (through 1983) and the possibility of Rufous x Allen's hybrids, see Newfield (1983).

 

ORDER Coraciiformes

 

Family  Alcedinidae  KINGFISHERS

 

BELTED KINGFISHER  (Ceryle alcyon)   Common resident        

 

The familiar Belted Kingfisher is common along bayous, canals, and at the edge of the marsh, throughout the area.  During the breeding season, however, the Belted Kingfisher retreats from the immediate vicinity of the coast,  because of the lack of bank nesting sites.

 

ORDER Picidae  WOODPECKERS

 


RED-HEADED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)    Common resident                                                       north of Lake Pontchartrain

 

The Red-headed Woodpecker is a familiar resident of the  mixed pine-deciduous woodlands north and east of Lake Pontchartrain.  Although there is little hard data on the stability of numbers of Red-headed Woodpeckers, in the face of occupation of its nesting habitat by Starlings, there is at least reason for concern.  An easy place to find this species is at Fontainbleau St. Pk.  Red-headed Woodpeckers nest sparingly on the New Orleans lakefront, especially in Lake Vista (AS,GS,NN), but are difficult to impossible to find at any other time, though Reinoehl found Red-headed Woodpeckers to be uncommon migratns along the lakefront between April 22 and May 1 in spring, and Sept. 16 to Oct. 26 in fall.  There are occasional records all the way to the coast, as at Grand Isle, for example (including April 2005, fide Tommy Bradberry).

In recent years, Red-headed Woodpeckers have been present in and near Lake Vista, during at least the early part of the nesting season.....(fide NN).

 

RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes carolinus)   Common resident

 

Although both anecdotal evidence and New Orleans Christmas Count records suggest a slow decline in   numbers since the 1960's, the Red-bellied Woodpecker is still a common and typical resident of all wooded habitats, from parks to deep woods.

 

YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER (Sphyrapicus varius)        Common winter      resident

 

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is the only definitively migratory species of woodpecker occurring in Southeast Louisiana (see, however, the discussion of Northern Flicker),  breeding in the northern United States and the Rocky Mountains and wintering all across the southern U.S.  The sapsucker is a common winter resident  of woodlands all over the area, including residential areas.  Its mewing call is distinctive.  Close attention to the plumage details of wintering Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers may occasionally yield a Red-naped Sapsucker (see below).

While Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are expected between October 10 and April 15, extrteme dates of occurrence are Oct. 2 in 1960 (SAG) and in 1976, both at New Orleans, and May 7, 1966 at Venice (SAG).

 

RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER (Syraphicus  nuchalis)      Occasional or accidenta in winter

 

There are two records of Red-naped Sapsucker fo Southeast Louisiana, and perhaps for the state.  The first was of a  young male at Grand Isle ......,  and extensively photographed (RDP,GS).  Another bird, thought to have been of this species, also photographed, was seen in New Orleans in the winters of 1989-90 and 1990-91 (NN,m.ob.), but has since been judged to have been  a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Paul Lehman, et al).   The most recent record is also from Grand Isle, Oct. 10, 1998 (CS,PW).  For identification details, see Kaufman (1990), ....Kaufman (19...)

 


DOWNY WOODPECKER  (Picoides pubescens)    Common resident

 

           Although the Downy Woodpecker declined in the early 1970's to a minimum of only nine on the 1975 New Orleans Christmas Bird Count, the 1980's showed a three-fold increase.  Those beginners who are troubled by the problem of judging the size difference between this and the next species should learn the calls, which are quite distinctive.  The call of the Downy Woodpecker is, by comparison with the Hairy, a softer "pik"!, along with a "whinny" or "rattle" which is unlike any vocalization of its larger relative.  The Downy is, however, considerably smaller than the Hairy Woodpecker, with a relatively smaller bill.

 

HAIRY WOODPECKER (Picoides villosus)    Uncommon to common resident

 

As measured by New Orleans CBC's, the winter ratio of Hairy to Downy Woodpeckers is about 1:4.  The call of the Hairy Woodpecker is a very strong and sharp "piik"!

 

RED-COCKADED WOODPECKER (Picoides borealis)    Uncommon (to rare)    resident in the Florida parishes

 

The endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker breeds rather sparingly in mature pine woods, nesting in dying trees infected by "red heart" disease.  Nest holes are readily recognized by the long streaks of sap which surround them.  Although this species is threatened by present-day forestry practices, the endangered status of the Red-cockaded Woodpecker means that efforts are being made by the USFWS and others to preserve breeding habitat all across the southeastern United States.  The total population is estimated to be on the order of 1000 individuals.  Rich Martin quotes an estimate of 10,000 contiguous acres necessary for a healthy Red-cockaded colony; such acreage does not exist in this area.  The Red-cockaded Woodpecker can be recognized by its distinctive nasal, almost starling-like call.  The best-known locality at the moment is at Big Branch NWR near Lacombe.  Details might be obtained from local birders, the Guide to Bird-Finding in the New Orleans Area, or from the refuge itself.

 

NORTHERN FLICKER (Colapter auratus)   Common to very common in winter, summering mainly north of Lake Pontchartrain

 

Three sub-species of "yellow-shafted" flickers are known to occur in Southeastern Louisiana, C. a. b orealis and C. a. luteus in winter, and C. a. auratus as a permanent resident, mainly north of the lake.  Thus while a Norther Flicker may occasionally be seen in New Orleans, or nearer the coast, in summer, that is rather unusual.  The "red-shafted" form  C. a. collaris  has been recorded on fewer than five occasions.  Flickers begin to appear south of the lake in early September.

 

PILEATED WOODPECKER (Dryocopus pileatus)       Uncommon resident

 

The Pileated Woodpecker occurs wherever there are deep  and extensive woods, and has even been seen at Venice and Grand Isle, on the coast.  Good places to look for Pileated Woodpeckers are Honey Island, Fontainbleau St. Pk, the Bonnet Carre Spillway/Sarpy Swamp, and perhaps Bayou Sauvage ridge.

 


IVORY-BILLED WOODPECKER  (Campephilus principalis)   EXTINCT?

 

Although the Ivory-billed Woodpecker once occurred in Southeast Louisiana, in virgin bottomland hardwood forests, it has not been seen in many decades one can confidently say that it will not be seen again.  The species is probably extinct in the United States, but if not, it will surely be so soon.  Reports from the Atchafalaya basin in the early 1970's should be greeted with caution, if not scepticism, and reports of individuals in the Pear River bottoms below Bogalusa since the 1960's (fide JK)  can probably be rejected outright.  While a report from the Honey Island WMA in April 1999, while intriguing, probably has no substance, it has been taken seriously by many, and considerable effort has been made to substantiate it.  The supposed location was between old US11 and Interstate  59 near the firing range.  The putative  rediscovery of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in Arkansas might raise the possibility that the species might be found in Louisiana, but the chances are extremely  slim.

 

ORDER Passeriformes

 

OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER (Contopus borealis)    Uncommon fall migrant

 

The Olive-sided Flycathcer breeds in the northern forests of the U.S. and Canda and in the Rocky Mountains south to the Arizona-Mexico border.  It is a regular fall migrant through Southeast Louisiana on the way to its wintering grounds in South America, albeit in quite small numbers, but there are only four spring records, all in May.  A possible explanation is that the Olive-sided Flycatcher is strictly a circum-gulf migrant in spring and less so in the fall.  Rarely does one see more than one or two in a fall, and often it is simply missed.  Identification is only a little bit subtle, for although it look's something like a pewee, it is larger, has a big-headed look, and indeed is a sort of cross between a pewee and an Eastern Kingbird.  It also has a strong "vested" look, caused by dark sides to the breast.  The white tufts on the side are often not visible.  The song, which is rarely, if ever, heard in Louisiana, is a very clear "hip, three beers!"   To this writer, it seems that numbers of Olive-sided Flycatchers have declined in the past three decades.

As a fall migrant, the expected dates are August 25 to October 1, with rather a strong peak in mid September.  Extremes are Aug. 14, 1983 at Grand Isle (MM,NN,RDP) and Nov. 4, 1961 at Venice (SAG).  The spring records, all from New Orleans, are:  May 6, 1901 (AA), May 2, 1961 (SAG), May 4, 1980 (JR), and May 15, 1981 (NN).  Maximum number: 8 at Grand Isle on Aug. 22, 1977.

 

WESTERN WOOD PEWEE (Contopus  sordidulus)     Accidental

 

The is one record of this western flycatcher for Southeast Louisian, of one seen and heard singing in New Orleans' Lake Vista subdivision on......, 1989 (DM; MM,NN,RDP...).  The bird gave a full song, which was taped,  several times, and was heard by several observers, including this writer.  Although there are a number of fall records (several collected) from southwestern Louisiana, and another New Orleans record likely to have been of this species (MM), observers should not expect to be able to definitively identify a pewee as being of this species, in the field.  While a photograph might just suffice, netting or collecting are the only  sure ways, barring the unlikely circumstance of a singing bird, as in the record above.  The the purposes of probable or possible identification, the Western Wood Pewee is darker below, has a vested look,  and will probably have a dark lower mandible.


EASTERN WOOD PEWEE (Contopus virens)    Common to very common migrant,           uncommon nesting bird in pine flats

 

Most pewees are seen in migration, when they are often very common (10-15 or more in a day), but they do breed north of Lake Pontchartrain in second-growth pine flat habitat, in modest numbers.  The distincitive "pee-a--wee!" song makes locating them, in migration or on the breeding ground, not very difficult.  The solft call-note is also easily learned.  There are two records from New Orleans proper which are late enough to be candidates for breeding: .....(JN) and May 29, 1992 (DM).

Expected dates of occurrence are April 15 to May 20 in spring, and August 10 to October 20 in fall, while extreme dates are, in spring March 23, 1992 at New Orleans (DM) [previously March 25, 1969 (RDP)] and May 27, 1978 (JR), both at New Orleans, and in fall July 17, 1957  at New Orleans (SAG) and Nov. 17, 1985 at New Orleans (RDP) and at Lafitte NP (DM).  There are four winter records, all considered reliable: Feb. 26, 1967 at Buras (JK); Dec. 21, 1968 at the Rigolets (JK);  Dec. 26, 1976 at Reserve (RJS); and Dec. 4, 1983 at Boothville (DM,JVR,TP--coll).

 

EMPIDONAX FLYCATCHERS  Empidonax sp    Uncommon to common migrants,           especially near the coast, and depending on species

 

Five species of empidonax  flycatchers occur in Southeast Louisiana, four as migrants and one, the Acadian Flycatcher, as a summer resident.  Two other species have been recorded in Louisiana,  Hammond's Flycatcher, of which there are two winter records, and "Western" Flycatcher, obtained in 1991 (the western has been sub-divided in Pacific Slope and Cordilleran Flycatchers, and it remains to be seen whether the spring 1991 record can be assigned to species).  Only Dusky Buff-breasted,  and Gray Flycatcher, of the North American empidonax  flycatchers, have not been recorded in the state.  Since field identification is difficult, and since no netting is nor being carried out in Southeast Louisiana, it is difficult to generalize very confidently about the relative abundance of the several species, and when they are present.  The best information which is available is based on birds which have been collected in spring and fall in Southwest Louisiana.  Where such information is available to the author, it is given in the species accounts.

           The identification problem, is, of course, very difficult.  The best sources of information are a series of articles in Birding  and Kaufman (1990).  If one insists on identifying every empidonax  he sees, he may be wrong as often as he is right.  On the other hand several species can be identified with high probability, depending on season, and identification by call is often quite definitive, the problem being that not only do these flycatchers rarely sing on migration, they often do not call either.  Briefly, however, the Willow and Least Flycatcher give a "whit!" call, and these two species are usually distinguishable from each other by plumage (especially the eye-ring).  Of course the Gray and Dusky Flycatchers also give a "whit" call, but they have not yet been recorded in Louisiana and the Gray Flycatcher is the only empidonax  that flicks its tail downward.  Dusky is also large compared to a Least Flycatcher and is very long-tailed.1  The calls of Acadian, Yellow-bellied, and Alder Flycatcher are distinctive, once learned.

In the absence of vocalization, note bill size and shape, color of lower mandible, throat color, primary extension, eye-ring (whether prominent or not, and shape), and tail length.  The consult Kaufman.  Perhaps the most difficult problem (aside from the "Traill's problem) is distinguishing Acadian and Yellow-bellied, both of whom may have yellow underparts (as may other species) and are large billed.


The expected dates for the flycatchers of this genus are April 10 to May and August 15 to October 15.  Extreme dates are, in spring,   Apr. 4, 1971  (RDP) and May 20, 1990 (RDP,....), both at Grand Isle, and in fall,  July 17, 1957(SAG) and Nov. 19, 1966 (RDP), both at New Orleans.  There are at least nine, probably  more, winter records of unidentified empids:  Nov. 30, 1952 at New Orleans (HBC); Dec. 1, 1957 at Venice (JPG,SAG); Dec.8, 1957 at Venice (JPG,SAG); Dec. 21, 1957 at New Orleans (CLE,HAJE); Dec. 28, 1965 at Venice (fide SAG); Dec. 28, 1972 at Venice (SAG,et al); Dec. 29, 1972 at Reserve (RJS,MW); Dec. 29, 1973 at Reserve (fide RJS); Dec. 13, 1975 at Mandeville (RDP)....

 

YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER  (Empidonax flaviventris)    Uncommon spring        and fall migrant

 

The Yellow-bellied Flycatcher is  a  very active, rather large-billed empidonax., with a somewhat pewee-like call.  Compared to the Acadian Flycatcher, it is smaller and  has a rather short primary extension (see Kaufman, 1990).  Its bill is smaller, but fairly robust, nonetheless.   Generally it is greenish on the back and has yellow underparts and yellow throat, but neither of these features are constant or distinctive.  According to Kaufman it is a late spring migrant and favors the interiors of woods.  There are a dozen or so records which can reasonably be said to be of this species, but as is the case with all except the Acadian Flycatcher, which breeds, this may not  reflect its true abundance.   With the exception of Acadian, and possibly Least Flycatcher, none of the empids are very common in SE Louisiana in spring. 

 

Expected dates are approximately April 15 to May 15, and Augusts 20 to October 20, with a lot of uncertainty. The records are:  May 8, 1959 at New Orleans (SAG), a bird which was singing;  Sept. 14, 1950 at New Orleans (SAG--coll); Oct. 12, 1968 at Venice (JK), a bird which was banded; Oct. 6-7, 1986 at Lafitte NP (DM); Sept....., 1994 at New Orleans (NN--singing).  Other highly probable records include May 29, 1992 at New Orleans (DM), Oct 1, 2000 (DM,RDP), etc.....(DM) fall 2004 (DM...)

 

ACADIAN FLYCATCHER  (Empidonax virescens)    Common  summer resident

 

The Acadian Flycatcher breeds commonly in bottomland hardwood swamp habitat and is easily detected by its explosive "wick-ee-up!" song which it utters constantly.  On migration it never sings, but gives a distinctive, complex "empidonax-type" call which is hard to render.  The "weece!" given in the National Geographic Field Guide is much better than Kaufman's "peek".  Perhaps "weep" is better, but that is a matter of personal perception.  The Acadian Flycatcher is very large-billed for an empidonax  and has a large primary extension, which is easier to see on this species because it is relatively placid or inactive.  It usually has considerably more eye-ring than the "Traill's"-types and is much larger and bigger-billed than a Least.  Because it may have considerable yellow on the underparts,  especially, but not only, in fall, it may be easily confused with the previous species.

Expected dates are April 5 to October 10, with extrerme dates of occurence of March 27, 1965 at Grand Isle (SAG) and Nov. 3, 1985 at Lafitte NP (DM,CL).

 

[TRAILL'S FLYCATCHER]       Presumed uncommon spring and fall migrant

 


With the splitting of Traill's Flycatcher into the two song types, what little information which existed on these two flycatchers became considerably less useful, since the records of singing individuals were often not recorded as to song type.  While there are only three definite records of Willow Flycatcher and none of Alder, "Traill's"-type flycatchers are considered to be regular in migration, in modest numbers.  Lacking substantiation of this assumption, and without any knowledge of the relative frequency of the two types, every effort should be made to secure additional information.  "Traill's" Flycatchers  are large and big-billed and usually have a very faint eye-ring.  Kaufman says that the primary extension is large.  Both species breed across the northern U.S. and souther Canada, but the Willow Flycatcher breeds down through the Rocky Mountains into New Mexico and has apparently nested in north Louisian, near Monroe.    In addition to the Willow Flycatcher records given below the records of Willow/Alder Flycatchers are:  Sep. 9, 1924 at Harvey (ESH--coll); and Sep. 5, 1957,  Sep. 6, 1957, and May 1, 1960, all at New Orleans and all singing (SAG);  Sept. 4, 1994 at Grand Isle (RDP). Basically, Traill’s-type flycatchers may be expected from mid-April to mid-May, and, more commonly, mid-August to mid-October.

 

ALDER FLYCATCHER (Empidonax alnorum)    presumed regular migrant

 

Records from Southwest Louisiana suggest that Alder Flycatcher  may be a regular migrant through the area, especially in fall, although there are large enough differences between the avifauna of SE and SW Louisiana to encourage one to be very cautious.    It is hoped that banding may eventually decide this question definitively, but observers should, of course, be alert for the possibility of a calling Alder.    Occasionally Alders will be heard calling, such records include on e  from Reserve on........ (RJS, et al), another Oct. 4, 1998 at Grand Isle (DL,DPM,RDP).  Traill’s-type empids are somewhat brownish in coloration, with long primary extension, a fairly heavy bill, and generally a whitish throat.  They usually have only a very slight eye-ring.  The calls are quite different, Alder giving a fairly sharp “keep” or “kep” rather than the Willow’s “whit.” See Kaufman for details.

 

 

WILLOW FLYCATCHER (Empidonax trailli)   Possibly an uncommon spring and fall         migrant

 

Short of netting or collecting, the only way to identify a Willow Flycatcher is by song ("fitz-bew!") or by its "whit!" call.  In the latter case, identifcation may still only be probable, since three other empids give a "whit" call (though in the Southeast the likely confusion is with Least which is usually distinguishable in the field).  See the discussion above and Kaufman (1990).  Willow and Alder (Empidonax alnorum)  can be distinguished from each other by song or call, the Alder's Song being a buzzy "fee-be-o!" and its call a rather sharp "peek!".  Alder is supposed to have a bit more of an eye-ring than Willow, which usually has virtually none.

All specimens of Willow Flycatcher for Se. Louisiana are from the fall, as are the other probable records:  Sep. 16, 1935 (TDB--coll), Sept. 20, 1935 (TDB--coll), and Nov. 3, 1985 (AS), all at New Orleans, and Oct. 20, 1991 at Triumph  (RDP--calling).  That they occur in at least small numbers in fall migration seems clear, but their occurrence in spring is an open question.

 

LEAST FLYCATCHER (Empidonax minimum)    Uncommon to common spring and fall     migrant

 


The Least Flycatcher is one of the most distinctive of the empids, being small, small-billed, and having a prominent eye-ring.  See Kaufman (1990) for other details.  The call is a "whit!" (see discussions above).  Except for the common Acadian Flycatcher, the Least is probably  the most common empid in Southeast Louisiana, though the data are sparse.   Most of the winter records of this genus (see above) are thought to be of this species, and several definitely gave "whit!" call notes  (the other empids giving a ‘whit’ note are Willow, Dusky, and Gray Flycatchers).   During the winter of 1993-4, there were at least four present near Ft. Jackson with one lingering as late as Mar. 6 (RDP).  There are two winter records of Hammond's Flycatcher, whose call note reminds this observer of the call note of "Audubon's" Warbler--but slightly sharper, for Louisiana.

 

After Acadian Flycatcher, which nests, Least Flycatcher is the most common in migration, being present from something like mid-April to early May, and mid-August well into October.  It is also perhaps the easiest of the eastern empids to identify with high probability, whether calling or not.

 

The definitive records of Least Flycatchers in Southeast Louisiana are : Jan. 1, 1957 (coll), Sep. 14, 1960 (SAG--singing), and Aug. 26, 1961 (SAG--singing), all at New Orleans; Mar. 19, 2005 Venice (SWC,DLD*);   Other highly probable records include Feb. 23, 1993 in Plaquemines Par. (DM--call), Sept. 26, 1993 at Grand Isle (MM,RDP), and Nov.  26, 1993 at Ft. Jackson (DM,NN,PY).  [9/4 GI (RDP), 9/15/94 NO (PY)], 10/4/98 GI (DL,DPM,RDP) etc.

 

[DUSKY FLYCATCHER (Epidonax oberholseri)  HYPOTHETICAL]

 

An empidonax flycatcher seen and photographed at Grand Isle on ......(DM....) was thought to have been of this species.  Expert opinion has been just about equally divided between those who regard the bird as as being of this species and those who take it to be minimum, which makes it worth mentioning here.  The Dusky has a "whit" call note, like Willow and Least (and Gray), has a substantial eye-ring, a "vested" look, and a long tail.  See Kaufman (1990).

 

[PACIFIC SLOPE  FLYCATCHER (Empidonax difficilis)   Accidental vagrant]

 

 

 

 

CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHER (Empidonax occidentalis) Accidental vagrant

 

There is one record of this complex, "Western" Flycatcher, which as of the time of writing had been split into two sibling species, the Pacific Slope (E. dificilis) and Cordilleran Flycatchers (E.  occidentalis) based primarily on their very different songs.  There are three Louisiana records of "Western Flycatcher", all specimens, consisting of birds collected in Cameron Parish and near Crowley, both Pacific Slope, and one obtained at Ft. Jackson in Plaquemines Parish on Feb.... 1994 (SWC,DLD), belonging to this species.

 

EASTERN PHOEBE (Sayornis phoebe)    Common winter resident


The Eastern Phoebe is the only normally wintering flycatcher in Louisiana.  It is a familiar bird of open, waste habitat, stands of willows, and even denser woodlands.  It has a distinctive call and its song, which gives it its name, a wheezy "fee-bee" is distinctive.  The Phoebe has bred in north Louisiana.

Expected dates are October 10 to March 25, with extreme dates of occurrence being Sep. 25, 1897 (fide HCO [Sep. 26, 2004 DM,MM,PW] and May 5, 1936 at Grand Isle (AD).

 

SAY'S PHOEBE (Sayornis saya)      Casual vagrant

 

Although there are only two records of this flycatcher from the southeast, there are several more records from Baton Rouge to southwest Louisiana.  It should be considered a real possibility in fall or winter, especially near the coast, as at Venice.  Although the Say's Phoebe is strongly marked, one should be careful not to confuse it with a female or young male Vermilion Flycatcher.  The records are  from the same fall:  Sep. 29, 1957 at Reserve (DJW,RFC,RJS--coll) and Nov. 23, 1957-Feb. 16, 1958 at Howze Beach (now "Treasure Island") in St. Tammany Parish (SAG, et al).

 

VERMILLION FLYCATCHER (Pyrocephalus rubinus)    Rare fall migrant and winter       vagrant

 

Over 60 individuals of this species have been recorded in Southeast Louisiana, all since 1944.   Some have shown such a strong attachment to their wintering territories that they have returned year after year.  One was seen in City Park from the winter of 1956-57 through 1961-62; another was at Ft. Jackson from 1968-69 to 1972-73.  Since the 1970's records have been somewhat scarce, for no easily discernable reason.  Fifty-four records compiled prior to 1970 were distributed as follows:  Sep. (1), Oct. (1), Nov. (12), Dec. (19), Jan (9), Feb. (8), and March (4).  These data clearly show that Vermilion Flycatchers often overwinter.  There is one anomalous summer record, of a female? at the Bonnet Carre Spillway on July 17, 1976 (MW).

Expected dates are October 15 to approximately March 5, with extremes of Sep. 22, 1979 (MB,BMcK) and March 8, 1961 (SAG), both at New Orleans.

 

ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus cinerascens)    Rare winter vagrant

 


Three species of myiarchus flycatchers occur in Louisiana:  Ash-throated and Brown-crested (formerly Wied's), and Great-crested, which breeds.  The first two only occur in fall and winter, generally after Great-cresteds have departed, and there are no winter records of the latter.  The Ash-throated Flycatcher is much the smallest of the three--typically being about phoebe-sized, and has quite pale underparts by comparison with the other two.  The surest way to identify these flycatchers is to observe the tail patter, from below.  In this species, the tail feather is dark on the outer side of the shaft and on the tip; in Great-crested and Brown-crested the outer side of the shaft is dark all the way to the tip.  The Ash-throated usually has an all-dark bill, which is usually quite small-looking.  The only problem is that robust individuals can look much more like Brown-cresteds.  The key, if the bird does not vocalize, and Ash-throateds usually do not (the call, however, is a wheezy  "ker-weir", or "ka-brek", or sometimes only a single "wheet", but can become a repeated, strident jumble of similar notes), is to use the entire ensemble of characteristics.  With care, identification is easier than these cautions suggest.  It should be noted, however, that the distant possibility exists that another species of myiarchus  might occur, including Dusky-capped(M. tuberculifer), Yucatan (M. yucantanensis), Swainson's ... or, especially, Nutting's Flycatcher (M. nuttingi) , which has occurred in Alabama?.   As of this writing, the author has seen 9 Ash-throated Flycatchers in Se. Louisiana, and 7 Brown-crested Flycatchers, consistent with the overall totals of about 25 and 16.

There are at probably 30 records of Ash-throated  Flycatcher for Southeast Louisiana, all since 1969.  The species has been recorded between September 12 (1970--DN) and March 12 (1959), in addition to a bird which wintered in New Orleans from the CBC until April 2?, 2004 (PW,CS,EW,et al), and a rather remarkable May 1 (1960--DGB,SLW) sighting; there are no records between Sep. 12 and Nov. 11.    Most, but by no means all, of the records are from the Venice area.  Eighteen dated records at hand are distributed as follows:  Sep. (1), Nov. (5), Dec. (5), Jan. (4), Feb. (3), March (2), and May (1).  Recent records include:  Dec. 26, 1983 at New Orleans (MW); Dec. 29, 1983 at Venice; Jan. 8, 1985 at New Orleans (JR,DM,MM,RDP,NLN,PN--coll); Dec. ?, 1987 (DM,JH) to Jan. 1 (DM,RDP)  at New Orleans; Dec. 29, 1991 at Venice (DM,NN?--2; PH);  Jan. 3-16, 1993 at Venice (RDP,DM,SC,DD,PY....); Jan. 2, 1994 at Ft. Jackson (RDP,ASt); Jan. 15, 1994 at Ft. Jackson (PW,JK,MS--5?); Jan. 2?, 1995, Ft. Jackson (DMP,RDP).  A record at New Orleans on Dec. 27, 1981 (MW)  is likely to have been of this species.  One overwintered in New Orleans ....2004 [as late as March 28 (EW)].

 

GREAT-CRESTED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus crinitus)  Common summer resident

 

The Great-crested Flycatcher is one of three breeding species of flycatchers in Southeast Louisiana.  Nesting in woodlands all over the area, including, apparently, on Grand Isle, it is easily located by its strong, distinctive "reep!" call.  Of the three species of myiararchus which have occurred in Louisiana, only the Great-crested Flycatcher has not be recorded in winter.  The Great-crested Flycatcher is generally much larger than the Ash-throated and much brighter yellow on the breast, and its bill is usually (but not always) horn colored.  Compared to the Brown-crested Flycatcher, the Great-crested has a much better definedboundary between the yellow belly and the gray throat and upper breast than in its western cousin, in which the boundary is very washed-out.  The Great-crested also shows very prominent white edgings to the secondary converts or tertials which create very prominent "v's" on its back. 

The expected dates of occurrence of the Great-crested Flycatcher are March 25 to October 1, with extreme dates of March 12, 1894 (GEB) and Oct. 6, 1968 at New Orleans (RDP).

 

 

BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus tyrannulus)    Rare to casual winter       vagrant

 


There are at least 20  Southeast Louisiana records, totalling well over 35  individuals, of this flycatcher which breeds from southern Texas and Arizona south into Mexico, spanning the period  Nov. 24 to March 25.  All but three of the records are from the Buras-Venice area near the mouth of the Mississippi River. The individuals which reach Louisiana in winter are probably mostly young birds, perhaps moving laterally along to the gulf coast.  There are only two records after Jan. 27, a fact which may mean that not many successfully  overwinter, or may simply  reflect the poor coverage of the Venice area after the Christmas Count period.  The records listed here should not be allowed to obscure the difficulty of identification, even under  the best of conditions and even when the observer is familiar with all three species (and more) of myiarchus.  The identification details have been  enumerated above, but generally, the Brown-crested Flycatcher is large,  with a large, generally black bill, is usually fairly bright yellow below, with a gray throat which blends smoothly into the yellow, with tail feathers whose outer webs are dark rufous  (like the Great-crested), with no bleeding onto the inner web as in Ash-throated.  Although examination of a series of specimens of the three species will quickly disabuse anyone of the notion that identification is easy, attention to all field marks can yield reliable results.  In the case of the two vagrant myiarchus flycatchers, it is not merely desirable to ascertain the tail pattern, but almost essential.  Until recently, all Louisiana specimens were of the small-billed race cooperi, though there have been several sight records of very large-billed individuals, presumably M. c. magister, from the Southwestern U.S. and western Mexico.   The only records known to this writer of Brown-crested Flycatchers vocalizing in Louisiana occurred when three or more were present at Ft. Jackson on Nov. 26, 1993 (DM,NN,PY), and when one at Ft. Jackson on January 30, 1999 (DM,RDP,PW) responded to taped calls/songs.  Most rrecently 2-3 were found in the same brushy area (canopy of chinese tallow, understory of elderberry, bacharis, dew/blackberry, etc.) on Feb. 20 (PW,DM--2) and 27 (MM,RDP,PW--2, ph., video).

The records are:    Nov. 24, 1961 at Venice (BJD--coll); Dec. 1, 1961 at Venice (BJD); Nov. 28, 1966 at Venice (MW--coll); Dec. 7, 1969 at Reserve (RJS,RJN); Dec. 31, 1970 at Venice (SAG,RDP,DN,JHe--2); Dec. 23, 1973 at Venice (RJS, et al--3); Jan. 27, 1974 at Venice (RJN,RDP,DN); Dec. 31, 1974 at Venice (SAG,RJN); March 25, 1979 at Venice (MM,NN); ...fall 1987 at Grand Isle (CS,...;DM,RDP,MM); Jan. 3, 1993 at Venice (DM,RDP), Jan. 3  (DM,RDP) and 16, 1993 (DM,DLD,SWC,PY--3*), Nov. 26, 1993 Ft. Jackson (DM,NN,PY--3); Jan. 15, 1994, Ft. Jackson (PW,JK,MS); Feb......, 1994, Ft. Jackson (,SWC,DLD--4* coll.),  ...., Ft. Jackson (Jon Dunne, GS), ....Ft. Jackson (SWC,DLD*).  Venice CBC 2004 (2); early March 2004 (PW)......There are 2-3 New Orleans records: 24 January 2004  (PW),......2005 (PW,DM).

 

GREAT KISKADEE  (Pitangus sulphuratus)   Accidental

 

What was apparently a single individual of this species wintered on Paris Road in New Orleans from the winter of 1975-76 until 1978-9.  The bird was first recorded on the Dec. 20, 1975 New Orleans CBC (MM,NN, surely one of the most spectacular records for a New Orleans Christmas Count (equalled probably only by the Zone-tailed Hawk on the 1984 count).     The bird (apparently the same individual)  was again seen nearly two years later, at the same spot (within 150 yards), on Oct. 8, 1977 (PS), and was present until at least March 21, 1978.  During the 1978-79 winter, the bird was seen from Oct. 10 (FB) to at least Jan. 3.  In fact, the assumption that the bird was present only in the winters of 1975-9 is just that, an assumption.  The second  record for SE Louisiana was of a bird seen an photographed on April 24, 1999  below Venice (Elisabeth Jeanclos) and present until at least June 11. The bird built and attended a nest in a power pole during that entire period.   It was recovered again on the Venice CBC (DM,KR, et al), and again on June 12, 2000 (PW,CS),was seen on June 25, 2000 (MM,DM,RDP), and most recently on Sept. 2, 2000 (SWC,DLD).  It was last seen in the summer of 2002, after having  been present for at least  four years.  The most  record, and the second for New Orleans,  is of one in New Orleans East from Dec. ....., 2003 until......Another was apparently heard in New Orleans on April 3, 2004 (DM,PW).

 

SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHER (Myiodynastes luteiventris)   Accidental

 


As remarkable as the occurrence of the above species, was a record of the Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher at Grand Isle on Sep. 30, 1056 (RJN,EOW).  The sighting was within a week of Hurricane Flossy, which may or may not  be relevant.  There are now two records from southwest Louisiana and a Myiodynastes  sighting from southern Mississippi which was probably of this species.  If a flycatcher of this species is seen, it should be carefully described or photographed, since the Streaked Flycatcher (M. maculatus) is almost identical, differing mainly in having nearly white, streaked, underparts, and has occurred in the U.S.

 

TROPICAL KINGBIRD (Tyrannus  melancholicus)   Accidental

 

There is one definite  record of the Tropical Kingbird, the first record for Louisiana, for  Southeast Louisiana, that of a bird collected on Chenier Caminada just west of Grand Isle (Jefferson Parish) on May 12, 1984 (BC,RJN,NLN) .  This record occurred shortly after the "Tropical" Kingbird was  split into two species, the Tropical Kingbird, which breeds from southern Arizona south along the western coast of Mexico and the Couch's Kingbird, which breeds in south Texas and northeastern Mexico as well as Yucatan.  The only reliable way to tell these two species apart is by call, since the Tropical Kingbird gives a rapid twittering call which is very different from either the "queer!" or "pip-pip!" calls of Couch's.  Either species is distinguished by a forked tail (stronger in this species), a black ear-patch or "mask" (darker in the Tropical Kingbird), yellow which goes well up onto the lower throat, and a somewhat heavier bill than Western or Cassin's Kingbird.

A bird thought to be of this species was seen and photographed on Fourchon Rd, Lafourche Par. on April....2000.... (RDP).  The brief vocalizations were consistent with this species.  There are other recent records of Tropical/Couch’s Kingbirds in SE. Louisiana, including one on Fourchon Rd. (Nancy, Phillip), and another on the Chandeleurs.....(2000).

Although a yellow-bellied kingbird with forked tail at New Orleans on .....(SAG,MM;MB) was thought to havae belonged to this complex, it has been suggested that it may have been a White-throated (Snowy-throated?) Kingbird (Tyrannus...).   

 

COUCH'S KINGBIRD (Tyrannus couchii)    Accidental

 

The lone record of this species is one found near Paradis on January 27 (Bill Ayers, CF--photos) and identifed on February 10 (RDP,NN,GC--photos).  The bird several times gave the distinctive "pip-pip" call which definitively marks it as couchii.  The is one previous record of this species, from Cameron, in southwest Louisiana.  There are several other Tropical/Couch's records for Louisiana including a bird that very possibly belonged to this complex seen on the New Orleans CBC on .......(SAG,MM); see above.  Another individual apparently of this complex was seen at Fourchon Beach on June 14, 1999 (NLN).

 

WESTERN KINGBIRD (Tyrannus  verticalis)    Rare to very uncommon most fall vagrant

 


There are upwards of 100 records of the Western Kingbird for Southeast Louisiana from every month but June.  Approximately  74  dated records were distributed as follows:  July (1), Aug. (4), Sep. (25), Oct. (16), Nov. (10), Dec. (5), Jan. (1), Feb. (3), March (2), April (6), and May (3).   Thus, W. Kingbird is most common in fall migration, but does overwinter, notably near the coast (Venice)..  It goes without saying that any kingbird with yellow underparts should be carefully studied.  Not only is there the possibility of Tropical/Couch's type kingbird, but Cassin's might occur, as it has in southwestern Louisiana.  Western Kingbird, of course, has conspicuous white outer tail feathers (white outer web), but since these are sometimes obscure or missing, one should exercise caution. 

Expected dates are September 20 to April 10, with extremes of Aug. 9, 1965 in New Orleans (JK) and May 30, 1965 at the Bonnet Carre Spillway (OBM), but as mentioned above, winter records are sparse.  The "out-of-season" records are June 9, 1988 on Breton Island (DM,RDP) and July.....

 

EASTERN KINGBIRD (Tyrannus tyrannus)    Common to very common summer resident

 

Known locally as the "bee-martin", the Eastern Kingbird is the most familiar of the flycatchers of the area, breeding as close to human habitation in the city as the lakefront.  In migration, flocks of 100 or more are not  uncommon.  There are no winter records.  The only species with which it might be confused is Gray Kingbird, which is very rare in Louisiana.

Expected dates of occurrence are March 20 to October 15, with extremes of Mar. 14, 2004  at Grand Isle (MM,RDP,DM)) and Nov. 25, 1965 at New Orleans (JK).

 

GRAY KINGBIRD (Tyrannus dominicensis)   Occasional vagrant in spring, recently breeding

 

Prior to the spring of 2003, there were 13 records, of Gray Kingbird, which normally breeds from Dauphin Island to the east along the coast of Florida, all but one of which were from the spring.  A  summer record in 1988 had  raised the possibility  of nesting and indeed adults with juveniles were found in the summer of 2003 (DM) on the New Orleans lakefront.  A  nest was watched during May  and June of 2004, with....being fledged (EW,DM,et al). There were two nests in the summer of 2005 (fide DM).   The May 30, 1985 record was of a bird which briefly perched on the rigging of a boat 20 miles off the mouth of the Mississippi River.

 

Gray Kingbird is much grayer than the Eastern Kingbird, with a dark "mask" or ear-patch, and a very large bill (so large that one is reminded of Thick-billed Kingbird or even Loggerheaded Kingbird). 

 

The 12 spring  records with no suggestion of breeding fall between Apr. 18 and May 30:   May 11, 1948, 32 miles off the mouth of the Miss. R. (GHL); May 3, 1954 at Grand Isle (GHL,RJN); Apr. 18, 1976 at Grand Isle (MM,NN); April 30, 1984 on Grand Terre Is. (NLN); May 9-13, 1984 near Grand Isle (NLN,BC,RJN,DM,RDP--photos); May 28, 1984 at Ft. Jackson (NLN,DM); May 30, 1985 20 miles off Southwest Pas (MM); ...summer 1988 on Grand Terre Is. (TP); May 26, 1991 at Grand Isle (CS,PW; GC,DM,MM,NN,RDP); spring 1994 (NLN)(JVR,DLD,SWC); May 3, 1995 at Grand Isle (RDP); ; Apr. 25, 2004 at Port Fourchon (RDP).   The only fall record of a Gray Kingbird is of one seen on Nov. 7 at Venice (NN,RDP,GG) and recovered on Dec. 5 (BC, JK...--photos).

 

 

 


SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER (Tyrannus forficatus)   Ucommon  to rare  vagrant, mostly in fall

 

There are perhaps   100  records of this beautiful flycatcher, mostly from October and November, although occasionally one or more may successfully overwinter.  Of 64 records through 1970, 36 were from Oct.-Nov. and only 10 from December through February.  Sometimes flocks of 20 or more individuals are found, usually near the coast, e.g., 15-17 S. of W. Pointe a la Hache on Feb. 20 and 27 (DM,PW,MM,RDP).  The earliest known record was of 10 at Kenner on Oct. 6, 1900, mentioned by Beyer (1900).  A trip to Venice in fall will frequently yield one or more Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, and they have occurred on New Orleans and Venice Christmas Counts.  There is at least one nesting record near the checklist area, in Tangipahoa Parish near Holton in June 1988 (Chris Brantley).  The only bird with which this might be confused (except for tail-less individuals, which are usually only seen on the breeding grounds) is the Fork-tailed Flycatcher, which has been seen in Louisiana on one occasion.   Up to 60 were seen in Plaquemines Parish between Myrtle Grove and Ponte-a-la Hache in March 2004.

Expected dates are October 15 to April 1, with extreme dates of occurrence of Aug. 18, 1959 at New Orleans (SAG) and May 31, 1958 at Reserve (RJS,KS).

 

 

Family Vireonidae  VIREOS

 

WHITE-EYED VIREO (Vireo griseus)   Common summer resident, uncommon winter          resident

 

The White-eyed Vireo breeds commonly in extensive woodland and bottomland habitat.  Because of the frequency of wintering, it is unprofitable to try to give arrival dates for the summering population, but  they  may be expected to arrive around March 10 and depart in mid November.  Most White-eyed Vireos winter in central America, south to Honduras, so that the winter population is considerably reduced.

 

BELL'S VIREO (Vireo belli)   Occasional in winter

 

There are five records of this small, mostly western vireo, which continues to breed sparingly in northwest Louisiana (and Arkansas, etc.)  Bell's Vireo is not a well-marked bird and confusion is possible with Ruby-crowned Kinglet and possibly even White-eyed Vireo.  Its spectacles mark it as a vireo, and its bill is a typical vireo bill, though somewhat diminutive in this small bird.  The birds from the interior of the U.S. are usually brighter and yellower than those from the west.  Bell's Vireo has a vireo-like scolding call and its song is a series of wiry, ascending notes.  The records are:  Jan. 17, 1959 at Reserve (RFC--coll); Nov. 15, 1969 at Reserve (RJS); Dec. 30, 1981 at Venice (SAG,NN,NLN); Dec. 27, 1987-Jan. 1, 1988 at New Orleans (BC;DM,RDP;MM); Jan. 3, 1993 at Venice (KVR,.....).

 

BLUE-HEADED  VIREO (Vireo solitarius)    Uncommon to common winter visitor

 


Blue-headed Vireos (previously the “Solitary Vireo”) are a frequent presence in the winter foraging flocks which roam Se. Louisiana woodlands..  This species has a distinctive scolding call which is worth learning, and very occasionally sings in winter.  Its song resembles that of the Red-eyed Vireo, but is somewhat thinner, or sweeter.  Those who welcome a challenge should look for the Plumbeous Vireo (Vireo plumbeus) , the rocky mountain form, newly raised to a species, as well as Cassin’s, found mostly, but not entirely, along the west coast, in the Cascades and the Sierra Nevada mountains.  Although no real attempt will be made to describe it here, Plumbeous and Cassin’s both show less contrast between cap and back.  Plumbeous has very little yellow on its sides.  Its song is noticeablly different, as well, being much more like that of Yellow-throated Vireo.   Cassin’s shows very little contrast between the side of the face and the throat, and its song is more like Blue-headed.   There is one specimen record of Plumbeous for Louisiana. 

The expected dates of occurrence are November 1 to April 15, with extremes of Aug. 1, 1893  (GEB) and May 2, 1985 (NN), both at New Orleans.  The 1893 record is clearly  "many standard deviations" from the expected date and perhaps should simply be considered as anomalous.

 

YELLOW-THROATED VIREO (Vireo flavifrons)   Fairly common summer resident          north of Lake Pontchartrain

 

Although there is at least one record of a singing male Yellow-throated Vireo south of the lake in breeding season [June 11, 1982 at Laffite NP (RDP,JR,DM,NN)], it should be regarded strictly as a migrant south of the lake and a summer resident of the pine flats of the Florida parishes.  The distinctive song has been characterized as being like a Red-eyed Vireo with a "southern drawl," a description which works, this species having a somewhat "wheezier" or "buzzier", and perhaps slightly slower, song than the Red-eye.  The Yellow-throated Vireo is one of the very earliest spring migrants, often arriving in the first week of March.

The expected dates are March 15 to May 10 and September 10 to October 1, as a migrant.  The extremes are, in spring, March 2, 1870 at the Rigolets (HHK--coll) and May 29, 1913 at New Orleans (HHK), while in fall the earliest record is Aug. 4, 1937 (TDB) and the latest Nov. 4, 1984 (PW), both at New Orleans.   Winter records of birds thought to be of this species usually turn out to be Pine Warblers.

 

WARBLING VIREO (Vireo gilvus)    Very uncommon to almost rare migrant

 

Although  Warbling Vireo is never common,  it is most likely to be seen in early October, when both it and the next species are migrating.  In spring, it is mostly like to be seen, if at all,  in late April to mid  May.  Young Warbling Vireos in fall may have considerable yellow below (except the throat) so that care should be exercised in distinguishing this from the Philadelpha Vireo.  The key to identification is in the generally whitish underparts and the rather different face pattern, with the Philadephia having dark lores, giving it  a very strong black line through the eye (see, for example, Kaufman 1990, p. 226).  Kopman recorded the Warbling Vireo as a summer resident, but did not publish any supporting data.

Expected dates for spring migrants are April 10 to May 5 and fall migrants are expected between September 25 and November 1.  In spring Warbling Vireos have been seen between March 27, 1897 at New Orleans (fide HCO) and May 23, 1976 at Ft. PIke.  In fall the extremes are Sep. 14, 1960 at New Orleans and Nov. 24, 1961 at Venice, both SAG.   There is one remarkable winter record, of a bird collected at Ft. Jackson on Feb....., 1994 (DLD,SWC), probably the only winter specimen for the U.S.

 


 PHILADELPHIA VIREO (Vireo philadelphicus)   Uncommon migrant,     

 

The Philadelphia  Vireo can usually be recognized by its combination of yellow underparts (including throat) and black lores.  It is usually seen in late spring, when it often is heard singing, and in early October.  Its song very much resembles that of the Red-eyed Vireo, but is thinner.  Given that the Philadelphia Vireo now breeds no nearer than the Great Lakes, it is quite odd that Kopman (1904) reported it in late July 1893 at Convent, and abundant there on August 2, and that Beyer (1900) records Philadelphia Vireo as have been seen at  Hester, in  St. James Parish, on Aug. 2 (HLB).  Those records are certainlly suspect. There also seems to be an Aug. 2, 1893 record from Covington (HHK), though the frequency of Aug. 2 in these records suggests some commonality.   It seems likely that there is some confusion involved.  Witnering in southern Central America, it is not to be expected in winter.

Expected dates are April 20 to May 10? and September 25 to October 25.  Extreme dates are, in spring, .....to May 12, 1974 at New Orleans (MM,NN), and in fall, Sep. 13, 1964 at New Orleans (SAG) and Nov. 12, 1968 at Venice (KPA).

 

RED-EYED VIREO (Vireo olivaceous)    Very common summer resident, often       abundant migrant

 

The Red-eyed Vireo is a common breeder in deep woods over the area, especially in bottomland habitat.   It will rarely be found south of Lake Pontchartrain in breeding season. It is one of the more common spring and fall migrants, with numbers easily reaching 100+ under  "fall-out" conditions; it often dominates migration from late March to late May.  There is one winter record, Jan. 3, 1965 at Venice (MM).  The Red-eyed Vireo winters from Columbia and Venezuela south, including the Amazon basin.

Expected dates are March 25 to October 10,  with extremes of March 16, 1985 at Grand Isle (RDP,NN) and Nov. 3, 1985 at New Orleans (AS).  Migrants may be seen as late as late May and as early as.....

 

BLACK-WHISKERED VIREO (Vireo altiloquus)   Casual migrant, possibly          occasionally nesting

 


Although the Black-whiskered Vireo was not recorded before 1959, there are now  over 26  records spanning the period March 18 to May 22 in spring and Aug. 17 to Nov. 6 in fall.  In addition, there have been at least six examples of individuals lingering into late May or early June, or actually summering.  Almost all records have been on or near the coast.  Of the records at hand,  11 have been in spring migration, 4 in fall migration, and the remainder in summer, so that one must consider Black-whiskered Vireos considerably more likely in spring than fall.  Although traditionally the Black-whiskered Vireo does not breed much nearer Southeast Louisiana than peninsular Florida, there are records from the summer of 1971 at Delta NWR and from 1985, 1988?, 1990?, and 1992 on Grand Isle, which are suggestive of nesting.  In the summer of 1971, on June 19 and July 4, singing Black-whiskered Vireos were seen at Delta refuge.  In 1985, a singing male, and possibly a pair, were found at Grand Isle on June 22 (AS,GS,JS, also RDP) and June 23  (RDP), while in 1990, Black-whiskered Vireos were first seen on ...(AS,GS),  and July 8-22 (DM,GC,RDP) and Aug. 12 (DM,RDP), in the latter case two were seen behaving as though young were being fed.  There was another Grand Isle record the same summer on a different part of the island (TP).  What seemed to be a pair, including a territorial male, was found at Grand Isle on May 31, 1999 (DM,RDP), with at least the male present through June 14 (NLN).  The other summer records are July 14 (MM,RDP,GG) and  July 26 (NN,RDP,GG), 1992.

The point has finally been reached, it seems, where it is no longer possible to list all records of Black-whiskered Vireo.  The earliest records, however, were:  Aug. 29, 1959 at New Orleans (SAG,MEL); Nov. 6, 1960 at New Orleans (SAG); March 18, 1961 at Grand Isle (SAG--coll); April. 27, 1963 at Grand Isle (SAG--coll); and Aug. 17, 1963 at New Orleans (SAG,AWP).  There are at least 17 records since 1963, including, recently,  May 18, 1988 at Grand Isle (DM,NN), and  Aug. 17, 1988 at Grand Isle (DM,AS,GS),  plus the spring  1990....; June 14, 1992 at Grand Isle (MM,RDP,GG).  May 30, 1999 Grand Isle (DPM,RDP), perhaps 2, on territory....until....In the summer of 199....Peter Yaukey apparently had two separate birds (a pair?), at least one singing, in a woodlot in Jefferson Parish, which stayed for at least..........  A recent New Orleans record is Sep. 4, 2000 in New Orleans (DM). [5/6/01 GI (MM,PW)] Two records in the spring of 2004: May 1 (PW,DM–photos,RDP), May 3 (RDP).

 

 

Family Alaudidae LARKS

 

 HORNED LARK (Eremophila alpestris)   Occasional in winter

 

As the records below show, prior to 1982 there had been only three records of Horned Larks during a period of over 100 years and, indeed, none between 1895 and 1951.  The 1982 records at New Orleans and Laplace came during a period of extensive snow cover (75%) in the middle U.S., which reached as far south as central Louisiana.  The records of the following year came on the heels of an intense cold front which brought 14o temperatures to New Orleans.  In general, one cannot expect to encounter Horned Larks except under such circumstances, i.e., heavy snow cover from north Louisiana into Arkansas.  On the north shore of the lake, Horned Larks may be more nearly regular, but that remains to be seen.  The last record given below is a dramatic exception to the pattern just described, which simply shows that with birds, anthing can happen.

The records are:  Jan. 6, 1879 at Mandeville (GEB--coll); Feb. 22, 1895 at Pearl River (HHP?--coll); Feb. 2, 1951 at Covington (CR); Jan. 14, 1982 at New Orleans (JR--2); Jan. 16, 1982 at Laplace (RJS,NLN--5); Jan. 17, 1982 at Laplace (MB,DM,RDP,JR--150); Dec. 25-26, 1983 at New Orleans (MM,NN); Jan. 1, 1984 at New Orleans (RDP); and ......at Grand Isle (MM,RDP,GC).

 

Family Hirundinidae SWALLOWS

 

PURPLE MARTIN (Porgne subis)     Common to very common or abundant           summer resident

 


The Purple Martin is arguably the best-loved bird of Louisiana, perhaps sharing honors with what some feel ought to be the state bird, the mockingbird (the Brown Pelican, which is the state bird, has the great virtue that its demise due to environmental pollution makes it an important symbol).  Be that as it may, the Purple Martin is the earliest of all spring migrants, arriving in numbers by late February.  By July martins are beginning to collect in large roosts.  The most spectacular manifestation of this is huge roost at the foot of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, which has been there for perhaps two decades.  Current estimates of peak numbers range from 20,000 to 200,000.  It is billed, somewhat hyperbolically, perhaps, as "the largest Purple Martin roost in the world".  It may, indeed, be that, and in any case the publicity it has gotten has undoubtedly been felicitous.  Almost every neighborhood has its martin houses, and anyone who has had an active martin house knows what pleasant neighbors they are.  If one erects a martin house which has the correct properties (there are many sources of information) in February or March, he is likely to have martins nesting in his yard.

Purple Martins are expected between about February 15 and October 20, with extremes of  Jan. 26, 1963  (SAG) and Nov. 30, 1936 (TDB--coll), both at New Orleans.   A recent early record was  Feb. 4, 1995 at des Allemandes (PW), but in the late winter of 2000, there were several early arrivale dates around January 10-15 in Louisiana.  There are two winter records:  Dec. 26, 1954 (JLD,TJH) and Dec. 27, 1956...., both at New Orleans, the latter being on the New  Orleans CBC of that date.  In general, winter records should be greeted with a great deal of skepticism.

 

TREE SWALLOW (Tachycineta bicolor)   Common to abundant winter resident

 

The Tree Swallow is normally the only swallow to be seen in Southeast Louisiana in winter (but see Rough-winged Swallow), and its numbers are somtimes staggering, viz the estimate of one million on the 1978 Reserve Christmas Bird Count, Dec. 23, 1978.  On New Orleans CBC's, numbers have ranged from zero (1968) to 11,276 (1960).  There is some tendency in mid-winter for Tree Swallows to gather in huge aggregations, especially when feeding on seeds or berries (wax myrtle, for example) rather than insects.  Beyer (1900) reported that Tree Swallows were sold abundantly in the markets of New Orleans.

Expected dates are August 1 to May 10, with extreme dates of July 8, 1893 (GEB) and May 27, 1938 (TDB), both at New Orleans.  There are two "out-of-season" records, June 17, 1958 at Reserve (RJS) and June 8, 1963 (RJS) at the Bonnet Carre Spillway.

 

NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)         Common to uncommon migrant, uncommon breeder north of Lake Pontchartrain,          rare winter visitor

 

The Rough-winged Swallow is one of four species which breed regularly in Southeast Louisiana and although no nest sites have been found, it is quite regular north of the lake, especially around gravel pits and other bodies of water, near where stream bank nesting is likely.  Reports of summering Rough-winged Swallows in the vicinity of bluffs with what appear to be nest holes abound, and there is an April 1985 report of Rough-winged Swallows going in and out of such holes on the Tangipahoa River two miles above amite (Merle Mizelle).  Rough-winged Swallows excavate burrows, but they also rodent holes, kingfisher burrows, and even nest under bridges (Ehrlich, et al, 1988).  There are, in addition, well over a dozen winter records of this species, especially from the Bonnet Carre Spillway, but including a record of 200 on the New Orleans CBC on Dec. 27, 1956.

Expected dates of migrants are April 1 to May 10 in spring, and August 1 to November 10 in fall.  Extreme dates of occurrence are, in spring, Mar. 8, 1961 at New Orleans (SAG) and May 28, 1863 in Plaquemines Parish (fide HCO), and in fall, July 18, 1866 (GEB--coll) and Nov. 22, 1958 (SAG), both in New Orleans.


BANK SWALLOW  (Riparia riparia)    Common to uncommon migrant

 

Three species of swallows are seen primarily as migrants, this one, the Rough-winged, and the Cliff Swallows,  The last two breed, at least sparingly, and so  the Bank Swallow is the only exclusively migrant swallow in Southeast Louisiana.  Although not usually as common as the previous species in migration, it can, nonetheless, by quite abundant at times.  There are two out-of-season records, July 6, 1886 at New Orleans (fide HCO--collected), which Oberholser  (1938) took as evidence of nesting, and July 5, 1959 at New Orleans (SAG).

Expected dates are March 25 to May 15 and August 10 to October 15; the extreme dates of occurrence are, in spring,  March 20, 1985 at New Orleans (fide HCO) and June 9, 1973 in St. Bernard Parish (MM--2); in fall they are Aug. 7, 1935 at New Orleans (TDB--coll) and Nov. 3, 1963 at the Bonnet Carre Spillway (RJS).

 

CLIFF SWALLOW (Hirundo pyrrhonota)   Rare to uncommon migrant, local nester

 

Although the Cliff Swallow is a regular migrant, its number are usually quite small and so it is not often encountered in a given spring or fall.  It is probably most likely to be seen in early fall, and the largest number recorded is 600 near Irish Bayou on Sep. 8, 1974 (MM,NN).  The Cliff Swallow has nested under four bridges over the Middle Pearl and East Pearl River on U.S. highway 90 since at least  the spring of 1981, when they were first located by Toby Bradshaw.  This was the second known Louisiana nesting.  A survey of bridges over the Middle Pearl that year yielded 41 nests and 81 individuals (RDP,DM,NN,MM).  For additional historical details, see Purrington (1988).  Although it is often difficult to ascertain how many nests are active,  the maximum number recorded is 130, with 2-3 times that many adults.  Currently  Cliff Swallows also nest at the U.S. 90 bridge over  Chef Menteur Pass (e.g., 150+ individuals on June 28, 1992 (NN,RDP)).  Cliff Sswallows are known to engage in brood parasitism (see Ehrlich, et al 1988).

The expected dates for migrants are approximately March 25 to May 15 and August 15 to October 10; the average date of arrival at the U.S. 90 sites is March 25.  Earliest arrival date is March 4, 2005 (MP) [  March 13, 2004  (DM,MM,RDP)].   Before nesting was confirmed, the latest ever date in spring was June 12, 1886 at Madisonville (GEB--coll) and the extreme fall dates are Aug. 2, 1935 at New Orleans (TDB--coll), when nesting was not known, and Nov. 24, 1961 at Triumph (SAG).

 

CAVE SWALLOW (Hirundo fulva)       Accidental; occasionally nesting

 


Although it occurred in the context of a Cave Swallow range expansion in south Texas and records of vagrant Cave Swallows in the southeast U.S., the discovery of a Cave Swallow at the East Middle Pearl River bridge on U.S. 90 in St. Tammany Parish on .......(MM,NN) was electrifying.  At least as interesting as this first state record was the subsequent discovery, on May 8 of that same spring (RDP,GG,JH) that a pair of Cave Swallows were present, and, furthermore, that one was using a nest under the bridge.  Two birds were observed flying together showing courtship-like behavior, and one bird was satisfactorily photographed (RDP).  Finally, a young bird was seen an  photographed which may have been a juvenile Cave Swallow (MM).   The expansion of the species up the Texas coast has resulted in a number of extralimital records, and it now nest  annually on the Louisiana side of the bridge over  Sabine Pass on Highway 82.  More recently one or two birds have been seen at the Chef Menteur Pass bridge on US 90 in New Orleans (fide MP, et al), and there was  a nesting record from the spring of 2001 for SW Mississippi.

The most recent record is of one on Grand Isle, 15 (16?)April 2005 (SWC,DLD).

 

BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)   Common summer resident

 

The Barn Swallow nests throughout the area, primarily under bridges and overpasses.  Examples include the US 90 bridges over Chef Menteur Pass and the Middle and East Pearl Rivers, the I-10 bridge over the East Pearl, and many small bridges in St. Tammany, Washington, and probably other of the Florida Parishes.  The Barn Swallow is also a very common migrant almost anywhere, especially on the coast, and, after the Purple Martin, is the most familiar swallow.  There are three or four winter records.  Two seen at Lake Hermitage on Feb. 27 (MM,PW, RDP) were probably early migrants, and if so, two weeks earlier than the date given below.

While expected dates of occurrence are March 25 to November 10, extreme dates are March 13 in 1983 (GS), the latter at the US 90 bridges, and Dec. 1, 1974 at Reserve.  On the other hand, two s  The winter records, which might also include the Dec. 1, 1974 record just mentioned, are :  Dec. 23, 1962 (fide SAG); Feb. 25-26 (SAG); Dec. 20, 1969 (SAG), all in New Orleans.

 

Family Corviidae  JAYS AND CROWS

 

BLUE JAY (Cyanocitta cristata)     Common resident

 

Although to most observers the Blue Jay is a sedentary species, it is in fact quite migratory, moving from the northern part of its range southward for winter, and even "over-shooting" and moving out over the gulf.  The result is that one may sometimes see large numbers of Blue Jays moving along the coast, and even flying toward shore from over the gulf.  The permanent resident subspecies is C. c. cristata, and C. c. bromia is the wintering form.  The influx of northern birds is apparently quite variable, witness the almost erratic character of the numbers recorded on New Orleans CBCs, which range from less than 1 to 7-8 birds per party-hour.  Nesting begins in February, with young often fledged by late March.

 

AMERICAN CROW (Corvus brachyrhyncos)   Common to abundant resident

 

While Fish Crow numbers have increased by a factor of 10 on New Orleans Christmas Bird Counts since 1960, the American or "Common" Crow has remained essentially unchanged in its numbers.  While this crow is considerably larger than its cousin, the Fish Crow, identification should generally be based on call.

 

FISH CROW (Corvus ossifragus)   Common to abundant resident

 

The Fish Crow is often found in huge concentrations on garbage dumps in winter, with a high of 19,510 recorded on a single New Orleans CBC (1980).  Christmas Count totals have undergone a ten-fold increased since the early 1960's.  Although resident in Southeast Louisiana, the Fish Crow  withdraws from the coastal part of the area, and even largely from New Orleans, to breed in summer.

 


Family Paridae CHICKADEES AND TITMICE

 

CAROLINA CHICKADEE (Parus carolinensis)  Common resident

 

The Carolina Chickadee occurs, and breeds, wherever there are moderate-sized woodlands, from cypress swamp to bottomland to parks, e.g., City Park.  The numbers of chickadees on New Orleans CBCs declined during the 1960's, reaching a minimum in the early 1970s (conceivably because of the 1962 freeze?), but have increased since about 1972.  Both this and the Tufted Timous, below, are hole-nesting birds.  Chickadees remain paired throughout the year.  In fall and winter it is often useful to listen for and try to attract by squeaking or "pishing" any chickadees within hearing, since they are one of the most vocal members of mixed-species foraging flocks which may contain migrating warblers in fall, and wintering warblers, etc. in that season.

 

TUFTED TITMOUSE (Parus bicolor)    Uncommon to locally common resident

 

The distribution of the Tufted Titmouse is somewhat spotty and irregular, for reasons that seem elusive.  In some places, such as in the Sarpy Swamp and  at the Tulane Riverside/Coast Guard area at English Turn, they are as common as Carolina Chickadees, and they are often more common in bottomland habitat than their congener.  But in many other more nearly residential areas, such as City Park, for example, or in New Orleans East, they are almost absent.  Indeed records from City Park and Lake Vista during the winter of 1984-85 were extraordinary and coincided with an unprecedented invasion of coastal southwest Louisiana; there is a more recent record from City Park:  August 30, 1994 (RDP).  Titmouse numbers reached a deep minimum in about 1973 (New Orleans CBC data) but have increased since the late 1970's.  The song is a whistled "peter-peter-peter".

 

Family Sittidae  NUTHATCHES

 

RED-BREASTED NUTCHATCH (Sitta canadensis)    Erratic and irruptive winter visitor

 

Very erratic and irregular in its occurrence, this species is quite common (or no worse than uncommon) in some winters and absent in others.  Apparently its periodic invasions result from failure of the cone seed crope in the boreal forests.  Although Red-breasted Nuthatches may be found anywhere in an invasion year, the pines near the lakefront and on Scout Island in City Park are perhaps the best place to look for them.  Their "typical" nuthatch "yank" makes them relatively easy to find.

Expected dates are October 5 to April 5, and extreme  dates of occurrence are Sep. 19, 1981 at New Orleans (JR) and April 30, 1978 in Metairie (SP).

 

WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta carolinensis)   Rare resident?

 


Surprisingly little is known of the occurrence of the White-breasted Nuthatch in the Florida Parishes, at the northern edge of the checklist area.  This writer has found it on one occasion near Fluker in northwest Tangipahoa Parish and it has been found near Hackley in Washington Parish.  There are, however, no recent records, so that much needs to be done to clarify its status in this area.  It does not, however, occur south of Lake Pontchartrain or, apparently, even in pine flat habitat north of the lake, preferring instead pine uplands with relatively mature mixed pine-deciduous woods.  Note, however, that the records in the checklist area proper are from areas not far north of the lake, though the most recent was nearly 90 years ago:  July 10 and 23, 1888 at Covington (fide HCO); Aug. 21, 1890 on Bedico Cr. (fide HCO); in 1891 at Madisonville (GEB--breeding); and Oct. 18, 1903 at Covington (HHK).

 

BROWN-HEADED NUTHATCH (Sitta pusilla)    Common resident in pine flats

 

The Brown-headed Nuthatch is a common and conspicuously gregarious resident of open pine woods north of Lake Pontchartrain, southeast to the White Kitchen area of St. Tammany Parish.  

 

Family Certhiidae CREEPERS

 

BROWN CREEPER (Certhia americana)    Uncommon (to rare) winter resident

 

Although the Brown Creeper is, in principle, one of the birds which make up the winter foraging flocks, it has  declined in numbers during the past 25 years and is now encountered at best a few times in a winter season.  The Brown Creeper does fluctuate significantly in numbers, so that in some years it is not difficult to find and, indeed, it sometimes seen in sizeable numbers when the first  birds arrive in early to mid October.  A good ear can recognize its high pitched call, which resembles that of the Golden-crowned Kinglet.

Expected dates are October 10 to March 25, with extremes of Sep. 19, 1983 at New Orleans and Apr. 4, 1970......

 

Family Troglogyttidae  WRENS

 

CAROLINA WREN  (Thryothorus ludovicianus)   Common to very common resident

 

Although few birds are more characteristic of the south  than the Carolina Wren, the casual observer will rarely see it because of its secretive habits.  Far more frequently, its "tea-kettle, tea-kettle" song will be heard, disembodied.  It is a common resident anywhere there is adequate cover and is not uncommon in residential neighborhoods, especially near the periphery of the city.  The Carolina Wren is one of two resident species of wren, along with the far less familiar Marsh Wren.  Three species regularly winter:  the House, Winter, and Sedge Wrens, while Bewick's Wren is an occasional visitor.  The numbers of Carolina Wrens on New Orleans CBCs have been stable since 1960.

 

BEWICK'S WREN (Thryomanes bewickii)  Occasional in winter

 


Anyone who travels to the southwestern United Staes is familiar with this noisy and conspicuous wren, but it breeds, uncommonly, in the east-central part of the country as well.  Although the assumption is that Bewick's Wrens in Louisiana are western vagrants, especially since they breed in east Texas, there are no data to back up that conclusion.  If from the northern and easter populations, they would be expected to reflected the declines which have been experienced there, but the numbers are so small that no statistically significant conclusions can be made.  In spite of the resemblance to the Carolina Wren, identification poses no problem.  Basically Bewick's Wren lacks the rich tones of the Carolina wren, being drab brown on the back and dirty white on the breast, and having a long "floppy" black-striped tail.  The call is distinctive but not easily described, and the song is never heard.   There are at least  17 records spanning the period Oct. 17 to Feb. 24, plus a very "early" August record, but none in the last two decades.  The records are:  Jan. 6-8, 1894 in New Orleans (HHK); Aug. 28, 1894 at New Orleans (HHK); Oct. 28, 1908 at Slidell (AHH); Dec. 23, 1917 at New Orleans (HHK); Feb. 24, 1918 at Lacombe (HHK); Nov. 23-24, 1956 at Dalcour (SAG); Nov. 25, 1956 at New Orleans (SAG); Nov. 9-11 and 23, 1957 at Ft. Pike (SAG); Oct .19-21, 1968 at New Orleans (DS,RDP); Jan. 12, 1969 at New Orleans (RDP); Nov. 27, 1976 at Laplace (RJS,MW); Oct. 24, 1978-Jan. 3, 1979 at New Orleans (JR, et al); Oct. 17, 1982 at New Orleans (NN);  Dec. 26, 1982 at New Orleans;  ; Dec. 26, 1982 at New Orleans (BC);  Oct. 13, 1983 at New Orleans (NN); and Dec. 26, 1983 at New Orleans (NN).

 

HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon)   Common winter resident

 

In winter the House Wren can be found in any brushy area, or spot with brushy understory.  It has a variety of vocalizations which may confuse the novice.  It sometimes sings in winter, a gurgling  song which sounds something like a tape being rewound (similar to the song of the Marsh Wren).  It has a standard wren chatter or "chur" which resembles the Carolina Wren, and it has a nasal, almost mewing sound which could be confused with a Catbird.  As measured by New Orleans CBCs, House Wren populations declined during the early 1960s to mid 1970s, but have since increased.

Expected dates are October 5 to April 20, while extreme dates are Sep. 12, 1964 and Apr. 23 in 1923 (HHK) and 1936 at New Orleans (TDB).

 

WINTER WREN  (Troglodytes troglodytes)   Uncommon winter resident

 

The Winter Wren is often overlooked by those unfamiliar with its distinctive call note (much like that of a Song Sparrow, but doubled or trebled), but can, in fact, be quite common; it is far more often heared than seen.  Somewhat surprisingly, it seems most common in and near palmetto thickets in cypress-tupelo swamp habitat.  The maximum number recorded is 21, in the Sarpy Swamp on Dec. 23, 1978 (RDP).

Expected dates of occurrence are October 25 to March 25, while extreme dates are Oct. 13, 1977 (JR) and Apr. 7, 1894 (GEB), both at New Orleans.

 

SEDGE WREN (Cisothorus platensis)    Common winter resident in short grass marsh

 

Unlike its relative the Marsh Wren, which prefers cattail marshes or brackish marsh vegetation, the Sedge Wren (formerly the Short-billed Marsh Wren) is a denizen of damp fields, especially broom-sedge (Andropogon virginicus)  fields and short-grass marsh.  It is often flushed in the same fields which produce Henslow's or Leconte's Sparrows.   The call is a distinctive, soft, "chup" and occasionally, in late spring, the Sedge Wren may be heard giving its staccato song.

Expected dates are approximately October 15 to April 15, and extreme dates of occurrence are Sep. 19, 1981 at New Orleans (JR) and Apr. 22, 1984 at Grand Isle (NN,DM,MM).


MARSH WREN (Cisothorus palustris)   Common to uncommon resident

 

The Marsh Wren (formerly called the Long-billed Marsh Wren) is a relativly common breeding bird of reed, cattails, and dense shrubby marsh vegetation (such as black mangrove) in the coastal marsh, though it probably can be found anywhere around the shores of Lake Pontchartrain.  It is quite conspicuous if one knows its song, which sounds somewhat like a tape being re-wound.  Its call is a strong "tick!", often repeated, quite different from the rich, soft chip of the Sedge Wren.  A good place to find it is along the lower end of Fourchon Rd. (La 3090) in Lafourche Parish.  The species is not entirely sedenary and according to Oberholser (1938), C. p. marianae and C. p. thryophilus are the resident subspecies, while C. p. iliacus is a winter visitor.  Winter residents are present from mid or late October through late April.

 

ROCK WREN (Salpinctes obsoletus)  Accidental

 

The first record of the Rock Wren for Louisiana and the only one for Southeast Louisiana was of one present at Seabrook Bridge on Lakeshore Drive in New Orleans from Dec. 21, 1983 (MM), to Feb. 4, 1984, when it was collected (specimen to LSUMNS).  It was seen by dozens of observers and photographed (RDP, among others; Amer. Birds...).  There are now at least two other records for Louisiana.

 

Family Musccicapidae

 

GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET (Regulus satraps)   Uncomon, somewhat erratic winter resident

 

The Golden-crowned Kinglet is erratic in its occurrence, being quite common in some years and rare in others.   Recently it has been somewhat more regular, and less erratic, compared to the long-term trends, which showed broad peaks 8-11 years apart (1954, 1959-62, 1969-70, 1979-81, 1986-87.  The Golden-crowned Kinglet is considerably less obvious than its relative, the Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and is usually located by its distinctive and thin high-pitched call which is easily learned.

Expected dates are October 20 to March 25, with extreme dates of occurrence of Oct. 7, 1953 at New Orleans (HBC) and April 1,  1980 at Venice (NN).

 

RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Regulus calendula)   Very common winter resident

 

Few birds are more characteristic of the winter landscape in south Louisiana than the this diminutive bird.  George Lowery's use of the term "ubiquitous" is well-chosen, for it may be found virtually anywhere in the area in large numbers, excepting mainly open marsh.  Its repeated chatter or "tit-tit-tit...." call is one of the first calls learned by novice birders and occasionally it is heard singing, more often in spring, but actually anytime.

The Ruby-crowned Kinglet can be expected between October 10 and April 15, but has occurred as early as Sep. 17, 1956 (SAG) and as late as May 9, 1980 (NN,JR), both at New Orleans.

 


BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea)    Uncommon resident  and common migrant throughout

 

Although the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher is present in the area throughout the year, it should not be thought of as merely a permanent resident.  It breeds rather uncommonly in fairly deep woods, and woodland edges, including bottomland, it is a standard, if again uncommon, winter visitor, generally in brushy, waste, habitat.  It is a fairly common migrant as well.   It appears, however, to be mostly a circum-gulf migrant, so while it may be common in coastal woods during migration, it is never truly abundant under fall-out conditions. Whether  there is really a resident population, is a matter of controversy. The argument would be that the  size of this population is indicated by the number of breeding birds, and winter numbers are swelled by gnatcatchers which move into the area from the north.  This is a common phenomenon, but because the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher is a bit uncommon, the pattern seems somewhat more irregular than normal; that is, there seem to be periods when  few, or no, gnatcatchers are present.  Migration takes place mainly from mid-March to late April and in mid-August through October.

 

Family Turdidae  THRUSHES

 

NORTHERN WHEATEAR  (Oenanthe oenanthe)    Accidental

 

There are three records of this species, each in a different century!  Prior to the fall of 1991 there was one record of the Northern Wheatear for Louisiana, of an individual collected at New Orleans on Sep. 12, 1888 (GEB).  The wheatear occurs only in the arctic (Alaska, Greenland, etc.) and might not be expected ever to recur,  although there is a recent record from Dauphin Island, Alabama.   Thus it was a complete surprise when one was discovered at New Orleans on Oct. 23, 1991 by Jennifer Coulson.  The bird was present for three days (GS,AS), was seen by dozens of observers, and was thoroughly photographed.   Finally, one was seen and photographed near Grand Isle on 14 October 2001 (DPM,MM).

 

EASTERN BLUEBIRD (Sialia sialis)    Fairly common resident north of Lake          Pontchartrain, locally regular south of the lake

 

Although Eastern Bluebirds do occur south of the lake, especially in winter, in Southeast Louisiana they are found mostly in the mixed pine-deciduous habitat in the Florida parishes.  The description in the National Geographic Birds of North America is hard to improve on: "Call note is a musical, rising, chur-lee, extended in song to chur-chur-lee-chur-lee."  The call is often given in flight.  Bluebirds like to sit on wires, where they are easily recognized by their plump, thrush-like silhouette.  Outside  the breeding season, bluebirds have been seen at Chalmette, Venice, and Golden Meadow, among other places.  Patient coverage on New Orleans Christmas Counts usually yields one or more, often several.   It is perhaps worth adding that Mountain and Western Bluebird have occurred in southwestern Louisiana.

 

MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD (Sialia currucoides) Accidental fall or winter visitor

 


The only record of this species is from the Crescent Acres Landfill on ....... found by David Muth, later seen by the writer (....).  The fact that there are several records from  central and Southwest Louisiana ought to encourage one to be alert to the possibility of  Mountain Bluebird, especially in open country near the coast.

 

VEERY (Catharus fuscescens)     Common to uncommon spring and fall migrant

 

The Veery is usually less common in migration than either of the other migrant Catharus thrushes, the Gray-cheeked and Swainson's Thrushes, but that is not always the case, and in any event, it is relatively common.  It is also relatively easy to identify, because of the rufous coloration of its upperparts and its almost unspotted breast, though the western form might be confused with the Gray-cheeked Thrush.  The Veery is often heard overhead at night in spring and fall migration.

The expected dates are April 20 to May 20 in spring, and September 15 to October 15 in fall.  In spring Veerys have been recorded between Apr. 3, 1960 at Grand Isle (SAG) and May 26, 1979... (RDP), while in fall the extremes are Aug. 31, 1962 (SAG) and Oct. 19, 1912 (HHK), both at New Orleans.

 

GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH (Catharus minimus)   Common migrant in spring and             fall

 

The migrant Catharus thrushes are somtimes prodigiously abundant in migration and yet in some seasons are nearly absent.  The difference is probably the weather patterns which ground sping and fall migrants.  Usually the Gray-cheedked Thrush is second in abundance to Swainson's Thrush, but on occasion it out-numbers all others put together.  The Gray-cheeked Thrush can usually be distinguished from Swainson's by the lack of a buffy face (lores) and eyering.  Usually, the Gray-cheeked is a less warm color on the upperparts and has less buffy coloration on the upper breast.

Expected dates are, in spring, April 15 to May 15, and in fall, September 20 to October 15.  Spring extemes are March 27, 1897 at New Orleans (fide HCO) and May 26 in 1979 at New Orleans (JR) and in 1985 at Grand Isle (RDP).  Extreme dates of occurrence in fall are Sep. 17, 1982  (SAG ) and Nov. 1,  1980 (JR), both at New Orleans.

 

SWAINSON'S THRUSH (Catharus ustulatus)   Common to abundant migrant

 

Generally this species is the most common of the migrant thrushes; it is also the one most likely to be heard singing during spring migration.  The song is a set of rising, flute-like notes, usually given soto voce during migration.  On occasion, these thrushes are present by the hundreds in the coastal woods.  There are three startling  winter records, both on Venice Christmas Counts, and in each case great care was taken to make sure that the bird was not a Hermit Thrush:  Dec. 20, 1971 (RDP),  Dec. 31, 1986 (DM), and Jan. 2, 1994 (Ast,RDP).

 

The expected dates for spring migrants are April 10 to at least May 20 and fall migrants are expected between September 15 and October 15.  The extremes in spring migration are Apr. 2 in 1895 at New Orleans (fide HCO) and in 1989 in Jefferson Parish (AA--coll),  and May 29, 1988 at Grand Isle (RDP).  In fall they are Sep. 8, 2002 (DM, et al). [Sep. 11, 1983 at Grand Isle (DM,NN,MM)] and Nov. 16, 1935 at New Orleans (TDB).  The latter record is so late as to suggest wintering.

 

[Bicknelll’s Thrush]


HERMIT THRUSH (Catharus guttatus)    Uncommon winter resident

 

Although the Hermit Thrush is generally an uncommon visitor in the winter, it varys in numbers substantially from one year to the next, and is sometimes rather common, as during the winter of 1990-91.  Although it is easily "squeaked up" and as a result should not be terribly hard to find, one will record many more if he knows its characteristic call note, which is a soft Red-wing-like "chuck."  There is also a rarely heard whistle, or piping sound, which is perhaps related to its song or its nocturnal flight call.   This writer has never heard a Hermit Thrush sing in Louisiana, even in early spring.  Numbers on the New Orleans Christmas Counts have declined since the early 1970s compared to a peak in the 1960s.  Normally Hermit Thrushes barely overlap the migrant Catharus  thrushes, if at all, as can be seen by looking at the expected dates,  but should there be any doubt, the reddish tail of the Hermit Thrush is definitive.

Expected dates of occurrence are October 15 to April 10; extreme dates are Sep. 25, 1894  (AA) and May 15, 1915 (HHK), both at New Orleans.

 

WOOD THRUSH (Hylochichla mustelina)   Fairly common summer resident, mostly            north of Lake Pontchartrain

 

Although the Wood Thrush has very occasionally been heard singing south of the lake during the breeding season, it is a typically breeding bird of the creek and river bottomland hardwood habitat which abounds in the Florida parishes.  Its beautiful, flute-like song carries well, and it is far more often heard in summer than seen.  On migration, however, it is sometimes the commonest thrush, and up to 25 or 50 might be seen in the coastal woods at Grand Isle under optimum conditions.  Beyer (1900) says they were "shot in large numbers for the New Orleans markets."  Calls include a very distinctive "popping" sort of noise, usually given singly.

As a migrant, which is what the Wood Thrush is below the lake, the expected dates in spring are April 1 to May 10 and in fall October 10 to November 15.  The latter means that the Wood Thrush hardly overlaps the migrant Catharus  thrushes in fall.  In spring the Wood Thrush has been seen  between March 25 in 1900 at New Orleans (AA) and in 1980 at Venice (NN), and June 4, 1966 at New Orleans.  The extremes for fall migration are Sep. 18, 1981 (NN) and Nov. 29, 1968 (WW), both at New Orleans.  Again, the latter record is suggestive of wintering.  There are a minimum of eight winter records:  Feb. 14, 1961 ....(CLE); Dec. 24, 1969 at Triumph (RDP,SAG); Jan. 28, 1971 at New Orleans (RDP); Dec. 29, 1973 at Reserve (fide RJS); Dec. 14, 1980 at New Orleans (JR); Jan. 1, 1988 at Grand Isle (...);......,; Nov. 28, 1992 at New Orleans (DM).

 

AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratoius)    Abundant winter resident, breeding locally

 

The winter population, which is mostly T. m. migratorius, but including T. m. nigrideus as well, begins arriving at the end of September or in early October, and is gone by about May 1.  The resident subspecies is T. m. achrusterus .  The robin breeds fairly commonly in New Orleans parks and similar situations (the Tulane campus, for example).  Numbers recorded on New Orleans Christmas Counts are surprisingly variable, ranging from 1 up to 20-100 birds per party-hour.

 

VARIED THRUSH  (Ixoreus naevius)        Accidental vagrant


The two records of this western thrush are as follows:  one seen briefly at Grand Isle on the unusual date of Mar. 5, 1992 (NN,DM), and another there on  19 Oct. 1996 (CS,PS... et al). [Stouffer]

 

Family Mimidae  MIMIC THRUSHES

 

GRAY CATBIRD (Dumetella carolinensis)    Common to abundant migrant, uncommon      winter visitor, occasional and local breeder

 

The Gray Catbirds inhabits dense understory, thickets, etc, in winter as well as on migration.  In the latter situation, it is often the most common migrant.  Indeed, the total number of catbirds which move through the coastal woods in migration is enormous.  In winter, many more are heard than seen, the clue to their presence being the distinctive, somewhat mewing-like call which gives them their name.  Prior to the summer of 1985, the only evidence of breeding was a June 27, 1933 record by Oberholser from Honey Island.  On July 21, 1985, however, a newly fledged catbird  was seen at Grand Isle (RDP,NN), with one or more adults.  This followed several sightings of apparently territorial catbirds (up to four?) from June 22 (AS,GS,JS) on.  The next summer, two adults were seen  there on June 21 (RDP) and on August 2, two adults and one recently fledged young were observed (RDP,DM).   Since then, catbirds have been seen in the same woods on Grand Isle in every summer, the evidence suggesting at least two pairs.  There was some evidence of nesting during the summer of 1994, based on sightings in late August (28th--RDP) and early September (PY). Maximum number is 243 on Oct. ....., 1998 at New Orleans (PY).

As a migrant expected dates are September 20 to May 15, with extremes of Sep. 1, 1985 (CL) and May 21, 1986 (AKF), both at New Orleans.

 

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus ployglottos)    Very common resident

 

There is little to be said about this familiar bird, loverd by all, except perhaps on those spring and summer  nights when it sings all night long, that has not already been written.  Although there is some evidence of a decline in numbers of mockingbirds on New Orleans CBCs, the data are still too sparse to permit a definite conclusion.  During spring and summer, mockingbirds feed largely on insects, including beetles, ants,wasps, and  grasshoppers, while in fall and winter much of the diet is plant material, including hackberry, virginian creeper,  greenbriar, etc. (Martin, et al, 1951).

 

SAGE THRASHER (Oreoscoptes montanus)  Occasional  vagrant

 

There are three records of this small western thrasher,  which breeds no closer than New Mexcio.  The first was Dec. 1, 1957 at Venice (SAG,JPG), and the second was found in the Chandeleur Islands on the improbable date of June 26,....(LEW,MM).  The most recent record was of a bird seen by at least a dozen observers on UNO's east campus on Oct. 27-28, 1979 (JR,m.ob., photos--RDP).  One photograph appeared in American Birds 34 (1980) 172.

 

BROWN THRASHER (Toxostoma rufum)   Common winter resident, breeds locally           and sparingly south of the lake, more common in breeding season in Florida     Parishes


Although the Brown Thrasher breeds regularly in City Park and similar places, and probably on occasion all the way to the coast, it is primarily a winter resident south of the lake, but a permanent resident north of it.  Wintering birds arrive in mid to late September and by mid May only the nestiing birds remain.  There has been a steady decline from the early 1960s to the late 1970s on New Orleans CBCs, although a recent recovery is possible.  The song resembles that of the mockingbird, but is somewhat "wiry-er" and much less diverse.

It might be added that the Curve-billed Thrasher, which breeds as near the region as west Texas, has occurred in southwest Louisiana on several...occasions.

 

Family Motacillidae  PIPITS

 

WATER PIPIT (Anthus spinoleeta)   Uncommon to sometimes common winter resident

 

Based on anecdotal evidecne, the Water Pipit seems to be much less common than a decade or two ago,  although habitat changes may account, in part, for that impression.  They are partial to short grass fields and levees, and are frequently noted simply as they fly by in small, osciallating flocks, giving their obvious "pip-it" call. Garbage dumps turn out to be excellent places to find them.

Expected dates of occurrence for Water Pipits are October 20 to April 15, but they have been recorded betwen Sep. 29, 1998 (RDP) [Oct. 4, 1957 (SAG)] and May 14, 1959 (JK), both at New Orleans.  There is also a June 10, 1895 record of a bird  collected in New Orleans (HHK).

 

SPRAGUE'S PIPIT (Anthus spragueii)   Rare winter visitor

 

Probably the only place where Sprague's Pipit can be found regularly in winter is in the Bonnet Carre Spillway, mostly near the river end, although careful searching elsewhere, in proper habit (short to angle-deep, weedy grass--not the extremely short grass habitat of the Water Pipit) will occasionally meet with success.  The Crescent Acres landfill in Arabi has been a fairly good place for Sprague’s Pipit in recent years.  There are a few records from the east campus of UNO, and a record from the lower coast of Algiers.   The most recent record from the New Orleans area is of one on the Recovery I landfill, Bayou Sauvage NWR, on Nov. 21, 1999 (DM,PY).  The call is a loud and very distinctive "kleep!", which a bird will give when flushed, and may continue to give as it climbs.

Expected dates are November 1 to about April 1, and extreme dates of occurrence are Oct. 22, 1961  (SAG) and April 11, 1894 (AA), both at New Orleans.

 

Family Bombycillidae  WAXWINGS

 

CEDAR WAXWING (Bombycilla cedrorum)   Common winter resident

 


The familiar Cedar Waxwing is often hard to find even as late as Christmas, but by late Febrary and March is usually very conspicuous, as it feeds on pyrocantha,, hackberry, and cherry laurel berries.  It flies about in flocks of 15-30 or so birds, advertising itself by its high-pitched whistles; it is especially conspicuous in late February and March, when they are sometimes quite numerous.  This late-winter abundance may be due to an influx of birds from the north, but more likely a function of changing food supplies.    The Cedar Waxwing is the very latest of the wintering passerine species to depart, often lingering until after May 20. 

Expected dates are November 20 to May 10, with extremes of Oct. 8, 1966 at New Orleans (RDP) and June 11, 1958 at Reserve (RJS).  Beyer (1900) found it as late as June 3 at Madisonville.

 

LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE (Lanius ludovicianus)   Common resident

 

Although Loggerhead Shrikes have declined dramattically in numbers in the northeastern U.S., their numbers have shown no such decline here, and in fact have held constant since the 1960s on New Orleans Christmas Bird Counts.  This is the familiar "butcher-bird" of rural, levee, and open  park-like habitat.  It has a variety of distincitive vocalizations which are difficult to describe.

 

Family Sturnidae  STARLINGS

 

EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris)   Abundant resident

 

Only rarely does one take the liberty of wishing that a particular bird did not occur on the list of the birds of Southeast Louisiana, or the state, but this is one of them.  Although starlings do consume large quantities of (presumably) undersiable insects, it is a serious nuisance  to urban dwellers and fruit and vegetable growers, and threatens populations of woodpeckers, bluebirds, purple martins, and other hole-nesters.  This introduced species from Europe--introduced in New York in 1890-91--was first recorded in the areas around 1907, and the f irst specimen was taken Jan. 31, 1926 in Jefferson Parish.

Family Emberizidae  WOOD WARBLERS, TANAGERS, GROSBEAKS,      SPARROWS, BLACKBIRDS, ORIOLES

 

BACHMAN'S WARBLER (Vermivora  bachmanii)    Formerly (EXTINCT?)

 

It is entirely possible, even likely, that Bachman's Warbler (pronounced "back-man", after the Rev. John Bachman of Charleston, SC) is now extinct, although occaional sightings are still reported (and there is, of course, a recent record from Cuba).  In Louisiana these are all too frequently of females, which are not easy to identify, although to be fair, they have generally been on dates when the bulk of the individuals migrating would be females, i.e., in late spring.  Although there is no evidence that Bachman's Warbler ever bred in Southeast Louisiana, there is much excellent swamp habitat in which it might have, and certainly many moved through the area in spring as late as the 1890s (see below).  Remsen has recently suggested (as had Meanley earlier) that Bachman's Warbler may have been a "bamboo specialist", and has vanished as the formerly extensive canebrakes have disappeared.  Gailbraith, who was from Hoboken, N.J., was collecting birds for the millinery trade when he obtained the records below, which were the first U.S. records for over half a century.  A useful article on plumage variation in specimens of Bachman's Warblers is Hamel and Gauthreaux (1982).  It is interesting that Audubon's plate of Bachman's Warbler also includes a specimen of the plant Franklinia alatamaha; neither species, the bird or the plant, certainly exists in the wild.  No certain record exists for Louisiana since 1925.  The records span the period Feb. 27 to May 4, making it one of the earliest migrants, basically ariving at the same time as the Parula Warbler.


As an aside, it would be very interesting to be sure of the validity of Galbraith’s records, both as to identification and to numbers, but no additional information is likely to be forthcoming at this remove.

The records are:  spring 1886 on the edge of Lake Pontchartrain (C.S. Galbraith, fide G.N. Lawrence,Auk, Jan. 1887); March 29, 1887 at Mandeville (Galbraith, fide Lawrence); March  2-20 1988 at Mandeville (Galbraith, fide HCO--31 collected, all males!); Feb. 27, March 6,9,12,13,14,  1981 at Mandeville (Galbraith--coll); May 9, 1903 at Lobdell (AA); April 4, 1925 at Grand Isle (ESH--2 males, coll).

 

BLUE-WINGED WARBLER (Vermivora pinus)    Uncommon to sometimes common        migrant

 

The Blue-winged Warbler, which is easily distinguished by the black line through the eye, is sometimes quite common in the first week of April or so; at that season it occasional gives its buzzy song.  There is a Nov. 29, 1963 record of a bird collected at Boothville (SAG) which may or may not have been of a wintering bird.  Blue-winged Warblers breed as near to the region as the Ozarks and the Appalachians and winter from southern Mexico to Panama.

Expected dates for spring migrants are April 5 to May 1, while in fall  expected dates are August 20 to about October 5.  Extremes for spring are Mar. 22, 1989  (AA,HHK) and May 11, 1981 (NN), both at New  Orleans; in fall they  are[24 July 2004 CB, Lewisburg] [July 30, 1988? (GO)] July 31, 1981 at New Orleans (JR) and Nov. 17, 1985 in St. Tammany Par. (JH).

 

GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER (Vermivora chrysoptera)  Uncommon migrant

 

Of the 32 species of warblers which are "regular" in Southeast Louisiana, the beautiful  Golden-winged is one of the least common, and yet one or more can usually be found, with sufficient time in the field, during a spring or fall migration.  There are at least three records of "Brewster's Warbler" , the more common hybrid between the Blue-winged and Golden-winged Warblers, and one record of the "Lawrence's" hybrid.  Anyone interested in these hybrids should see the paper by....Short, ....  Although the situation is really very much more complex, basically "Brewster's" hybrid is like a Blue-winged, but with little or no yellow below and perhaps yellow wing-bars, while "Lawrence's" hybrid is like a Golden-winged but with yellow underparts.  The records of "Brewster's Warbler" are spring 1891 (fide Frank Chapman, Auk 9:318); Apr. 14, 1953 at Grand Isle (BMM); and Apr. 14-15, 1969 at Grand Isle (KPA).  The single record of "Lawrence's Warbler" is Sep. 13, 1935 at New Orleans (TDB--coll).

In spring migration, expected dates are April 15 to about May 5, and in fall migration Goldenn-winged Warblers can be expected between August 20 and October 5.  Extreme dates are, in spring, Apr. 5, 1968 at Grand Isle (JHe) and May 9, 1982 at New Orleans (JR), while the fall extremes are July 23, 1898 (fide HCO) and Nov. 3, 1985 (GS), both at New Orleans.

 

TENNESSEE WARBLER (Vermivora peregrina)   Common  migrant, less common in recent years

 


In sping (and fall as well, except during the peak of Yellow Warbler migration) the Tennessee is usually the most  common purely transient warbler, although its numbers may have declined somewhat in recent years.  Its staccato song, which is poorly described in the National Geographic guid,  is often be heard in residential neighborhoods in sping, and its high, thin, "tsit!" or "seet" call note is often heard everywhere in fall.  Although there are two winter records since 1981, extreme care should be taken not to confuse this species with others, expecially the next.  Indeed, a Tennessee Warbler in winter should be looked at with the idea that it might be a Lucy's or Virginia's Warbler, both of which have occurred in Louisiana in winter.  Note that the earliest record for fall, Aug. 29, 1986, was of 20!  The next earliest record is Sep. 12.

Expected dates of spring migrants are March 25 to May 10, and of fall migrants, are September 15 to November 5.  The extreme dates of occurrence are, for spring, Mar. 12, 1900 (HHK) and June 8, 1981 (JR--singing) both at New Orleans;  for fall, the dates are Aug.  25, 2002 at Grand Isle (MM,PW,CS) [Aug. 29, 19.. at Grand Isle (AS,GS--20) and Nov. 23, 1977].   The "winter" records are Dec. 30, 1981  (DM,RDP) and Dec. 4, 1984 (JVR,TP,DM--2), both  from Venice.  It is a bit arbitrary to call the latter record a "winter" record.

 

ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER (Vermivora celata)   Common winter resident

 

The Orange-crowned is one of the two species of warblers that are regular winter visitors, the other being the considerably more common Yellow-rumped, or Myrtle Warbler.  This rather drab warbler can be found almost anywhere, but is especially common in brushy situations such as wax myrtle or baccharis  thickets at the edge of a marsh.  It is a regular component of the winter foraging flocks which  also contain chickadees, kinglets, gnatcatchers, downy woodpeckers, etc.  Its call note is a quite distinctive "tseet!" or "tsit!", not really the "chip" given in the National Geographic guide.  Once learned, the call will reveal the presence of many more Orange-crowned Warblers than one will see.  Orange-crowned Warblers occasionally sing in late spring, i.e., the first two weeks of April.

Expected dates are October 20 to April 15, with extreme dates of occurrence of Oct. 7, 1956 (SAG) and May 2, 1961 (MEL), both at New  Orleans.

 

NASHVILLE WARBLER (Vermivora ruficapilla)   Rare fall migrant, very occasional         spring migrant

 

The Nashville Warbler is a circum-gulf migrant which moves through east Texas in large numbers in both spring and fall, and is a considerably more common migrant in southwest Louisiana.  It is normally absent here, but on occasion, probably because of strong westerly flow, it occurs in fall,  usually the first week in October.  There are at least 20-25 records, all since 1956 (presumably a meaningless fact), and it is clear that it may be expected in very small numbers  from late September to late October.  There are only three spring records, perhaps because sustained west winds are less common in spring.  The 18 records prior to 1981 were distributed as follows:  Sep. (2), Oct. (10), Nov. (3), Dec. (3),  Mar. (1), Apr. (1), May (1).  It might be noted that there were no records between 1968 (JK) and 1977.  During the fall of 1981 Reinoehl had 10 records.  Winter records for Louisiana are sparse in spite of the fact that Nashville Warbler winters in east and southern Mexico, and Yucatan.

 


Expected dates are October 1 to October 20, and extreme dates in fall are Aug. 31, 1960 (SAG) and Nov. 19, 1968 (JK--banded), both at New Orleans.   The spring records are Apr. 4, 1958 at New Orleans (SAG), May 2, 1961 at New Orleans (SAG,MEL), Mar. 30, 1991 at Grand Isle (RDP,DM), and Apr. 9, 1992 (DM) at Lafitte NP.  The winter records are Dec. ..., 1977 at New Orleans (MB), Dec. 28, 1978 at Venice (BC,RJN), and Nov. 30, 1985 at Grand Isle  (CL,NLN).

 

LUCY'S WARBLER (Vermivora luciae)   Accidental winter vagrant

 

 A bird collected at Triumph on Dec. 30, 1959 (SAG,MEL) provided the first Louisiana record of this warbler from the southwestern U.S.  There is now at least one other record, from Cameron Parish.  Lucy's Warbler lacks the eyeline of the Tennessee Warbler (or Orange-crowned) and has a chestnut-colored rump.  The  note is a typical Vermivora  call, though sharper or stronger than Tennessee's.  Should be looked for in brushy fields and other waste areas near the coast (Venice, Grand Isle).

 

NORTHERN PARULA (Parula americana)   Very common migrant and summer    resident

 

The parula warbler is one of the most common and typical breeding birds of the southern bottomland hardwood or cypress-tupelo swamp.   Its ascending, high-pitched buzzy, almost insect-like song is easily learned.  It is also one of the most common sping and fall migrants, in these situations often located by its liquid "chip" call which is similar to that of the Yellow Warbler or American Redstart.  The Northern Parula is usually the earilest passerine spring migrant, after the Purple Martin, and in addition to the earliest record given below, there are the following late February records:  Feb. 26, 1982  and Feb. 23?, 1991, both at Lafitte NP (DM).  The unusual number of February records--five--might cause one to suspect that some of these were very early spring migrants, though none were singing.  An interesting late record is of 8 at Venice on Nov. 10, 1985 (RDP,NN).  There are two records of Tropical Parula  (P. pitiayumi)  from Cameron Parish.

Expected dates are March 1 to October 20, with extremes of Feb. 22, 1906 (fide Beyer, et al) [2/19 or 15? DPM?]  and Nov. 24, 1961 at Triump (SAG); in spring, migrants are present at least through the first week in May.  The "winter" records are:  Feb. 13, 1957 at New  Orleans (SAG); Feb. 7, 1959 at Reserve (RJS,DW); Dec. 24, 1960 at Buras (SAG); Jan. 7, 1968 at Venice (DS); Feb. 4, 1968 at Venice (LCB); Dec. 16, 1968 at Venice (RDP); Dec. 26, 1981 at Grand Isle (NLN,DN); Feb. 7, 1982 at Grand Isle (JR, et al; likely the same bird as previous); Dec. 30, 1982 at Venice (....);  Feb. 8, 1986 at Lafitte NP (AS,GS,JS); Nov.  14, 1991 (DM) at New Orleans?

 

[Remark:  the next 18 species of warblers all belong to the genus Dendroica, which contains most of the brightly colored New World Warblers.]

 

YELLOW WARBLER (Dendroica petchia)   Uncommon to common spring migrant,            very common to sometimes abundant fall migrant

 


Except for the Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler at its most common, the Yellow Warbler, in mid-August, is the most common of all the warblers in Southeast Louisiana.  Beginnin in late July and continuing through August, migrating Yellow Warblers abound, especially in weedy habitats, but in fact almost anywhere.  Their presence is made more conspicuous by their habit of migrating by day and calling as they move.  The note given in flight is a distinctive buzzy note that closely resembles the call of the Indigo Bunting (they do not, however, overlap by very much in fall migration).  The other common call note is a liquid "chip" similar to that of the  parula warbler and American Redstart.  Yellow Warblers are often common in late spring, and are among the few migrants which can be expected after May 20; they often will be heard singing their sweet, jumbling, rising song.  The Yellow Warbler is one of the earliest fall migrants, often the earliest; the bulk are gone by late September.   There are at least nine winter records.

Expected dates as spring migrants are April 10 to May 20 or later, and for fall migrants July 20 to October 10.  Extreme dates in spring are Mar. 30, 1904 (AA) and May 31, 1979 (BMcK), both at New Orleans, while fall extremes are July 2, 1962 at New Orleans (LEW) and Nov. 3, 1985 in Metairie (SP).  The winter records are:  Feb. 2, 1957 at New Orleans (HBC); Dec. 24, 1957 at Reserve (RJS), Dec. 28, 1961 at New Orleans (fide SAG--2); Dec. 23, 1962 at New Orleans (RF,DKH); Dec. 4, 1983 at Venice (TP,JVR,DM); Dec. 31, 1985 at Venice (DM,RDP,PS...--2); ......, 1986 at Venice (DM,RDP--2);  Dec. 31, 1987 at Venice (....); ....Venice (NN,SAG,NLN); Dec. 29, 1991 at Venice (DM,NN,JMcB);  Jan. 3, 1993 at Venice (PW). [Jan. 2006 PW]

 

CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER (Dendroica pensylvanica)   Uncommon spring and         fall migrant

 

This warbler, one of the most beautiful of the Denddroicas , is certainly less common than it once was, and could even be missed in an average spring migration.   Chestnut-sided Warblers are perhaps less common in fall than spring, although that may result from the fact that they are less conspicuous in fall.  The drab fall birds are distinguished by the fact that they are a uniform white to  light gray  on the underparts and have no face pattern except for an eyering and faintly yellowish wing-bars.  In that plumage, they would be most likely to be confused with a fall female or immature Cerulean Warbler which, however, has a distinct eyeline (superciliary stripe).  There are no winter records.

The expected dates of spring migrants are April 15 to May 10; and in fall migration, September 20 to October 15.  Extreme dates are, in spring, Mar. 21, 1894 at New Orleans (GEB) and May 12 in 1960 at New Orleans (SAG) and in 1974 at ...(MM,NN); in fall the extremes are Sep. 4, 1871 at Lewisburg (fide  HCO--coll) and Nov. 18, 1985 at New Orleans (NN). 

 

MAGNOLIA WARBLER (Dendroica  magnolia)   Common migrant

 

The Magnolia Warbler is a regular spring and fall migrant, sometimes encountered in large numbers, usually in "fall-out" conditions of bad weather in spring and fall.  The only identification problem posed by this species is that immatures and females in fall look very different from spring males, or even spring females.  The fall birds may have almost no streaking below, and little in the way of face markings except for a fairly prominent eyering.  Thus they present an appearence of being yellow below, gray above, and with an eyering. Magnolia Warblers, whose song is something like a distant or soto voce Hooded Warbler, mainly because of the rising inflection at the end, sing sparingly during spring migration, but do give their rather unusual call, which is a drawn-out, nasal, almost "mewing" note.   There are at least  seven winter records.


Spring migrants are expected between April 25 and May 10 (15?) and fall migratns between September 15 and November 1.  Extremes are, in spring, Apr. 12, 1969 at Grand Isle (JMH,RF) and May 25, 1975 at New Orleans (JR); in fall, Sep. 5, 1981  (JR) and Nov. 17, 1985  (RDP), both at New Orleans.  The winter records are:  Dec. 30, 1959 at Buras (SAG,MEL,MW); Dec. 27, 1962 at New Orleans (MEL,SAG); Nov. 29, 1964 at Venice (SAG); Jan. 3, 1965 at Venice (SAG--coll); Dec. 24, 1969 at Triumph (RDP); Dec. 16-29, 1973 at Reserve (MW); Dec. 29, 1975 at Triumph (RDP,NN,NLN).

 

 

CAPE MAY WARBLER (Dendroica  tigrina)   Rare spring migrant

 

The Cape May Warbler normally migrates down the east coast, presumably through Cuba, to its wintering grounds in the West Indies.  As a result, it is not often found in Southeast Louisiana, unless weather conditions, presumably sustained eastern flow, diverts part of the flight in our direction.  On occasion, Cape May Warblers can be relatively common, even as far west as southwest Louisiana, and there are now at least 21 records for Southeast Louisiana.  The maximum number encounted on a single trip in Southeast Louisiana in  spring is 18 at Grand Isle on Apr. 20, 1963 (MD,EAT), and at least 5 were seen on at least two  occasions (including May 1, 2004 (PW,DM,RDP–photos).   On the other hand, often a spring passes with no records, and there are but two (3?) fall records (fall birds, especially females and immatures are not at all distinctive and confusion can easily result).  Perhaps the most interesting individual record is that of a male Cape May Warbler which landed on a boat off Southwest Pass of the Mississippi River on May 6, 1985 (MM).

New Orleans records are quite rare, recent one being May...., 2004 (DM,PW).

 

While male Cape May Warblers are spectacular and unmistakable, immature females are quite nondescript, closely resembling Yellow-rumped Warblers, though without a yellow rump.

 

Expected dates are approximately April 15 to May 1, with extremes of Apr. 5, 1969 at Myrtle Grove (DS) and May 18, 1981 at Grand Isle (NN,DM).  The fall record(s) are:  Nov. 13, 1983 at Grand Isle (DM,RDP,NN) [and RDP....City Park...]; Oct. 17, 1993 at Grand Isle (MM,RDP).

 

BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER (Dendroica caerulescens)   Rare migrant

 

The Black-throated Blue Warbler breed from the norther U.S. and Canada south into the Smokies.  Its migration routes normally take it to the east of us, through Florida and (perhaps) transgulf from as far west as Alabama.  As with the Cape May Warbler, however, strong easterly flow, especially in spring, may divert an occasional Black-throated Blue into this area.  There are, in fact probably 30 records,  only two of which came between 1967 and 1978; the maximum number recorded is four (two collected), on May 18, 1952 at Pilottown (CFL).  A breeding plumage male was singing in migration at Grand Isle on May 6, 2001 (MM,PW).  There are four winter records, the most interesting being of one which over-wintered on Grand Isle in 2001-2 (PW,DM,MM,RDP).  The winter records are:......

 

  It should be apparent from a glance at a field guide that  females are not well marked, yet at the same time, they are quite distinctive.  Note especially the white supercilliary stripe and  the slightly buffy underparts.  Rich Martin reported.....on....., 2001 at Grand Isle.  Spring 2004 GI (Wendy); May 1, 2004 at Grand Isle (DM).

 


Black-throated Blue Warblers have been seen, in spring between Mar. 22, 1894 at New Orleans (GEB) and May  22, 1988 at Grand Isle (...).[1989 DM?]; and in fall, between Sep. 8, 1956 at New Orleans (BMM,MM,CLE,HAJE) and Nov. 3, 1957 at Grand Isle (DLC,EOW).{Oct. 17, 1992 GI MM,RDP}.

 

YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (Dendroica coronata)    Very common to abundant       winter resident

 

[MYRTLE WARBLER]

[AUDUBON'S WARBLER]

 

This is the common wintering warbler (to many, too common!) of woodland, marshy edges with willows and wax myrtles, and residential gardens.  By April, many "Myrtle" Warblers will be heard singing.  The western form, formerly "Audubon's" Warbler, which has a noticeably different call note, has been recorded on at least 18 occasions, between Oct. 9 and May 7.

Expected dates of wintering are October 20 to April 25, with extreme dates of occurrence of Oct. 6, 1991 at Diamond (MM,NN,RDP) and May 5 in 1951 (HBC) at Grand Isle and 1956 (SAG) in New Orleans.

 

BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER (Dendroica nigrescens)  Casual in winter

 

There are at least 23 records of this western warbler of the Rocky Mountains, Cascades, and Sierra Nevada, all since 1955, so that one might be expected in any winter.  All records are since 1955, and most of them from near the coast.  The records are distributed as follows:  Oct. (3), Nov. (4), Dec. (5), Jan. (4), Feb. (2), Mar. (1).  The late Mar. 25, 1980 record was of a bird which