No. 56 New Orleans, Louisiana30 October 1970

By George H. Lowery, Jr.
At the meeting of the LOS last spring in Cameron some members expressed interest in knowing how many species of birds are now on the state list. As most members are aware, I am presently preparing the third revised edition of Louisiana Birds, scheduled for publication sometime within the next year. Consequently, I have been working on the new species accounts that will go into the revised edition. Perhaps the following resume will provide LOS members with the information requested.
In the five years that elapsed between the first and second editions of Louisiana Birds the number of species known from the state increased from 377 to 387. The latter figure included eleven additions, minus the Spotted Towhee, which in the 1955 edition was accorded full species rank but in the 1960 edition was demoted to racial status under the Rufous-sided Towhee. Since the publication in 1960 of the revised second edition no less than 21 species have been added to the state list. One of these additions results from the separation of the Boat-tailed Grackle (Cassidix major) and the Great-tailed Grackle (C. mexicanus) as two distinct species. The two were previously regarded as conspecific. Consequently, this addition is attributable to a taxonomic consideration, not to the discovery within our borders of a species of bird not previously recorded in the state. Again, because of similar technicalities, five other species that were previously counted are now being removed from the list. The Blue and Snow geese, each formerly treated as separate species, are now regarded as nothing more than color phases of a single species, Chen caerulescens. The Red-shafted Flicker (Colaptes cafer), which was previously considered specifically distinct, is now known to hybridize freely in its zone of contact with the Yellow-shafted Flicker (C. auratus) and therefore becomes a subspecies of the latter. And, for the same reason, Bullock's Oriole (Icterus bullockii)is now regarded as a subspecies of the Baltimore Oriole (I. galbula) Audubon's Warbler (Dendroica auduboni), which was formerly considered specifically distinct from Myrtle Warbler (D. coronata), is currently regarded as a race of the latter since the two intergrade extensively through passes in the Canadian Rockies and the mountains of northern British Columbia. The Harlan's Hawk (Buteo harlani) is nothing more than a subspecies of the Red-tailed Hawk (B. borealis), and I am treating it as such.
There are other controversial pairs of species that some taxonomists would argue should be treated conspecifically, that is, lumped as members of single polytypic species. For example, doubt has been expressed as to whether the Glossy and White-faced ibises, the King and Clapper rails, the Rose-breasted and Black-headed grosbeaks, and the Slate-colored, Oregon, and Gray-headed juncos are each valid species. However, I am not presently adopting any of these proposed changes even though there may be compelling reasons for doing so at a later date.
There is one matter that requires the immediate attention of Louisiana ornithologists. The investigations of Stein (Proc. Amer. Philo. Soc., 107, 1963:21-50) have demonstrated conclusively in my opinion, as well as that of many other taxonomists, that "Traill's" Flycatcher is a composite of two sibling species. One is easily distinguished in the field by its trisyllabic "fee-bee-o" call note, while the call of the other is a disyllabic "fitz-bew." Both types doubtless pass through the state in migration in considerable numbers, especially in fall. Identification of museum specimens is extremely difficult and cannot be done with certainty in all cases. Anyone encountering one of these flycatchers should record carefully a description of the call notes heard. There are positive records, based on specimens in the LSUMZ, of both types from the state, but much additional data are needed before officially adding it to the list.
Although 31 species have been added since 1955, the net increase, according to my treatment, has been only 26. Consequently, the number of species on the state list now stands at 403, a figure that includes the Boat-tailed and Great-tailed grackles, but excludes the Snow Goose, Harlan's Hawk, Red-shafted Flicker, Audubon's Warbler, Bullock's Oriole, and Spotted Towhee. The serious student should continue to record these deleted forms as if they were good species because a failure to do so would obscure valuable information on the seasonal movements of populations represented by them.
As a member of the AOU Committee that is now working on the Sixth Edition of the AOU Check-list, I am confident that the deletions noted above will be incorporated in the next edition. However, for those who wish to abide strictly by the present edition of the AOU Checklist until an official change has been published, the state list would comprise 407 species.
In the 1960 list 14 species were admitted that were not based on specimens taken within the state. They were: Red-throated Loon, Scarlet Ibis, American [=Greater] Flamingo, Trumpeter Swan, European Widgeon, Harlequin Duck, Swainson's Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, Curlew Sandpiper, Roseate Tern, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Gray Kingbird, Connecticut Warbler, and Painted Redstart. The identifications of three of these (the swan, widgeon, and tern) were allegedly based on material in the hand but the specimens were not saved or else are not now extant. Two others, the Swainson's Hawk and Gray Kingbird, have now been taken in the state. To the remaining 12 species not documented by specimens I now add five more: Yellow-nosed Albatross, Brant, Glaucous Gull, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, and Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher. Three of these are admitted on the basis of good photographic evidence.
The 21 species added to the state list since 1960 are as follows:
Yellow-nosed Albatross (Diomedea chlororhynchos). The only record for any kind of albatross in the Gulf of Mexico is that of an adult Yellow-nosed that flew in from the open Gulf on 9 May 1970 a few miles west of Holly Beach, in Cameron Parish. By the greatest good fortune two competent ornithologists, Joe Kennedy and James W. McDaniel, happened to be on the shore at that exact point and both were equipped with excellent photographic equipment. The superb pictures that they obtained as the mollymawk cruised briefly back and forth over the breakers before heading back to sea and disappearing over the horizon leave no doubt as to the bird's specific identity. Robert Cushman Murphy of the American Museum of Natural History, world authority on oceanic birds, and George E. Watson of the U. S. National Museum, author of a field guide to oceanic birds, have independently agreed that the albatross was unquestionably this stray from South Atlantic waters. The Yellow-nosed Albatross breeds on Tristan da Cunha and Gough islands in the South Atlantic and on St. Paul Island in the Indian Ocean. It is of accidental occurrence in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, on the coast of Maine, and on Long Island. (See Audubon Field Notes, 52, 1970: in press.)
Audubon's Shearwater (Puffinus lherminieri). Although this pelagic species has been observed varying distances offshore from the mouth of the Mississippi River, no definite record for the state was obtained until the days immediately following Hurricane Carla when on 15-16 September 1961 Delwyn G. Berrett, Laurence C. Binford, Edward Armstrong, and Keith A. Arnold picked up 14 carcasses on the Gulf beach between Johnsons Bayou and Holly Beach, in Cameron Parish. Two of the specimens were prepared as museum study skins and 9 were skeletonized, all for the LSUMZ collections. (See Audubon Field Notes, 16, 1962:43.)
Brant (Branta bernicla). An immature individual of this species was studied at close range through a 40 X spotting scope in City Park, New Orleans, on 27 November 1960, by William J. Graber and corroborated in the succeeding three days by Sidney A. Gauthreaux, Mary Lewis, Mr. and Mrs. H. A. J. Evans, and Buford M. Myers. It was also photographed in colored motion pictures by Myers. The film is now on file in the LSUMZ. (See Audubon Field Notes, 15, 1961:48.)
Swainson's Hawk (Buteo swainsoni). Sight records of this species in the state continue to accumulate, and there is now, fortunately, a supporting specimen, a female obtained 2 miles southeast of Fenton, in Jefferson Davis Parish, on 6 December 1963 by Laurence C. Binford. The specimen is no.32159 in the LSUMZ collections.
Black Francolin Black Francolin (Francolinus francolinus). In the spring of 1961 and subsequently the Louisiana Wild Life and Fisheries Commission, in collaboration with U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, obtained a large consignment of Black Francolins from India for trial liberations in the state. Two sites were chosen that represented two extremely diverse types of land use terrain. One was the Moore Ranch, south of Vinton, in Cameron Parish, and the other was the Earl Barham Plantation at Oak Ridge, in Morehouse Parish. On the Moore Ranch 110 birds were released in April 1961 and 201 in February 1962. On the Barham Plantation 152 birds were released in April 1961 and 190 in May 1962. Although the experiment in Morehouse Parish is now regarded as unsuccessful, the species seems to be flourishing at the release site in Cameron Parish. Indeed, numerous nests and successful broods have been observed involving unbanded birds and hence not part of the original release, and the species is now a conspicuous part of the avifauna of the area. And there is good evidence that it has expanded its range for it has been observed north of the Intracoastal Canal in Calcasieu Parish. I have no hesitation in adding the species to the state list as a successfully introduced exotic.
Northern Phalarope (Lobipes lobatus). The only positive record of this species is an adult female obtained by me 10 miles west of Johnsons Bayou on 8 May 1966. It is now specimen no. 51246 in the LSUMZ. (See Audubon Field Notes, 20, 1966:517.) On 1 May 1970 Newman and I observed six phalaropes back of the Cameron Court House that we believe were this species.
Pomarine Jaeger (Stercorarius pomarinus). This jaeger has been observed and actually collected on fairly numerous occasions in our offshore waters, but not until Sidney A. Gauthreaux, John P. Gee, and Hugo Black saw one, which Gee collected at the West Jetty of the mouth of the Calcasieu River in Cameron Parish, on 20 April 1962, was the species officially added to the state list. (See Audubon Field Notes, 16, 1962: 421.) The specimen is now deposited in the LSUMZ as no.28731.
Parasitic Jaeger (Stercorarius parasiticus). Following Hurricane Carla Sidney A. Gauthreaux observed a Parasitic Jaeger at very close range on the New Orleans lakefront on 12 September 1961. But the only record of this species having been taken on our shores or within our territorial waters is that of a female shot at the mouth of Calcasieu Pass on 14 January 1962 by Lovett E. Williams and now deposited in the LSUMZ as no.27660. (See Audubon Field Notes 16,1962:43 and 338.) Williams also saw three Parasitic Jaegers between 1/8 and 4 miles offshore from the mouth of Sabine Pass on 21 June 1961, two others near shore at Cameron on 6 January 1962, and another at the same place on 2l January 1962.
Long-tailed Jaeger (Stercorarius longicaudus). This species was added to the state list when A. W. Palmisano and Sidney A. Gauthreaux obtained a female specimen at the West Jetty of the Calcasieu River, in Cameron Parish, on 24 April 1965. The specimen is now n~. 35513 in the LSUMZ. Also present when the jaeger was first observed were Horace Jeter, James Stewart, and Mary Lewis. (See Audubon Field Notes, 19, 1965: 484; also Auk, 83, 1966: 673.)
Glaucous Gull (Larus hyperboreus). Although there is still no specimen to document the addition of this species to the state list, it has now been recorded by competent observers so many times that there appears to be no reason to continue to exclude it. A subadult was observed by T. D. Burleigh and myself at Holly Beach on 4 December 1938. On 4 December 1960 Laurence C. Binford and Robert F. Andrle, both of whom were familiar with the species, independently saw an immature gull near Johnsons Bayou and each separately identified the bird as a Glaucous Gull. Their notes are replete with critical details. On 4 March 1961, Sidney A. Gauthreaux, Mary Lewis, and others saw an immature individual of the species on Lake Pontchartrain bridge near New Orleans. Again on 27 April 1963, Richard Alberstadt, Sidney A. Gauthreaux, A. W. Palmisano, Stephen A. Russell, and others saw an immature individual at Holly Beach and observed it off and on for three hours. Finally, Laurence C. Binford, Sidney A. Gauthreaux, John P. Gee, and Burt L. Monroe, Jr., saw a first-year bird near the West Jetty at the mouth of the Calcasieu River on 17 April 1965. (See Audubon Field Notes, 15, 1961:336; 17, 1963:411-412.)
Bridled Tern (Sterna anaethetus). The first record of this species for the state is one found dead on the beach 2 miles west of Holly Beach on 16 September 1961 by Edward Armstrong and Keith A. Arnold, following Hurricane Carla. It is now no.25136 in the LSUMZ collections. On 10 September 1965, when Hurricane Betsy passed inland over Baton Rouge it brought with it an adult Bridled Tern to the University Lake on the LSU campus, where it was observed by Laurence C. Binford, Sidney A. Gauthreaux, and Robert J. Newman. The observers supplied copious supporting details. (See Audubon Field Notes, 16, 1962:43; 20, 1966: 56.)
Buff-bellied Hummingbird (Amazilia yucatanensis). Between 23 November and 30 December 1965 the late Mrs. Thelma von Gohren observed a hummingbird in her yard in New Orleans that appears to have been this species. Color slides that she made on several dates in December leave little or no doubt as to the bird1s identity, and these are on file in the LSUMZ. The speciesbreeds in the lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas, south through eastern Mexico to Guatemala and British Honduras.
Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus). The first and only record of this species in the state is that of a male obtained 4.3 miles east of Johnsons Bayou, in Cameron Parish, on 9 October 1965 by Laurence C. Binford. The specimen is now no.48676 in the collections of the LSUMZ. (See Audubon Field Notes, 20, 1966: 58.)
Cassin's Kingbird (Tyrannus vociferans). A female of this species was collected 4.6 miles east of Holly Beach, in Cameron Parish, on 7 November 1964 by Ralph Andrews and myself. It is now no. 33856 in the collections of the LSUMZ. There are no other records of its occurrence in the state. (See Audubon Field Notes, 19, 1965:47.)
Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher (Myiodynastes luteiventris). Although there may be valid arguments for not including this species on the state list in the absence of at least one specimen taken within our borders, I believe the circumstances surrounding the record in question indicate that it should be accepted. On 30 September 1956 an unquestionable member of the genus Myiodynastes was observed in the oaks on Grand Isle by Robert J. Newman and Edwin 0. Willis. Both observers were personally acquainted with the Sulphur-bellied in life and one of them was familiar also with the Streaked Flycatcher (M. maculatus). The bird was studied with binoculars at distances as close as 20 feet and the large bill, whitish superciliary line, bold dark malar patches, streaked breast, and reddish-brown tail were all carefully noted and detailed in their report. Attempts to collect it were futile. The one difficulty about accepting the record unequivocally lies in the fact that the bird was seen within a week of the passage of Hurricane Flossy, suggesting that it might have been a waif from Yucatan where both species of the genus Myiodynastes occur. The field characters of the two are, indeed, quite subtle. But the observers entertained no doubt that their bird was a Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher. (See Audubon Field Notes, 11, 1957:31.)
Wied's Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus tyrannulus). There are now five records of the occurrence of this species in the state, two being documented by specimens. Brian J. Donlan obtained the first record and specimen at Venice, in Plaquemines Parish, on 24 November 1961, and the second 2 miles northwest of Venice on 4 December 1961. The specimens are now, respectively, nos. 27031 and 27032 in the LSUMZ collections. Between 7 and 13 December 1969 Ronald J. Stein, Joseph Cambre, D. K. Carpenter, and Robert J. Newman saw an individual of this species at Reserve, in St. John the Baptist Parish. (See Audubon Field Notes, 16, 1962:46 and 338.)
Western Wood Pewee (Contopus sordidulus). This western species has been recorded only once in the state. A male specimen was collected 2 miles west of Grand Chenier, in Cameron Parish, by Laurence C. Binford on 10 October 1965. It is now no.48493 in the LSUMZ collections. (See Audubon Field Notes, 20, 1966: 58.) Allan R. Phillips has examined the specimen and identified it as the race saturatus that breeds in southeastern Alaska south through western British Columbia to western Washington and Oregon.
Curve-billed Thrasher (Toxostoma curvirostre). This species was seen at Hackberry, in Cameron Parish, on 26 August 1958 by John P. Gee. Now, however, there is a specimen to document its inclusion on the state list. A male was obtained at the east end of Willow Island, near Cameron, on 7 December 1963 by John J. Morony. lt is now no. 32162 in the LSUMZ collections.
Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides). The first record of this species in the state is that of a female obtained 3 miles southwest of Alford, in West Baton Rouge Parish, by Kenneth P. Able on 28 January 1968. (See Audubon Field Notes, 22, 1968: 447.) It is now specimen no.63576 in the LSUMZ collections. An adult male was also observed 5 miles north of New Roads, in Pointe Coupee Parish, on 14 February 1970, by Robert J. Newman, Linda B. Watkins, and Shirley Frazier.
Boat-tailed Grackle (Cassidix major). This species, which is now considered specifically distinct from the Great-tailed Grackle (C. mexicanus), is a permanent resident in the coastal tier of parishes from one side of the state to the other. The latter species is resident also in the coastal parishes but regularly only as far east as Avery Island. There is evidence, though, that the species may be expanding its range further eastward because of its appearance recently near Reserve, in St. John the Baptist Parish (fide Ronald Stein, pers. comm.).
Bronzed Cowbird Bronzed Cowbird (Tangavius aeneus). On 31 December 1961 Mr. and Mrs, R. B. Moore, along with Laura B. Moore and Mrs. Hazel Carpenter, observed six Bronzed Cowbirds on the Little Chenier road, in Cameron Parish, carefully noting at a distance of 25 feet in bright sunlight the red eyes and the greenish sheen of the plumage. (See Audubon Field Notes, 16, 1962: 339.) Although there is little or no doubt regarding the validity of the identification, the addition of the bird to the state list in the absence of a specimen would have posed a problem. Fortunately, though, such a specimen is now available. A female was obtained 3 miles west of Port Allen, in West Baton Rouge Parish, on 14 March 1964, by Murrell Butler. The specimen is now no. 33861 in the LSUMZ collections.
Evening Grosbeak (Hesperiphona vespertina). Since the publication in 1960 of the revised edition of Louisiana Birds two major invasions of the state by the Evening Grosbeak have taken place. The first invasion, in the winter of l96l-62, produced the initial record of the bird's occurrence in Louisiana, a male specimen (LSUMZ no. 27673) obtained from a flock of four males and one female observed by James B. Avant in West Monroe, in Ouachita Parish, on 9 January 1962. Later, on 25 January, Mrs. Virginia Cazedessus observed, 7-10 miles northeast of Amite, in Tangipahoa Parish, approximately 50 individuals pecking at a seam in the pavement of the highway where salt and sand had been spread during an earlier hard freeze. And, on 5 March, L. A. Bannon found a single male 2 miles southeast of Pride, in East Baton Rouge Parish, that he and I collected (LSUMZ no. 27848). On 25 March 1962, Burt L. Monroe, Jr., observed a single individual 2 miles east of Gramercy, in St James Parish.
The winter of 1968-69 saw the state inundated with Evening Grosbeaks: 41 separate reports, representing a total of more than 5,000 individuals, were received with virtually every part of the state being represented. The largest single flocks reported were one containing approximately 2,000 birds at Monroe and another containing "over 1,000" at Weiss, in Livingston Parish. (See Audubon Field Notes, 16, 1962 237 and 339: 23, 1969: 489.
Although a phenomenal invasion such as that of 1968-69 might have been expected to have been followed by an "echo" invasion in the winter of 1969-70, this was not the case. Flocks were reported at Shreveport on 14 January and at Natchitoches in March but the species was not detected elsewhere.
Should any member of the LOS detect errors or omissions on my part, please advise me at once. Also if there are any significant records, such as "earlier than ever" or "later than ever" observations, for which data slips were not sent to the Museum for primary use in compiling AFN reports, please let me have this information at your earliest convenience. The new edition will contain "Charts Showing the Seasonal Occurrence of Louisiana Birds" that have been completely revised to show the extreme dates on which migrant species have been seen. Because of new data that are now available and the marked changes that have taken place in the status of some species, many of the species accounts are being entirely rewritten. The task of bringing all the information together is both time consuming and laborious. I need the help of every LOS member in the undertaking.

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King Rail neck feather (L'Hoste/1998) design
posted 07March1999