No. 185 BATON ROUGE, LAMarch/April 1999

Table of Contents

The Botanical Birder
LOS Pelagics
Death of a CBC
Great LA BirdFest
1998 Parish Challenge
Sulid ID article
Sulid Figure
An Insidious Invasion
Rufous Departure
LA Yard/Deck List Competition
Acadiana MBD
PIF Migration Monitoring
Sharpshin Poem
Welcome New Members
LOS Officers LOS Sales
Membership Form
LOS NEWS, page 1 LOS Homepage

Let's take another look:
Identification and hints to locate Louisiana's sulids
The family Sulidae (collectively called "sulids") consists of three genera of strictly marine and primarily pelagic seabirds: Morus (gannets; four species worldwide, only one occurring in the Northern Hemisphere), Sula (boobies; 5 species worldwide with primarily Pantropical distribution), and Papasula (Abbott's Booby; endemic to Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean). All sulids are characterized by a long, dagger-like, conical bill (slightly more hooked on Abbott's Booby), long pointed wings, and long wedge-shaped tails. Sulids fly with several deliberate strokes followed by a glide. All species are superb plunge divers, often beginning their dive from great heights. When a bird sights its fish prey, it gains height above the water, then folds its wings close to its body, and falls like a dart towards the surface of the water, often at an angle. If captured, fish are consumed under or at the surface of the water. Sulids search for schools of small fish, or are drawn to their prey by the sight of other feeding birds, marine mammals, or large fish (like tuna). Their characteristic flight silhouette (reminiscent of a slender, long-winged pelican or heavy-bodied shearwater) can be detected from long distances. All species are essentially pelagic, coming ashore only to nest or roost. All species, except Red-footed, are primarily diurnal feeders, returning to roost at the breeding colony, or on some offshore substrate: platform, or ship rigging, or some flotsum. Masked Boobies have been reported to rest on the backs of sea turtles. Red-footed Booby is reported to feed at dusk and even through the night. Northern Gannets often roost on the water during the non-breeding season. All species have a distinct juvenal plumage and require two or more years, and a number of transitional plumage types (age/plumage sequence of many species remains unclear), to attain definitive (full adult) plumage. Adult breeding and non-breeding plumages are identical. The coloration of the soft parts (bill, facial and gular skin, legs and feet) intensifies in anticipation of the breeding season. One species, Red-footed Booby, is polymorphic. Two distinct morphs (and intermediates) characterize this species' definitive plumage. The main character separating gannets from boobies is the shape of the bare skin in the gular (throat) area. The gular skin of gannets extends from the base of the bill in a narrow strip, extending down the throat and terminating in a point. In contrast, the bare gular skin pattern of boobies is squared-off along the bottom of the throat, similar to the pattern found on cormorants. This distinction between gular patterns can easily be seen at close range.
Status and distribution.
Of the four species of sulids thus far documented for Louisiana, only two are detected with any reliability. The Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus) breeds spring through summer on sea cliffs in the North Atlantic. Birds winter within the breeding range, as well as move south along both coasts, mostly over the continental shelf, reaching the Gulf of Mexico and the coast of north Africa. Northern Gannet is the most plentiful sulid in Louisiana, and is the expected species to be observed from or on shore. It has become an uncommon to fairly common winter resident on Louisiana's offshore "green" waters and can regularly be seen from coastal vantages of the open Gulf. It is less common in the brown waters of the Mississippi River plume, but is regularly observed from shore off Cameron Parish. The species' peak occurrence is between early November and late April, which coincides with the species' non-breeding season. A few individuals (sub-adults or sickly birds) attempt to summer on the Gulf, and stragglers are occasionally encountered on Louisiana's beaches. This species is regularly attracted to bird activity behind trawlers.
Unlike the gannet, the Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra) is a strictly a "blue water" species. Masked Booby ranges throughout all tropical oceans. Louisiana records involve the nominate subspecies (S. d. dactylatra), which breeds (seasonality not well-defined, more often fall through spring) in the Caribbean, on the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, off Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Lesser Antilles. Non- breeding birds range at sea within the breeding area as well as move north into the Gulf of Mexico. Most Louisiana records are from July to late October. Because blue water is usually far off the Louisiana coast, the chances of seeing a healthy, non-storm related Masked Booby from shore is slim. Masked Boobies can be adversely affected by tropical storms and hurricanes. Occasionally, windblown birds may be found on shore following these storms (often dead or moribund), or even driven far inland depending on the ferocity of the storm. The farthest inland this species has been recorded in Louisiana is East Feliciana Par., courtesy of Hurricane Carla. Masked Boobies have been reliably found on LOS and other pelagic trips to deep water, where they are seen roosting on buoys or oil platforms, or feeding over fish schools (such as anchovies and flying fish). Masked Boobies often investigate boats and will often circle several times checking for potential meals (chum or fish "flushed" by the boat). Currently on the LBRC Review List, recent work offshore is revealing that this species is regular and removal from the Review List may be warranted.
Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster) is another Pantropical species. Louisiana records pertain to the nominate subspecies, S. l. leucogaster, which breeds in the southern Atlantic and in the Caribbean off Yucatan, the Bahamas, and south to the Antilles. This is another Review List species, with only six confirmed or LBRC-accepted records for the state. Texas currently accepts six records (including two winter records). This species is likely more numerous in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico than current records from Louisiana and Texas would indicate. The records span April through mid-October. As with Masked, this booby can be attracted to and will follow boats. It is only a matter of time before one is located on a LOS Pelagic Trip! Because this species prefers deep blue water, it is not likely to be encountered on or near shore, unless driven there by a tropical storm or sickness.
Red-footed Booby (Sula sula) also has a Pantropical distribution. The nominate subspecies nests in the Carribean off Yucatan, Belize, the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the Grenadines. It primarily ranges within the breeding area during the non-breeding season. It is the rarest sulid in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico and is on the Review List. There is only one currently accepted Louisiana record, a specimen of a juvenile collected at the mouth of Bayou Scofield, Plaquemines Par. on 1 November 1940. Two recent reports are pending LBRC review. It has only been recorded once off Texas (March 1983). Red-footed Booby is also a blue water species. It is reported to be more "sedentary" than Brown and Masked boobies, which may account for the paucity of records. Wouldn't a Red-footed be a real treat on a LOS trip?
No other species of sulid is expected (as a natural vagrant) to occur on Louisiana waters. Blue- footed Booby (Sula nebouxii), a Pacific Coast species, breeding on islands off Mexico, Ecuador, and northern Peru and the Galapagos Islands, has occurred twice in the interior of Texas, records that may have been associated with tropical storms (driving the birds well inland) or human intervention (boobies are exceptionally tame compared to other birds). Several reports of this species from Louisiana either remain unsubstantiated or have proven to be either Northern Gannets or Masked Boobies.
Sulid identification is not too difficult with respect to the four species that have occurred in Louisiana (we will focus only on these four). The main characters used in identification are: size and plumage color/patterns (notably color of head, upper wing and under wing coverts, secondaries, tail, and rump). To put size into some perspective, compare size of the large Northern Gannet (slightly smaller wingspan than a Brown Pelican) to the medium-sized Masked and Brown boobies (wingspan slightly larger than a Herring Gull or a Double-crested Cormorant), to the small Red-footed Booby (approximately the wingspan of a Laughing Gull or Neotropic Cormorant). Remember that size of individual birds can be difficult to judge - use nearby species as a reference. Soft part colors (bill, facial and gular skin, legs and feet) may be useful for field identification, but are not easily observed under most field conditions.
Northern Gannet is separated from boobies in any plumage by its larger size and the shape of the gular patch. The facial skin and gular "stripe" are dark gray. Unlike the uniform-colored legs and feet of boobies, those of the Northern Gannet have a two-tone coloration formed by a stripe running the length of the tarsus and out each toe. These "racing stripes" are chartreuse and are usually prominent on the otherwise dark gray background. These three features make separation of gannet versus booby straightforward at close range. Identification of sulid species in Louisiana should always start with elimination of Northern Gannet. This species has been confused with Masked, Brown, and even Blue- footed boobies!
A Northern Gannet takes 4-5 years (prehaps longer) to attain definitive basic plumage. The juvenal plumage is sooty brown above, speckled with small white dots (visible only at close range). The chest is somewhat darker than the remainder of the underparts, each feather with spots or finely edged with white, imparting a mottled appearance on very close inspection. The uniform underwing linings are somewhat paler than the underparts. The flight feathers and tail are brownish-black. The rump has a pale diagnostic "U." The bill is dark gray and the eye is bluish-gray. Birds at a great distance look essentially all dark. Through subsequent molts, the juvenal coloration is replaced with portions of the black and white adult plumage. Sub-adult plumages are quite variable. Feather wear may also alter the otherwise dark plumage, bleaching flight and tail feathers to a pale brown. The diagnostic pale "U" remains through subsequent plumages. The "whitening" process progresses on the underparts, upperwing coverts, tail, and secondaries. Sub-adult Northern Gannets in black-and-white transitional plumage stages can be distinguished from all boobies by possession of a few to many white secondaries or black and white tail feathers. The Northern Gannet in full adult plumage is a dazzling sight with a golden head, black primaries and primary coverts, and the rest of the plumage is entirely snow white, including all of the secondaries. No other species shares this combination of plumage characters.
The Masked Booby is one of the two "medium-sized" boobies, but much smaller than a Northern Gannet. Like the gannet, it has a black and white definitive plumage, but differs in the greater extent of black on the wing (includes all of the secondaries), entirely black tail, and lacks the golden cast to the head. The black tail further separates it from definitive white morph Red-footed Booby. Its old name, "Blue-faced" Booby, focused on its deep grayish-blue facial skin and gular patch as a distinguishing feature from the other species of boobies. Its legs and feet vary from yellow (adults) to dull olive to bluish- gray (sub-adults; no doubt responsible for some reports of Blue-footed Booby) to black (juveniles). The bill is generally light-colored, ranging from a dull yellow (adults) to light slate gray (juveniles). Masked Booby takes 2-3 years (possibly longer) to attain full adult plumage.
Juvenal-plumaged Masked Booby is uniform dark brown above, broken by a whitish collar, and is entirely white below. (But beware, the white underparts may become soiled with oil; one bird salvaged off the coast is entirely brown below and could potentially be confused with a Brown Booby if not for noting other Masked Booby characters!) The flight and tail feathers are blackish-brown. The feathers of the upperparts have small white edges, the broadest edges in the upper mantle. These edges further highlight the pale collar. The underwing linings are white, contrasting with the dark primaries and secondaries, and are bisected lengthwise with a dark brown bar. The overall appearance of juvenile Masked Booby is quite unique. Only Brown Booby (in definitive plumage) shows a similar stark brown and white plumage pattern, but differs from Masked, by its dark brown neck and chest and uniformly dark brown upperparts. Transitional plumages of Masked Booby gain more white, most apparent on the head, back, and upper wing coverts. During the Masked Booby's transitional sub-adult plumage, when essentially "black-and-white" it can be confused with a sub-adult gannet. Most gannets, even those still with entirely black secondaries, will show some gold color on the head or some white tail feathers, but if these gannet-features are missing, Masked Booby differs by its smaller size, as well as having an entirely black face and gular pouch and dull yellow bill. The "Nazca Booby" recently highlighted in FieldNotes is a Pacific Ocean form, not likely to occur in Louisiana waters.
Like Masked, Brown Booby is a medium-sized booby. The adult in definitive plumage is dark brown above, including the head and chest. The remainder of the underparts are white. White extends on the underwing linings and is encircled by brown on the leading and trailing edges of the wing and the brown primaries and their coverts. Bill color is variable, but is generally greenish-yellow blending towards a grayer tip. Facial skin color is also variable, generally aqua around the eye blending to gray with a greenish-yellow gular pouch. The eyes at all ages are whitish. The legs and feet are generally orangish- yellow or dull greenish-yellow. Brown Boobies acquire their full adult plumage in 2-3 years. The juvenal plumage shares the definitive pattern, but the white is replaced with a pale brown. The underparts "whiten" through subsequent molts. Brown Boobies are fairly easy to identify in definitive plumage, only the Masked Booby is similar (see above). The juvenal-plumaged Brown Booby is most most similar to the juvenal-plumaged Red-footed Booby. This represents the greatest identification challenge among Louisiana's sulids, especially to those observers not familiar with size and proportions of the two species. Red-footed is the smaller, more delicate, slender-winged, and longer-tailed of the two species, and with ample experience, these characters should facilitate identification. Although most immature Brown Boobies are distinguishable by the shadow appearance of the definitive plumage (dark head and chest divided from somewhat paler underparts), some Red-footeds may show a similar pattern. The best distinguishing character for birds in juvenal plumage is the more uniformly dark underwing linings of Red-footed Booby. Brown Booby wing linings are paler, nearly concolor (or lighter) with the belly. Red-footed Booby often has pale tips to the tail feathers, but this would be difficult to confirm without close inspection, as to eliminate wear as a possible cause of such coloration. Leg color is not a reliable feature, as many young Red-footeds may have yellow or yellowish-orange legs and feet, that look essentially the same in the field as the flesh, or orange-flesh legs of the juvenal Brown. Also beware the feet of a Brown Booby can look much "redder" when back-lit.
The Red-footed Booby is the smallest species. Red-footeds are slighter in overall proportions than the other species, possess a more shearwater-like flight, and have a bill with a somewhat more hooked-tip (visible only at very close range). Unlike the other species, it is polymorphic. There are two main adult plumage types: 1) white morph with white tail (black tail on Galapagos); and 2) brown morph with white rump and tail (occasionally all brown). Intermediate plumages also occur. The adult white morph is characterized by black primaries, secondaries, and black carpal patch on the primary coverts of the underwing, contrasting with an otherwise all white plumage, including the tail; the head is tinged with gold. No other species shows this combination of characteristics. The brown morph is quite different. The head and underparts are uniformly grayish brown, the mantle somewhat darker, and set off from the white belly, rump, and tail. No other sulid species possesses a uniformly dark body and a white tail. Caribbean birds are generally white morph; the brown morph being fairly rare. All adults have bright red legs and feet. The bill (non-breeding condition) is light bluish-gray, pink at the base; this color also extends across the forehead. The facial skin is a combination of blues and pinks. Iris is apparently dark in Caribbean birds. Red-footeds is superficially similar to the larger and bulkier Masked in the black and white plumage, but lacks the black tail (except Galapagos form). Like the other boobies, Red-footeds attain their adult plumage in 2-3 years. The juvenal-plumaged Red-footed Booby is all dark brown, slightly paler below with a faint, but slightly darker chest band. The bill is dark gray, facial skin purplish-gray. Adult brown morph brown- tailed individuals are similar to juveniles, but have adult soft part colors and a golden cast to the head. Plumage transition from juvenal to adult plumage depends on the morph type, but is a gradual "whitening" either just the rump/tail or the entire upperparts. In the latter case, it is similar to the progression of Masked Booby. The juvenal plumage is most similar to Brown Booby (already discussed) but could also be confused with a gannet, if not for the incredible size difference. Both birds are essentially all dark. The Red-footed Booby is tiny compared to a gannet, and has unicolored yellow or orange legs and feet and a dark bill, and lacks the white speckling and "U" rump patch characteristic of the young gannet. Despite their relatively small size, Red-footed Boobies could be confused with various other species. The sub-adult gannet could potentially be confused with a white morph adult Red-footed Booby; white morph Red-footed Booby has an all white plumage, except for black primaries and secondaries. Red-footed Booby is much smaller and has a diagnostic black carpal patch similar to that of a White-tailed Kite. If a mystery bird is essentially "black and white," then note the color of the following: head, secondaries, tail, underwing coverts. The best distinguishing character between sub-adult Masked and Red-footed boobies is size and the color of the tail. It is important to be familiar with these distinctions so as to be prepared in the case of a chance encounter.
---Donna L. Dittmann and Steven W. Cardiff, LSU Museum of Natural Science
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An Insidious Invasion
by Nancy L. Newfield
A lot of Louisiana birders who live outside the New Orleans area have yet to add Bronzed Cowbird Molothrus aeneus to their state lists, but it is not a difficult bird to find in the metro area. I saw my life Bronzed Cowbird in my own backyard in Metairie in January 1974. Studying contemporary field guides, I was amazed that such a species should be in Louisiana as it was shown to be a resident of the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. "Louisiana Birds" by George H. Lowery, Jr. [1974] detailed only five occurrences statewide, the first in 1961 in Cameron Parish.
Soon after that encounter, Bronzed Cowbirds began turning up as singles here and there around the New Orleans area and in the river parishes between New Orleans and Reserve. They were always seen during the spring and early summer. Males displayed as if courting, even if no female seemed evident.
In about 1978, Ron Stein found the egg of a Bronzed Cowbird in the nest of an Orchard Oriole Icterus spurius in Reserve. A Brown-headed Cowbird Molothrus ater egg was also in the nest. Bronzed Cowbird eggs are pale blue-green, while Brown-headed Cowbird eggs are dull white with brown speckles. I saw a female Orchard Oriole feeding a young Bronzed Cowbird the following year at my home. Since that time, I have seen Bronzed Cowbirds annually and in some numbers during the breeding season. Males display with abandon and females harass the females of host species.
Orchard Orioles have disappeared from much of this area during that time, victims of cowbird predation and changing habitat. Metairie is becoming more urban, so there are fewer mature trees. The last Orchard Oriole I saw in a nesting context in my "Old Metairie" neighborhood was in 1989. For the three years prior to that I had not seen any Orchard Orioles rear any of their own chicks, but rather they fostered cowbird chicks. Often I watched as two or three female Bronzed Cowbirds followed and harassed a female Orchard Oriole. Now that the orioles are gone, Northern Cardinals Cardinalis cardinalis seem to be the primary hosts.
Starting in the early 1980s, I began seeing Bronzed Cowbirds in fall and winter as well. At first, only singles were noted, but more recently flocks of up to 100 individuals can be found, though more usually six to ten individuals comprise a group. These birds are readily findable in areas with expanses of lawn, such as Audubon Park and the more affluent neighborhoods of Metairie. And, in those enclaves of the Bronzed Cowbird, Brown-headed Cowbirds are either rare or absent. The Bronzed Cowbird is larger and more aggressive than its congener. The larger species sometimes flocks with Common Grackles Quiscalus quiscula and Boat-tailed Grackles Quiscalus major rather than with Brown-headed Cowbirds.
This species is not common in the areas between New Orleans and its more traditional range, but it can be found if a diligent search is mounted. Many birders seem to ignore black birds in general, but Audubon Park and City Park in New Orleans and Lafrenier Park in Metairie are strongholds of the Louisiana population. I found two on the 1997 Sabine NWR Christmas Bird Count by sifting through flocks of grackles, European Starlings Sturnus vulgaris and Red-winged Blackbirds Agelaius phoenicus at cattle holding pens in Cameron. Elsewhere, I have noted it at Baton Rouge, La Rose, and Grand Isle.
Notwithstanding their [anthropomorphically] scandalous life-styles, Bronzed Cowbirds are attractive and interesting birds. In the breeding season, the male's red eyes glow like rubies and his display is fascinating. The bird inflates a ruff on his neck and levitates about a foot above the female or the ground. His song is unusual in that humans can only hear about the last half, unless they are very close or are using a sensitive microphone. I have seen indications that females may actually participate to a degree in the raising of young, along with the host parents.
Current field guides still fail to reflect the species' occurrence in southeastern Louisiana and the effect of the growing numbers on populations of suburban song birds is unknown. The increase in Bronzed Cowbird numbers is paralleled by an increase of several other unrelated species - Neotropic Cormorant Phalacrocorax brasilianus, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna autumnalis, White-tailed Kite Elanus leucurus, Buff-bellied Hummingbird Amazilia yucatanensis, and Great-tailed Grackle Quiscalus mexicanus - that primarily originate from southern Texas south into Middle America. Given the wide disparity of the species involved it seems unlikely that any single factor could be responsible for these range extensions.
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North American Migration Count
Yellow-billed Cuckoo by Dan LaneThe annual North American Migration Count (NAMC) is scheduled for May 8, 1999. This is an opportunity for birders to contribute to the state's database. The format is simple- pick a parish and bird within that parish. Or pick several parishes and keep a separate list for each one. Bird as much or as little as you choose. Each parish should have a compiler, though many still go without coverage. Marty Floyd is the state compiler, if you would like to participate contact him at 318.473.7690 or email
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I have waited a few days to be sure he departed and isn't just wandering, but I knew he was gone. I have continued a weight study this year on a Rufous male (call him #97) that arrived 9/9/98, to spend his second winter in my Grandmother's yard in Lafayette.
He resumed using his territory from the previous winter and his feeder at the greenhouse window. The perch was mounted on a scale so that recordings of his weight during feedings could be charted through the season. This is a technique pioneered by Lynn Carpenter and Mark Hixon in 1980, and continued by Bill Calder, Bob Russell, and others since. Occassional checks were run through the season with his weight following a consistantly repeated daily progression. His first feeding around dawn around 3.3g, and progressing slowly upward through the day until his final feeding just before sunset when he topped off around 4.4g.
I was particularly interested in plotting his final stages of molt, and weight gain as he approached spring departure. Starting 2/21/99, I began a video monitoring of his complete daily feedings. He was in the final stages of primary molt, and his gorget was in the early stages of becoming a shaggy mess of pin feathers.
Things proceeded fine until 3/6/99, when two immature male Rufous beat him to completion of their molt, and departed (very interesting occurrence). He began wandering the yard enjoying the vacated territories. I reduced the number of feeders to 4 which gave him and each of the remaining Rufous one feeder. This worked great and #97 returned to his green house duties. I could view him from 12 inches when he fed and watched as the 9th primary reached completion and the last of the pin feathers on his crown and gorget emerged. This also allowed me to verify his identity as the numbers on his band were easily read.
March 7 was his first day without any pin feathers remaining. His wings produced a loud whistle as he worked the flowering water oaks, and chased the White-throated Sparrows from his thicket. This was also the first day that he showed an increase in his average daily weight recordings. He bumped it up .2 grams. By March 8, he increased his weight by another .4g, and on the 9th, he added .7g, reaching 5.5g at his final feeding of the day.
On March 10, the empty weight of his first feeding was 4.5 grams at 06:08. He fed 8 times, and gradually worked up to his 07:36 feeding where he landed weighing 5.0g and topped off at 5.6g.
When changing the tape at 12:45 I could not hear the familiar wing whistle and his thicket was occupied by an immature male Rufous (another story). My suspicions were confirmed when viewing the video tape, and watched as the 08:22 feeding was the immature Rufous that very nervously drank from his newly acquired feeder. -- Dave Patton, Lafayette, La. from HUMNET-L with permission.
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LA Yard/Deck List Competition

deck list
so at dusk on the afternoon of march 19 i'm hearing a familiar bird call emanating from way down the coulee that runs along the east side of our yard. it's like a "Chit!....Chit!....Chit!....etc.", sounding suspiciously like the call note of deck bird #24 (prothonotary warbler). hmmm. the best i could do was to wait around for a couple of minutes (maybe it would show up) before going in to take care of more Duties of Life. oh well. no show. so early the next morning i get outside on our deck hoping to see the owner of the suspicious sound. aha. in less than a minute, i noticed a flash of yellow in the midst of a sweet olive tree. but wait! there's black on it too. no prothon. instead, a fine male hooded warbler; and here come the "Chits!" uh-huh. very much indeed like the calls of the male prothonotary when it first arrives here (sort of like a "hey! anybody [i.e. any others of my kind?] home?") each year. if anything, the calls of the hooded were just a tad (but not by much...) muted by comparison. so there it was: deck bird #27. since it was only 12' away, i called lydia out to have a look. just as she walked on the deck, the bird plopped out of the sweet olive and onto the deck rail. she got an excellent look.
so, "deck bird #27" huh? that is correct. i keep a list of birds which have actually visited our deck -- or the trees, shrubs, & wildflowers in the beds immediately adjacent to it. that's the rules. why a deck bird list? because they're there, silly.
--- bill fontenot
Deck List? Yard List? Whatever strikes your fancy! Participate! Keep a list for 1999 and enter our friendly LOS "Competition". Next January, I'll call for your submissions and we'll see who has the most interesting, the biggest, the most unusual, the best under extenuating circumstances... Think about it all year, folks! Carol Foil
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USGS National Wetlands Research Center Celebrates
Fourth Acadiana Migratory Bird Day April 9 - 10
April 9 - 2 pm - Award ceremonies honoring Lafayette Parish school children winning a poster contest with the theme, "Catch the Migration Sensation."
April 9 - 7 pm - Vice President and Director of Wings of the Americas, Nancy Jo Craig, will speak about bird migration and her organization, a new international bird conservation program of The Nature Conservancy.
April 10 - 9:00 am Welcome by Dr. Robert Stewart and Dr. Carroll Cordes
9:15 am Dr. Wylie Barrow - "Wild Fruit and Birds"
10:00 am Bill Fontenot "Backyard Gardening For Birds"
10:45 am Dr. Clint Jeske "What Is a Bird and How Do We Know?"
11:30 am Letitia Butcher & Cathryn Diaz of Acadian Wildlife Education
"Migratory Birds in Louisiana"
12:15 pm closing remarks

Acadiana Migratory Bird Day is a local celebration held in connection with International Migratory Bird Day, sponsored by several private groups and federal agencies, including the USGS. For more information contact Debbie Norling (318) 266-8654 or Susan Horton (318) 266-8655.
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Well folks, winter is over so now is the time for us to dust off our binoculars and get into the field for Spring Migration Monitoring 99. I hope many of you will participate with us this year. As before, the goal is to obtain data on first landfall in spring, area of dispersal for landbird migrants, identify species-specific migration pathways, density comparisons at multiple sites and between years, identification of 'hot-spots' and their motility between years and habitats used for stopover and for corridors between coastal and interior breeding sites. As of November 1998 we have enrolled 43 participants who are monitoring sites in nine states (TX, LA, MO, TN, GA, NC, SC, MS, KY) and from Aye Caulked Belize! We would like to have many more sites covered and for that coverage to be long term.
To participate, select a site that can be visited at least weekly to count birds in migration. Record all migrant birds counted in a 1-4 hour period on the field sheets provided. At the end of the season mail in your data to GCBO for data entry. The spring season runs from 20 March to 1 June.
For more information email (preferred) Cecilia Riley or call the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory for a copy of the guidelines, field sheet, and official PIF list of species to be included in your counts. Time is getting short (and days are getting longer) so get out and count those migrants!

Cecilia Riley
Director-Gulf Coast Bird Observatory
9800 Richmond Ave., Suite 150
Houston, TX 77042
Voice (713) 789-GCBO
Fax (713) 789-4260
PIF's migration monitoring program was started in 1996. It uses a checklist approach to try to gain a better understanding of bird migration. Participants walk a standard route (the same route each survey) and record total numbers of each species of neotropical migrant bird seen or heard. Observers are also asked to record basic weather and habitat data in addition to bird numbers. Surveyors are encouraged to survey at least once a week during spring (March 20 - June 1) and fall (July 15 - November 1) migration periods. Survey routes should take no longer than four hours to complete. At the end of the spring or fall monitoring season, datasheets (which are provided) are sent to the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory for data entry. The project coordinator is Cecilia Riley, Gulf Coast Bird Observatory, 9800 Richmond Ave., Suite 150, Houston, TX, 77402, (713) 789-4226, e-mail
-- Bill Vermillion
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Sharp-shinned, Sharp-shinned
Sharp-shinned, Sharp-shinned
Elegantly stalking
From atop the pine tree.
Keen eyes searching
My backyard.

Sharp-shinned, Sharp-shinned
Spying munching goldfinches
Eating their last meal
In my backyard.

Sharp-shinned, Sharp-shinned
Swooping down from the pine tree.
Catches a goldfinch
And returns atop the pine tree
In my backyard.

Sharp-shinned, Sharp-shinned
Eating songbirds in my backyard.
Thank you for visiting
And please leave
My backyard.

Sharp-shinned, Sharp-shinned
If you must stay,
Try snacking on a cowbird or two
Or a blackbird
In my backyard.
-- Adele M. Berthelot 3-1-99
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1999 Great Backyard Bird Count
Citizen Science works. You showed us its power again as we worked (and played) together two weeks ago to protect our birds and their habitats by conducting a historic survey. Your contributions to the 1999 Great Backyard Bird Count were both heartening and scientifically important, and we appreciate your participation very much.
Scientists at the Cornell Lab are busy analyzing the data, and there is a lot of it! We received nearly 42,000 checklists, and a total of 416,147 "species records" (each species reported on each submission represents an individual "record"). You and other bird lovers from every North American state and province reported on the status of 350 species at winter's end, 1999. You reported over 3 million individual birds in backyards, parks, and sanctuaries. Judging from those who filled out surveys, you were as diverse as the birds you watched. At least 6,000 of you are retired, and at least 1,000 are youngsters. Some of you reported the birds that came to a center-city feeder, while others counted waterfowl by the thousands at a county park.
Please revisit the BirdSource web site to see some emerging results from your efforts. The continental totals are impressive and fascinating, but be sure to look at your individual state or province page. There you'll see a map showing how many of your friends and neighbors participated, and you'll find three lists of the species seen - one based upon the frequency of occurrence, one according to overall abundance, and one for verified write-in species. In the Map Room, browse through the maps of individual species that interest you. You'll see not only the familiar "point maps" (the kind displayed during the count itself), but we've added "abundance maps" (computer- generated to show regional abundances averaged across the landscape), and "group size" maps" (computer- generated maps of the average number of birds seen when they are present). Some of these can be compared side by side with last year's maps (remember that last year, our first, we only mapped the 100 most common species). Notice the differences between 1998 and 1999 in certain irruptive or nomadic species (e.g., Pine Siskin, Common Redpoll, Cedar Waxwing, and others). Interesting differences may also exist where some eastern sparrows were most abundant during the two years (e.g., Fox Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow), although last year's data are a bit too sparse to be certain.
Some nice patterns are emerging in our early analyses of the 1999 data. You'll find a big map showing relative species diversity around the continent as reported on Count weekend. Also, take a look at our analysis of how the distribution of American Robins in late February compared to snow cover. We will continue to post new findings as we explore the data you helped us collect.
Let's keep this going! We invite you to participate in future citizen science efforts, and BirdSource will continue to offer seasonal projects tailored to bird lovers at all levels of expertise and interest. Before the end of March, "WarblerWatch" will be posted and active. Please report your daily observations of these spring jewels as they migrate north, and also after they reach their breeding grounds. In the fall, we'll ask for your help as we count and track hawks migrating southward throughout North America and on down into Mexico and Central America. As we head into the winter of 2000, we'll encourage you to participate in winter bird studies - Project FeederWatch, Christmas Bird Count, North American Winter Finch Survey ("FinchWatch"), and of course, the first Great Backyard Bird Count of the new millennium, February 18-21, 2000. The more you participate, the more we all can learn.
You are the link between the birds and their future. Your observations will help professionals and amateurs alike learn enormous amounts about birds. Through the years your data in the BirdSource files will help scientists spot species that may be in trouble. A goal we all share, after all, is to keep the common birds common just as much as it is to keep the rare birds from getting rarer. Thank you for sharing your time and expertise, and thank you for caring.
Finally, we do appreciate your feedback at any time. Just click on the Feedback symbol on BirdSource. Have a great spring!
Frank Gill, Senior Vice President for Science, National Audubon Society
John Fitzpatrick, Director, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology
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Official LOS News - APRIL 1999
We were sorry to hear of the death of long time Life Member Mr. R. R. Raether of Ocean Springs, MS.
SPRING MEETINGRegistration Form
The 1999 LOS Spring Meeting will be held on the weekend of April 23-25. Activities Friday and Saturday nights will be at the Knights of Columbus Hall behind Our Lady of the Sea Catholic Church. Registration on Friday will begin at 6:30 p.m. with hospitality table. The meeting will follow at 8:00 p.m. Friday's gathering will feature a video presentation by Bill Wayman of many species of birds normally not enjoyed at the intimate range possible with the zoom capabilities of today's video cameras.
On Saturday morning there will be a field trip to area birding spots. Interested parties should be in the parking lot of the Cameron Motel in time for a 7:00 a.m. departure.
Saturday's buffet will begin at 6:30 p.m. followed by the reading of the checklist and meeting about 8:00 p.m. Our speaker for Saturday night will be LOS member Gay M. Gomez, who also happens to be an assistant professor of geography at McNeese State University and the author of the recently-published book, A Wetland Biography: Seasons on Louisiana Chenier Plain. Dr. Gomez will share with us some of what she has learned of the geography, history, people, and wildlife of the the marshes and oak ridges of southwest Louisiana.
Please pre-register if possible. Registration fee is $5.00 and the buffet is $10.00. Pre-registration is of great assistance to Marianna Tanner and the Knights of Columbus in planning for our meeting. Pre-registration fees will be refunded if you let Marianna know by Friday that you cannot attend.
Registration Form
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If you would like to join LOS, or perhaps send a gift membership to a friend on the verge, here is a printable membership form.
Dues are payable in January of each year; please check your mailing label for your dues status and renew promptly if you are in arrears.
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LOS News Editor: Carol Foil, 1180 Stanford Ave, Baton Rouge, LA 70808
(h & fax) 504.387.0368; (w) 504.346.3119;

posted 04April1999