January 24, 2020

Established Non-countable Birds in the Continental ABA-Area

Ever since seeing my first Great Tit visit at suet feeder in a park in Sheboygan, I have been fascinated by the fact that there are many established introduced birds in the ABA area that aren't on the checklist or in anyone's field guide (unless you own The Sibley Guide to Birds). After much research, here are some short profiles detailing all of the non-countable established introduced species in the Continental ABA-Area I could find:

Mandarin Duck - Aix galericulata
Mandarin Ducks were first noted in California in 1970, when hundreds were noted on a ranch in Healdsburg. This species was formerly found throughout much of the state, but it now seems to be restricted to the Los Angeles-San Diego area, the Sacramento area, and Sonoma. The species seems to be dependent on Wood Duck nest boxes in order to successfully breed.

A population of Mandarin Ducks also exists in Utah, in the Salt Lake City area. The first eBird record of a Mandarin Duck in Utah is from 1994, and they were first documented breeding in 2015.

Indian Peafowl - Pavo cristatus
Populations of Indian Peafowl exist in Florida, Texas, British Columbia, and California. It is found throughout much of California, but is best known in the LA area. According to local legend, the California peafowl were introduced by Elias “Lucky” Baldwin, who released the birds (imported directly from India) onto his property in 1880 (this land later became the Los Angeles County Arboretum). This is probably true, but peafowl are widespread enough that they probably came from a series of introductions around the state.

In Florida, Indian Peafowl are found throughout the peninsula. The earliest eBird record of a peafowl in Florida is from 1970. They were probably introduced separately to all of the major cities by homeowners as a yard decoration. This is somewhat ironic considering they are now viewed as a pest that destroys gardens and poops everywhere. In Miami (which has one of the largest populations) it is illegal to harm peafowl or their eggs. The Florida population actually consists mostly of hybrids with the Green Peafowl (Pavo muticus), (these hybrids are known in aviculture as Spalding Peafowl) but no pure Green Peafowl exist wild in the state.

In Texas, Indian Peafowl occur in Austin, Houston, Dallas, and Midland. The earliest of these is the Austin population, which were released around 1930 on private land that is now known as Mayfield Park. The Houston population was introduced by homeowners in the 1980s. All of the Texas populations are slowly spreading into more rural areas, it seems likely that in a few decades the species could exist statewide. Spalding Peafowl are known to occur in Texas, but not in as large of numbers as Florida.

In British Columbia, a population exists in Surrey. The population remains small due to population control measures by the city but it does appear to be self-sustaining.

Rose-ringed Parakeet - Psittacula krameri
Rose-ringed Parakeet populations exist in Florida and California. In California, the species exists in the Los Angeles area, San Diego, and Bakersfield. The Bakersfield population has been extensively studied by Ali Sheehey. They became established in 1977 after a large flock of them escaped from an aviary. The LA area and San Diego populations likely derive from escaped pets. The earliest LA area eBird record is from 1977, and the earliest San Diego record is from 1988.

In Florida, the species is found in the Naples area and probably came from escaped pets. The earliest eBird record of this species in Naples is from 1990.

Mitred Parakeet - Psittacara mitratus
The Mitred Parakeet exists in California, Florida, and possibly New York. In California, well-established in the Los Angeles area, which has been there since the 1980s. It is also present in small numbers in San Jose.

In Florida, the species is present in the Miami area. The earliest eBird record of this population is from 1985.

This species is possibly present in Queens, New York. The birds were first documented around 1985 feeding in trees on a neighborhood in Queens. They showed up there every fall, then disappeared each spring. Juveniles would turn up every year with the rest of the flock, proving they were breeding, but no one knows exactly where they were breeding. I haven’t been able to find any online reference to this population since 2011, but I am not sure if this is because they no longer exist or because no one has been documenting them.

Red-masked Parakeet - Psittacara erythrogenys
Red-masked Parakeets are present in Florida and California. The first record of this species from California is from 1983, although it is likely that they were there before that and were confused with the very similar (and much more common) Mitred Parakeet. They occur in the Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego areas.

In Florida, they are found in the Miami area, with the first record eBird record being from 1985.

This species will hybridize with Mitred anywhere they both occur.

Lilac-crowned Parrot - Amazona finschi
Lilac-crowned Parrots are present in Florida, California, and Texas. In California, they were first documented in 1976 and occur in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas. Unlike other introduced parrots, this species is actually spreading into more rural areas, including both lowland and mountainous regions.

In Florida, this species is present in small numbers in Miami, with the first eBird record being from 1983.

In Texas, Lilac-crowned Parrots are established in the Brownsville area. The first Texas eBird record of this species in Texas is from 1987.

This species will hybridize with the Red-crowned Parrot (Amazona viridigenalis) anywhere they both occur.

Black-throated Magpie-Jay - Calocitta colliei
The Black-throated Magpie-Jay is established in the San Diego area. It is a popular pet species in nearby Tijuana, Mexico, and the population is likely descended from escapees from there. It was first documented here around 2000.

Orange-cheeked Waxbill - Estrilda melpoda
The Orange-cheeked Waxbill is established in the Los Angeles area. It is quite a common pet species in the area and the population likely came from escaped pets. The first eBird record of this species from the LA area is from 1982.

Pin-tailed Whydah - Vidua macroura
The Pin-tailed Whydah is a well-established introduced species in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas. The earliest eBird record of this species from the southern California is from 1996. The species is a brood parasite, and it parasitises the nests of estrelids. Interesting, although some of its native hosts- most notably the Orange-cheeked Waxbill and the Northern Red Bishop (Euplectes franciscanus) - have been introduced to southern California, the only species it uses as a host in North America is the Scaly-breasted Munia (Lonchura punctulata), a species introduced from Asia. This proves that it can change hosts to a species they wouldn’t encounter in the wild in their native range. There are worries it may move on to native species.

This species is occasionally sighted in and around Houston, Texas and there may have a population there, but more research is needed.

Great Tit - Parus major
This species is established in the vicinity of Sheboygan, Wisconsin. They originate from a series of illegal bird releases in the Chicago area in 2004. The species initially moved north to Milwaukee, where they were found until around 2010, when the entire population moved north to Sheboygan. Despite the amount of invasive European plants in the area they seem to prefer native forest and dune habitats.

European Goldfinch - Carduelis carduelis
The North American population of this species originates from the same release of the Great Tit. Unlike the Great Tit, however, this species originally stayed in the Chicago area, but quickly moved out into more rural areas. It is now found throughout much of northeastern Illinois and southeastern Wisconsin. They are not believed to be a threat to native species as they seem to feed almost exclusively on invasive European plants.

Red Junglefowl - Gallus gallus
Populations of the domestic form of the Red Junglefowl (AKA Domestic Chicken or G. g. domesticus) exist in Florida, California, and Texas. A population of the Burmese subspecies (G. g. spadiceus) exists in Georgia.

In California, a small population of Feral Chickens exists in Lincoln. I could find no other information on this population other than a couple of anecdotal reports of lots of chickens being there from a few birders.

In Texas, Sam Houston State University and the surrounding areas are also home to a population of Feral Chickens. I could find no history on this population other than that it is relatively large currently.

In Florida, populations of Feral Chickens exist in the Tampa area (the first eBird report being from 1979), the Miami area (earliest eBird report from 2007), and the Keys, being most common on Key West (first eBird report from 1993).

The Georgia population of wild-type junglefowl (known locally as Burmese Chickens) exist in the town of Fitzgerald. They were introduced by the state in the 1960s in a failed attempt to introduce the species as a game bird. Thousands exist in the town (more than 10 for every resident).

Blue-and-yellow Macaw - Ara ararauna
A population of this species can be found in Miami, where they have existed since the 1980s. They were increasing in numbers until quite recently, however they are now under intense stress from “legal poaching”. The effects of this species on the local ecosystem are not currently understood, so whether this a good thing or not is entirely unclear.

Common Hill Myna - Gracula religiosa
A small population is present in Miami, they were first recorded nesting there in 1973. Formerly common but is now seen only in small numbers.

Red-vented Bulbul - Pycnonotus cafer
Red-vented Bulbuls have existed in Houston since the 1950s. They are now common in many areas. They probably originated from released pets in the Woodland Heights area, although some biologists believe they may have been ship assisted.

Graylag Goose and Swan Goose - Anser anser and Anser cygnoides
These two species (as well as hybrids between the two) make up the common domestic geese of farms, zoos, and private collections. Escapees are incredibly frequent across the continental ABA-area, and it’s very difficult to tell where they are established and where they are simply frequent escapes. As far as I can tell there is population of A. anser in the Los Angeles area (it’s hard to tell if A. cygnoides is involved there or not) and population in Houston made up of A. cygnoides and hybrids.

Yellow-headed Parrot - Amazona oratrix
This species has populations in California and Texas. In California, where it was first documented in 1973, it is found in the LA and San Diego areas.

In Texas, it is found throughout the Rio Grande Valley. The earliest eBird report from the region is from 1960. It is possible that this population actually includes some wild vagrants, similar to the local populations of Red-crowned Parrot (Amazona viridigenalis) and Green Parakeet (Psittacara holochlorus).

Red-lored Parrot - Amazona autumnalis
The Red-lored Parrot has feral populations in the Los Angeles area and the Rio Grande Valley. In the LA area it was first seen breeding in 1997. The population is relatively small and it is usually found in mixed flocks with other amazons.

The earliest Texas eBird record is from 1985.

Blue-crowned Parakeet - Thectocercus acuticaudatus
This species has introduced populations in California and Florida. In California, the species is uncommon and local in San Diego, with the first eBird report being from 2007. A population formerly in the LA area appears to be gone.

The species is much more common in Florida, where it exists in the Miami, Tampa, and Melbourne areas. The first Miami area eBird report is from 1985. The first Tampa eBird report is from 1993. The first Melbourne area eBird report is from 1998. Single birds are occasionally seen elsewhere throughout the state, whether these involve escapees or wandering birds from the established populations is unclear.

White-fronted Parrot - Amazona albifrons
The White-fronted Parrot has been established in the Rio Grande Valley since at least 1982.

Orange-winged Parrot - Amazona amazonica
This species is established in the Miami area. The first eBird is from 1978.

White-eyed Parakeet - Psittacara leucophthalmus
Established in the Miami area. First eBird report is from 1987.

Chestnut-fronted Macaw - Ara severus
This species is established in the Miami area. The first eBird report is from 1978. It has declined in recent years but is still present relatively large numbers in certain areas.

“Japanese White-Eye” - Zosterops species
A species of white-eye in the recently-split Japanese White-Eye complex is established in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas as well as Santa Catalina Island. The species present is currently identified as Swinhoe’s White-Eye (Zosterops simplex), although this is tentative. Despite being introduced only as recently as 2009 they are currently one of the most common bird species in southern California. Based on the effect the introduction of the Warbling White-Eye (Zosterops japonicus) in Hawaii it is worried they may become quite a detrimental invasive species.

This is the only species on this list that is not eligible for the ABA Checklist as it has not yet been present for 15 years.

--

You will note that many of these profiles lack much information. That's because birders don't seem to pay attention to these birds - so many seem to be in the mindset that if they aren't countable they shouldn't care. I suspect many are not added to eBird checklists, which makes finding info hard. I know for a fact that many of these species get marked as "not wild" on iNat.

You will also note that all of these birds (except the white-eye, as noted above) are eligible for the ABA Checklist. So why aren't they countable? I have no idea. Part of the reason I wrote this is to raise awareness for these birds.

I appreciate any information you might have on any of these birds, or even some populations of these species or others I may have missed in my research. I also recommend you go out searching for some of these birds, including uploading them to iNat and making sure to add them to your eBird checklists.

I've also attached two observations of Great Tit, the only birds on this list I have seen. The European Goldfinch is my nemesis bird, I have failed to see it at supposedly reliable locations more times than I can count.

I plan to publish more posts on similar subjects in the future (like maybe looking into Hawaiian introductions) so stay tuned!

Posted on January 24, 2020 20:38 by raymie raymie | 2 observations | 15 comments | Leave a comment

September 17, 2019

Raymie's Guide to Domestic Geese

Through the past year, I have noticed that many observations of domestic geese in iNat are misidentified. I don't pretend to be an expert of goose genetics, but I do have a lot of experience with captive waterfowl and will create a guide here to help others understand this confusing group of birds:

Domestic Greylag Goose (Anser anser domesticus):
The Greylag Goose has a shorter neck in comparison to Swan. (Compare two birds in this photo, with Greylag in the back: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/26797603). Greylag has a wide variety of plumages and bare skin colors. Bare skin may be pink or orange.

Plumage can be confusing; probably the best way to describe it is if it doesn't fit Swan or hybrid, it must be Graylag! Most common plumages include all-white (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/20070003 , usually has pink skin), similar to wild-type (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/31779106), and "Blotched" (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/32441654). If you want to get familiar with the wide variety of plumages, I recommend looking through Google Images and going to local zoos and farm parks.

Domestic Swan Goose (Anser cygnoides domesticus):
The Swan Goose has a much longer than neck than Greylag, and a large knob is always present at the top of the bill (compare in this photo, with Swan in the front: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/26797603). Swan Goose come in two main colors, brown and white. The brown plumage (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/31984832) has orange legs and a black bill, with a white ring at the base of the bill. The back of the head and neck is a dark chestnut. White birds (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/32310394) are all-white with orange legs and bill. Keep in mind occasional white plumaged birds will have faint gray markings. Swan is never blotched. Many Swan Geese have dewlaps, which is rarely (although occasionally) present on Greylag.

Greylag x Swan Goose (Anser anser x cygnoides):
Although hybrid birds have a wider variation in plumage than pure Greylag, many have plumage like this: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/31301944. Note the dark shading on back of head and neck. Not as dark chestnut as would be present of a dark-plumaged Swan, but different from anything that would be present on a pure Greylag. Hybrids often have a longer neck similar to Swan, but the bill is usually mostly orange, compared to the mostly darker bill of a brown Swan. Hybrids nearly always have a knob on the bill, noticeably smaller than would be present on Swan but larger and more defined than anything present on pure Greylag. Look here for some examples in the variation of plumage in hybrid birds: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=any&subview=grid&taxon_id=472287

Keep in mind that many individuals are best left at genus Anser.

Taxa often confused for domestic geese:

Domestic Duck (Anas platyrhynchos domesticus):
White form Domestic Ducks are often confused for Domestic Geese. Their smaller size and differently-shaped beak sets them apart. Domestic Ducks often (though not always) have a curl in their tail. Domestic Geese also never has yellow bills.

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/32794445
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/32339369
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/32259976

Branta x Anser Hybrids:
Hybrids between genuses Branta and Anser are frequently misidentified as domestic geese. Individuals like the following are good examples of "typical" hybrids between the two genera:

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/32685174
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/28906983

Just keep in mind that if it shows traits of Canada, it is most likely a hybrid rather than a domestic goose.

Coscoroba Swan:
Generally lighter build and bright red legs and beak differentiate this species from domestic geese.

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/32447162

Wild-type Swan Goose:
Wild-type Swan Goose resemble a brown Domestic Swan but have a longer, angled bill and lack a knob.

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/10238718

Posted on September 17, 2019 13:19 by raymie raymie | 2 comments | Leave a comment

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