Large-billed Tern is resident in much of South America with its preferred habitats being freshwater lakes and rivers. There are only three previous rare occurrences for this medium-sized tern in North America: Chicago, Illinois, in July 1949, near Youngstown, Ohio, in May 1954., and in Hudson County, New Jersey, in May 1988.
These three occurrences were in the distant past, at least until last month. Then, on 1 June, a Large-billed Tern was found by David Simpson at the Broadmoor Unit of T.M. Goodwin Waterfowl Management Area in Brevard County, Florida. It was photographed at that time by Gary Steinberg:
This occurrence seemed remarkable enough, until another individual of this species was found by Monica Higgins on the very same day about 150 miles to the southwest, at the community of Ave Maria, Collier County, Florida!
Both birds were observed and photographed almost daily by thrilled birders through the end of the month, although the individual at the T.M. Goodwin WMA was not watched with as much frequency, since access by car was only available one or two days a week. (Nonetheless, a lengthy 15-mile round-trip bike-ride was an option used by some observers on those other days!)
In both cases, an interesting question arises: How might these two Large-billed Terns have arrived at virtually the same time in Florida, especially considering the disparate past records for North America? We may never know the answer but given that both sites are not heavily covered by birders, but it’s possible that these two terns may have been in place for some time but not found until last month, or they may even have been hurricane-born waifs from any one of a number of hurricanes over the past few years, such as Hurricane Ian in September 2022.
Whatever the origins of these two individual terns, you can find more information on this species and multiple photos from each Florida location here:
and enjoy a video – with somewhat over-the-top music accompaniment – here, by Joel B. Cohen:
IBA NEWS: MORE DAUPHIN ISLAND SUCCESS
The Dauphin Island Important Bird Area (IBA) is a system of barrier beach islands in Coastal Alabama, with Dauphin Island at its core. The habitats for this IBA of “Global Importance” include areas of barrier beach, dune, and remnant maritime forest. Dauphin Island itself contains places that are heavily populated in season, and the major threat to the birds there is continued development. The area’s wooded habitat is especially important for Neotropical migrants in both spring and fall, and the island remains a very popular and important birding destination.
We previously covered conservation concerns and successes at Dauphin Island in July 2019:
One of the area's most active conservation partners is the Dauphin Island Bird Sanctuaries (DIBS). Recently, DIBS reported on progress in ongoing acquisition and stewardship efforts of the region including the following:
1. Eleven DIBS properties are under a conservation easement, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Gulf Benefit Fund (NFWF-GBF) has reimbursed DIBS for costs.
2. DIBS has purchased 11 properties in the vital Steiner Block, three properties in the Gorgas Swamp, and three properties in the Tupelo Gum Swamp utilizing NFWF-GBF funds. Two conservation easements protect these 17 properties.
3. Additional funds from the NFWF-GBF grant will provide funding for the purchase of more properties in the Gorgas Swamp, Tupelo Gum Swamp, and Epinet Swamp areas of the island.
4. The Partnership for Gulf Coast Land Conservation awarded a $25,000 grant to DIBS for the costs associated with another easement on 13 properties that DIBS has acquired, with four of these properties gifted by private owners and the remaining nine purchased with donor funds.
This year is on pace to overtake 2022 as the most successful year in the history of DIBS. Unprecedented acquisition of critical bird habitat has significantly expanded the DIBS footprint on the island, and the quest to acquire and conserve undeveloped land on Dauphin Island has surpassed all previous expectations. For example, the long-anticipated goal to secure the available property in the Steiner Block has finally been realized.
For more on the Dauphin Island IBA site itself, see here:
and here for the activities of the Dauphin Island Bird Sanctuaries:
For additional information about worldwide IBA programs, including those in the U.S., check the National Audubon Society's Important Bird Area program web site at:
LAUNCH OF BIRD CITY NETWORK
The concept of a “Bird City” may have come into being two decades ago at a meeting of the Urban Habitat Committee of the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative (WBCI). What was envisioned was a model for bird-focused urban conservation and education, and what followed were several years of refinement and a search for the right home. By 2010, there were 15 communities in the state with the Bird City moniker and program.
Other states and cities followed in launching their own Bird City efforts. But we are now witnessing the concept taken to another level.
The Bird City Network, connecting cities across the Americas is an effort to expand conservation actions for birds in urban settings that was formalized last month by the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and Environment for the Americas (EFTA). This Bird City Network should serve as a cooperative platform to promote sustainable urban planning, create bird-friendly communities, and raise awareness about the crucial role that people can play in supporting bird populations, all by “fostering cooperation within and among communities.”
The Network is intended to encourage participating communities to implement a range of conservation actions, such as the preservation and restoration of natural habitats, the reduction of hazards posed by built structures, and the promotion of community events that raise public awareness of birds and their protection. At the same time, Bird City Network participants will receive guidance and support from ABC and EFTA, including access to resources, educational materials, and best practices in urban bird conservation.
Read more about the Bird City Network launch here:
And review existing program and community efforts here:
MORE BIRD-AND-WINDOW PROTECTION
Early last month, the Maine House and Senate passed LD 670, “An Act to Protect Birds and Wildlife in the Construction and Maintenance of Public Buildings,” and it subsequently became law.
Maine is one of just a small handful of states to move seriously on bird-safe architecture at the state level. Maine's latest action is not quite as strict as Maryland's recent move which we reported on in May:
Maine now plans to craft guidelines for the use of bird-safe architecture in public buildings. This move requires the Department of Administrative and Financial Services of the Bureau of General Services to develop by the end of next year some “guidance regarding integration of bird collision risk management into public improvements.” This must: be done in “consultation with expert stakeholders and include an explanation of architectural design threats and landscape design threats to birds.”
The effort grew out of a partnership between Maine Audubon, the Portland Society for Architecture, and the University of Southern Maine to deal with bird/building collisions. You can find more details – and a link to the bill – here:
MORE ON LEAD AND REFUGES
A new proposed rule to phase out lead ammunition and tackle at eight National Wildlife Refuges is currently being publicly reviewed. It is well known that lead ammunition and tackle have negative impacts on both human health and wildlife, including birds, and those impacts are more acute for some species than others. And we also know that alternatives to lead in ammunition and tackle are available.
The eight refuges – all in the Northeast or Mid-Atlantic U.S. – covered under this proposed rule are Blackwater, Chincoteague, Eastern Neck, Erie, Great Thicket, Patuxent Research Refuge, Rachel Carson, and Wallops Island National Wildlife Refuges, with lead phase-out expected by the fall of 2026. In addition, the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge is engaging a proposed non-lead ammunition requirement that would be effective immediately in the fall of 2023.
For more details on the proposal for the first eight NWRs, including how to submit testimony by 22 August on the ruling, see here:
NEW “FEDERAL DUCK STAMP"
And speaking of National Wildlife Refuges, the 2023-2024 Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp – often called the “Federal Duck Stamp” – went on sale last month, with proceeds going to grassland and wetland habitats in the Refuge System. (Since 1934, the stamp has raised over $1.1 billion to secure and protect over six million acres of these habitats.)
Holding a new and valid annual Stamp not only helps build the Refuge System, but it also provides free access to all National Wildlife Refuges that currently charge for entry. Other good reasons to buy the stamp can be found here:
This year’s stamp, featuring the image of three Tundra Swans painted by Joseph Hautman, can be viewed here, along with information on buying the stamp:
Additional details on the new stamp – and the associated Junior Duck Stamp – are in the press release from late last month by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:
BOOK NOTES: AFTER THE REPORT
In the fall of 2019, we were presented with grim findings published in Science that concluded that 2.9 billion breeding adult birds in North America had been lost since 1970, including birds from every ecosystem. This is the sobering backdrop that drove Anders Gyllenhaal and Beverly Gyllenhaal to launch a 25,000-mile trip in 2021 to connect with birds, researchers, and land-managers - both public and private - that is recounted in their recent book, A Wing and a Prayer: The Race to Save Our Vanishing Birds (Simon & Schuster, 2023).
Their journey, mostly while pulling their reconfigured Airstream trailer, was one of engagement and discovery, and covered sites in Louisiana, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Kansas, Wyoming, California, and other states, with extensions to destinations as far-off as Hawaii and Ecuador.
At each place, the couple examined the vexing problems – and sometimes the solutions – confronting bird populations. Some of the particularly memorable sections of the book are the ones on Spotted Owls and timber issues, different grassland and sagebrush birds whether in Kansas or Wyoming, disaster and recovery when it comes to Red-cockaded Woodpeckers and the Department of Defense, and the frustrating environmental dilemmas confronting Hawaiian birds and the people trying to save them.
Perhaps the best parts of the book are those dealing with new conservation concepts in which birds and people can cohabit ranches, farms, suburbs, military bases, and cities. In all these cases the Gyllenhaals do a splendid job describing efforts to bring back the birds, especially given the consequences of the “Three Billion Bird” revelations.
The chapter titled “Conclusion: Making the Case for Birds” is especially vital in that it builds on the arguments made in all previous chapters without apology: “The system built for protecting wildlife is falling steadily further behind. Funding is inadequate to keep up with even determining which species are in need of help.” And the Gyllenhaals are not hesitant to criticize the USF&WS, slow to rise to the occasion and seemingly, in their words, “to manage the declines.”
Clearly, the “Afterword: How You Can Help” should not be neglected by readers. In under 14 tight pages, it covers 17 key suggestions that anyone can do to at every level to help save birds. It’s all wonderful material, but it doesn’t seem enough to outline where to “go next.”
This is partially because the Gyllenhaals will regularly touch on how these researchers doing great work have unfortunately been unable to “communicate effectively, to engage, of perhaps even enrage, a broad audience” (p. 39). And they cite those who wonder what it would take “to grab – and keep – public attention” (p.45). Or they touch on the problem of tearing down “the wall between the game [hunting] and nongame [wildlife-watching] folks” (pp. 194-200). And they do this while pointing to those who are frustrated about getting scientists “to break out of their myopic focus on their research and recognize the part that average people play in conservation,” or the task of “making better arguments to the people that matter” (pp. 211-215).
These concerns are raised, but, regrettably, in-depth solutions are not.
In fairness, these specific engagement or motivation problems are not the reason the Gyllenhaals wrote the book. Their work chronicles the plight of our vanishing birds, and they do a very good job. Hopefully, perhaps their next book – or someone else’s - will pursue those aspects of what they describe toward the end of the book as “Conservation Birding,” a combination of wonder, welcome, recruitment, and building a constituency for dedicated repair.
In the meantime, grab this book. It’s really a good read.
THE SEA-EAGLE PERSISTS
Regular readers of this E-bulletin will surely recall the ongoing saga of the wandering Steller’s Sea-Eagle that has been documented since August 2020 across North America, from Alaska, perhaps through Texas, into New England and then into Atlantic Canada. Well, it’s still being seen and photographed in Newfoundland, near remote Trinity Bay, where is was reported a few times last month, as recently as 28 June.
Finally, we now have almost 3,300 folks receiving the free Birding Community E-bulletin. It would be grand to reach 4,000 recipients soon; so, if you have friends or co-workers who might wish to receive it, you can forward this issue to them and suggest that they sign up via this link: