Thursday, August 16, 2007

Avian Range Expansions: Part One

Even during the dog days of summer, there is an avian joy that comes from living on the edge of the Ozarks, where the deciduous forests reluctantly give way to the grasslands of the Great Plains. In addition to the post breeding wanderings that predictably occur this time of year, the ecotonal southwest region of Missouri has become an area characterized by range expansions from the south and west. Many species, including Greater Roadrunner, Painted Bunting, Mississippi Kite, and others, have historically inhabited the extreme southern and southwest corner of the state of Missouri. In very recent history, however, these species have experienced range expansions into our part of the world. The numbers are advancing northward and eastward across the state.

I remember ten or so years ago when I videotaped nesting Great tailed Grackles in the Palmetto area ten miles east of Springfield. At that time, this was the most easterly documentation of Great-tail nesting activity. Today, the species is commonly seen in our region and expanding rapidly across the state.

I always enjoy visiting my hometown in central Kansas, where significant numbers of Mississippi Kites find suitable habitat for nesting in the mature trees within the small towns. I know that when I was a child, city crews routinely sprayed DDT for mosquitoes. It goes without saying that there were no kites there then. In recent years, an avid Joplin birder has reported this wonderful species there. Located 70 miles to the west, Springfield skies were void of kites. Until this year, that is. The first nesting record for Mississippi Kites in Springfield was confirmed when a single nest with one young kite was located in the southern part of the city. Shortly thereafter, reports of pairs of kites came from Ozark and Nixa, both 10-20 miles south of Springfield. So now we know that at least 7 Mississippi Kites called the area their home for the summer. Can't wait to see what the coming years hold!
photo by Charley B.

Next....... Quarries and Painted Buntings


N8 said...

I'll try the spelling this time.

Who took that picture?

Greg said...

Charley B., with a point and shoot camera through his spotting scope.

T.R. said...

A lot of biologist suggest that the popularity of Bradford Pear trees as landscaping in suburban yards is related to the grackle expansion. It certainly seems to coincide here in Oklahoma.