“. . . includes some stunning images of Mexican and less-well-known Texas species . . . the authors have provided a unique and elegant publication that is truly an important contribution to Texas ornithology.” Great Plains Research“Everyone interested in Texas birds must have the Handbook of Texas Birds, a marvelous book. It is full of up-to-date information about Texas birds that cannot be found in one place anywhere else. [The annotations] are full of good information that anyone interested in birds will sooner or later refer to when trying to better understand their own yard’s birds or species seen in various other locations throughout the state.”Victoria Advocate“The useful and attractive guide includes 140 color photos and more than 600 maps detailing where each species can be found in Texas.”Abilene Reporter-News“. . . an attractive handbook that birders, both serious and casual, will find valuable when visiting this state with its very diverse avifauna. . . Given the increasing popularity of birding as a pastime for young and old, this book should be in the natural history section of most public libraries and colleges.”Choice
About the Author
MARK W. LOCKWOOD, based in Alpine, is a conservation biologist in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. He is the recipient of the prestigious Ludlow Griscom Award from the American Birding Association and coauthor (with William P. Johnson) of Texas Waterfowl. BRUSH FREEMAN, past vice president of the Texas Ornithological Society and former member of the Texas Bird Records Committee, is also a founding committee member of the Great Texas Birding Classic. He lives near Austin.
Read an Excerpt
The TOS Handbook of Texas Birds
By Mark W. Lockwood, Brush Freeman
Texas A&M UniversityCopyright © 2014 Mark W. Lockwood and Brush Freeman
All rights reserved.
NATURAL AREAS OF TEXAS
Texas can be divided into natural or ecological regions that are defined by geology and vegetation. For the purposes of this book, we have chosen to follow the natural area boundaries developed by the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs of the University of Texas at Austin (1978). The Lyndon B. Johnson School divided the state into 11 regions with some additional subregions. Although we are generally using these boundaries, some of the regions have been combined so that only eight natural areas are used in this book. Some important subregions are specifically mentioned in the species accounts, however, and those are defined here as well.
Texas becomes more arid as one moves from east to west, and this, of course, has a definite impact on the vegetation present. Between the mesic Pineywoods in the east, which receives up to 50 inches of precipitation annually, and the deserts of far West Texas, where as little as eight inches of precipitation occurs each year, lies a complex assemblage of habitats that supports the diverse avifauna of the state. Riparian corridors along major river systems provide important habitats that are often very different from the surrounding vegetation.
The Pineywoods area is the easternmost ecological region in Texas. It covers 15.8 million acres or about 9.4 percent of the state. In general, the Pineywoods region is nearly level, with some gently rolling to hilly country and elevations ranging from 200 to 500 feet above mean sea level. As the name implies, mixed pine-hardwood forests dominate the vegetational communities within the Pineywoods. Native pines common to the region are lob-lolly (Pinus taeda), shortleaf (P. echinata), and longleaf (P. palustris). Slash pine (P. elliottii), from the southeastern United States, has been widely introduced. Throughout the uplands, hardwoods are found in mixed stands with pines. Common hardwoods in the region include sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), various oaks (Quercus spp.), elms (Ulmus spp.), cottonwoods (Populus sp.), and hickories (Carya spp.), as well as water tupelo (Nyssa aquatica), blackgum (N. sylvatica), and bald cypress (Taxodium distichum).
Average Precipitation in Inches
Average precipitation decreases from east to west in Texas. The highest average rainfall is found in the southeastern corner of the state (56 inches), and the lowest is in El Paso County (8 inches).
Major Rivers of Texas
The major river systems in Texas play a significant role in avian distribution. The important riparian habitats along these rivers are heavily impacted by human activities, and conservation initiatives are under way in many areas.
The Coastal Prairies is the smallest natural region in Texas and covers 10.3 million acres or about 6.1 percent of the state. This region includes prairies, marshes, estuaries, and dunes on a nearly level plain that extends along the Gulf Coast from Mexico to Louisiana and includes the barrier islands. The Coastal Prairies reaches up to 80 miles inland from the Gulf, with elevations ranging from sea level to 150 feet. The transition from Coastal Prairies to the Pineywoods and Post Oak Savannah is abruptly delineated except along drainages where riparian corridors extend into the prairies. The region grades more evenly into the South Texas Brush Country, narrowing to include the barrier islands and a thin corridor along the Laguna Madre south of Baffin Bay. The natural vegetation of the Coastal Prairies is tallgrass prairie and oak savannah. However, many of these grasslands have been invaded by trees and shrubs such as the exotic Chinese tallow (Sapium sebiferum), native honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa), and various acacias, in particular. Gulf cordgrass (Spartina spartinae), big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), little blue-stem (Schizachyrium scoparium), indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans), and gulf muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) are common native grasses in these prairies.
An important natural region is the Coastal Sand Plain. This region is generally included as a subregion of the South Texas Brush Country. However, for ease in discussing bird distribution, this subregion is included here in the Coastal Prairies (e.g., along the Coastal Prairies north to the central coast). The Coastal Sand Plain is an area of deep sands found south of Baffin Bay that borders the narrow extension of the Coastal Prairies inland to eastern Jim Hogg County. The sand plain is stabilized by vegetation, for the most part, and is largely dominated by live oak mottes.
West of the Pineywoods a large area with belts of forest, savannah, and grassland makes up the Post Oak Savannah and Blackland Prairies regions, often referred to as the Oaks and Prairies region. These combined regions cover about 32.2 million acres or roughly 19.2 percent of the state. The Post Oak Savannah is found just to the west of the Pineywoods and grades into the Blackland Prairies to the south and west. This area is a gently rolling wooded plain with a distinctive pattern of post oak (Quercus stellata) and blackjack oak (Q. marilandica) in association with tall grasses. This basic vegetation type also characterizes the Cross Timbers subregion, which we also include in this region. The southwestern boundary with the South Texas Brush Country is indistinct. The Blackland Prairies intermingles with the Post Oak Savannah in the southeast and has divisions known as the Grand, San Antonio, and Fayette Prairies. This region was once an expansive tall-grass prairie dominated by little bluestem, big bluestem, indiangrass, tall dropseed (Sporobolus asper), and Silveus dropseed (S. silveanus). About 98 percent of the Blackland Prairies has been under cultivation for the past century. Many areas have been invaded by woody plants.
The South Texas Brush Country is an area of brushlands primarily found south of the Balcones Escarpment. The region covers 20.6 million acres or 12.2 percent of the state and is a moderately dissected, nearly level to rolling plain. Formerly, areas of dense brush were found only on ridges. Grazing and suppression of fires have altered the vegetation so that the region is now dominated by brushy species that include mesquite, live oak, several acacias, lotebush (Zizyphus obtusifolia), spiny hackberry (Celtis pallida), whitebrush (Aloysia gratissima), and Texas persimmon (Diospyros texana). The Lower Rio Grande Valley is found at the southern tip of this region. This distinctive subregion lies in the subtropical zone and is located within the delta of the Rio Grande and its alluvial terraces. Many species of plants reach their northern distribution in the Lower Valley. Historically, the floodplain of the Rio Grande supported a more diverse hardwood woodland that included sugarberry (Celtis laevigata), cedar elm (Ulmus crassifolia), ebony (Pithecellobium ebano), and anacua (Ehretia anacua). The Texas sabal (Sabal texana) was a locally common component of that woodland. Because of the construction of numerous dams along the Rio Grande, the seasonal flooding that maintained the natural vegetation along the floodplain has ceased, and brush species from the north are invading this area.
The Edwards Plateau covers approximately 11.3 million acres or 16.6 percent of the state. This region also includes the Llano Uplift or Central Mineral Region. The Balcones Escarpment bounds the Edwards Plateau on the east and south. This region is deeply dissected with numerous streams and rivers. The Balcones Canyonlandsform the true Hill Country along the escarpment and are dominated primarily by woodlands and forests, with grasslands restricted to broad divides between drainages. Protected canyons and slopes support Ashe juniper (Juniperus ashei)–oak forests. The dominant oak species differ depending on the location but include Lacey oaks (Quercus laceyi), Texas red oak (Q. buckleyi), and plateau live oak (Q. fusiformis). Much of the northern and western plateau is characterized by semi-open grasslands and shrublands on the uplands with riparian corridors along the drainages.
The Rolling Plains covers 24 million acres or 14.3 percent of the state. The region is situated between the High Plains and the Cross Timbers and Prairies in the north-central part of the state. These plains are nearly level to rolling and were originally covered by prairie. The Rolling Plains area is divided from the High Plains by the steep Caprock Escarpment. The vegetation of this region is tall- and midgrass prairie with a wide variety of grasses present, including little bluestem, big bluestem, sand bluestem (Andropogon gerardii var. paucipilus), sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula), indiangrass, and buffalograss (Buchloe dactyloides). Overgrazing and fire suppression have transformed this prairie into open shrublands. Many rivers and streams have eroded away the Caprock Escarpment to form canyons. The largest and best known is Palo Duro Canyon. The canyons or breaks of the Canadian River are also included in this region. The Rolling Plains and the Edwards Plateau are ecologically similar, but a distinct geological change defines the boundary. The Concho Valley lies along this boundary. Overgrazing and reduction of fires have transformed much of the Rolling Plains from a mid- and tallgrass prairie to an open shrubland dominated by mesquite and juniper.
The High Plains region covers 19.4 million acres or about 11.5 percent of the state. The High Plains area is bounded by the Caprock Escarpment and dissected by the Canadian River. These plains are nearly level, with many shallow playa lakes. The original vegetation of the High Plains consisted generally of mixed and shortgrass prairie and was free from brush. The species of grasses present varied based on soil types. In areas with clay soils, blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis) and buffalograss were common, while on sandy soils grasses such as little bluestem, side-oats grama, and sand dropseed (Sporobolus cryptandrus) dominated. Today, about 60 percent of the High Plains is in agricultural production, and much of that is used to produce row crops. The southern extension of the High Plains, south of the Canadian River, is known as the Llano Estacado . The area around Lubbock, including the surrounding counties, is known as the South Plains.
The Trans-Pecos of far West Texas includes the northern extension of the Chihuahuan Desert, and it coincides with the Basin and Range Physiographic Province. The region covers approximately 18 million acres or 10.7 percent of the state. Guadalupe Peak, at an elevation of 8,751 feet, is the highest point in Texas. There are many small mountain ranges within the region—the Davis, Chisos, and Guadalupe Mountains are the best known. Desert grasslands and desert scrub are found at lower elevations, although very little desert grassland persists today. The vegetation found at the mid-elevations in the mountain ranges is dominated by pinyon pines (Pinus cembroides, P. edulis, and P.remota) and junipers, while the upper elevations support pines (P. ponderosa and P.arizonica). Creosotebush (Larrea tridentata), tarbush (Flourensia cernua), and various acacias are found in the lowland basins. The Stockton Plateau is the subregion found west of the Pecos River and includes most of Terrell and southern Pecos Counties. This region is a transitional area between the Edwards Plateau and the Chihuahuan Desert. The dominant vegetation type is mesquite and red-berry juniper (Juniperus pinchotii) savannah. The Stockton Plateau is sometimes included as a subregion of the Edwards Plateau.CHAPTER 2
ANNOTATED LIST OF SPECIES
Family Anatidae: Swans, Geese, and Ducks
Sick or injured migratory waterfowl may summer virtually anywhere in Texas. In the following accounts, only those species that have shown a pattern of summer occurrence as healthy birds are described as summering in the state.
Dendrocygna autumnalis (Linnaeus)
Uncommon to locally common resident in the eastern two-thirds of the state, generally becoming less common in winter. The population in Texas continues to increase, and that is also being expressed in wintering numbers. Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks primarily occur throughout the South Texas Brush Country and northward to the southern Edwards Plateau and along the Coastal Prairies. They are more localized and uncommon to locally common farther northward through the eastern third of the state to the Oklahoma border, including the Pineywoods, although they are rare in heavily forested areas. Isolated breeding populations are also established on the southern Rolling Plains west to the Concho Valley. Wintering is localized, but increasing, in north-central and northeast Texas. This species is a very rare to casual visitor to the remainder of the state, primarily between March and November. There are isolated breeding records outside the mapped range.Taxonomy : The subspecies that occurs in Texas is D.a. fulgens (Friedmann).
Dendrocygna bicolor (Vieillot)
Common summer resident along the Coastal Prairies. Fulvous Whistling-Ducks are local summer residents in the eastern half of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, tending to occur in larger numbers in wet years. This species is a rare to locally uncommon winter resident north to Baffin Bay, becoming increasingly rare and irregular through the remainder of the breeding range. These ducks are also rare west and north of their breeding range and are very rare and irregular spring visitors to the Oaks and Prairies region. Fulvous Whistling-Ducks are accidental visitors to the Trans-Pecos, Panhandle, and South Plains. Timing of occurrence: The breeding population arrives in early to mid-March and is present through October. Taxonomy: Monotypic.
GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE
Anser albifrons (Scopoli)
Common to uncommon migrant through the eastern three-quarters of the state, becoming rare in the Trans-Pecos. Greater White-fronted Geese are uncommon to locally abundant winter residents on the Coastal Prairies. They can also be found in agricultural areas from Medina and Uvalde Counties southward through the South Texas Brush Country. There are also isolated wintering populations in the Rolling Plains and northeast Texas. This species is a rare to locally uncommon winter visitor in the northwestern portion of the state and irregular in occurrence elsewhere. Timing of occurrence: Fall migrants and winter residents normally appear in late September before other species of geese, and a few wintering birds often linger as late as early April and rarely early May. An early arrival date of 16 August 1954 may refer to a bird that was present during the summer. Taxonomy: The taxonomy of Greater White-fronted Goose has long been a complicated subject and has recently been reviewed by Banks (2011). The following traditional taxonomy is conservatively presented until it is clear whether Banks's revision will be widely accepted.
A. a. gambelli Hartlaub
Status uncertain. This subspecies has been described as common (Oberholser 1974), but it appears to be uncommon at best and far outnumbered by A.a. frontalis. More research is needed to determine its status in the state.
A. a. frontalis Baird
Common migrant and winter resident. Banks (2011) includes this subspecies under A.a. gambelli.
Chen caerulescens (Linnaeus)
Common to abundant migrant throughout the eastern half of the state and uncommon in the west. Snow Goose is an abundant winter resident along the Coastal Prairies and is common to locally abundant on the High Plains from Lubbock County northward, with an isolated wintering area in northeast Texas. This species is also an uncommon and local winter resident in the western Trans-Pecos and in agricultural areas in Medina and Uvalde Counties. As in the case of the Greater White-fronted Goose, this species can occur as a winter visitor almost anywhere. Timing of occurrence : Fall migrants arrive in early October, and wintering birds often remain until mid-March, with a few lingering as late as early May. There are numerous records of birds remaining through the summer. Taxonomy: Two subspecies have been reported from Texas.
C. c. caerulescens (Linnaeus)
As described above.
C. c. atlanticus (Kennard)
Status uncertain. There have been 14 reports of banded C.c. atlanticus taken by hunters in Texas. This suggests that this taxon is a casual winter visitor, but more research is needed.
Excerpted from The TOS Handbook of Texas Birds by Mark W. Lockwood, Brush Freeman. Copyright © 2014 Mark W. Lockwood and Brush Freeman. Excerpted by permission of Texas A&M University.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
List of Photographs viii
The Texas List and Its Nomenclature 1
Species Accounts 3
Status and Abundance Definitions 4
Natural Areas of Texas 7
Map Key 16
Annotated List of Species 17
Appendix A Presumptive Species List 351
Appendix B Non-accepted Species 353
Appendix C Exotics and Birds of Uncertain Provenance 357
Appendix D List of Review Species 361
Selected References 365
What People are Saying About This
“. . . includes some stunning images of Mexican and less-well-known Texas species . . . the authors have provided a unique and elegant publication that is truly an important contribution to Texas ornithology.” Great Plains Research
“Everyone interested in Texas birds must have the Handbook of Texas Birds, a marvelous book. It is full of up-to-date information about Texas birds that cannot be found in one place anywhere else. [The annotations] are full of good information that anyone interested in birds will sooner or later refer to when trying to better understand their own yard’s birds or species seen in various other locations throughout the state.”Victoria Advocate
“The useful and attractive guide includes 140 color photos and more than 600 maps detailing where each species can be found in Texas.”Abilene Reporter-News
“. . . an attractive handbook that birders, both serious and casual, will find valuable when visiting this state with its very diverse avifauna. . . Given the increasing popularity of birding as a pastime for young and old, this book should be in the natural history section of most public libraries and colleges.”Choice