Saturday, January 21, 2012

Which Bird Has The Weirdest Range?

I like looking though field guides at birds' ranges.  I like the neat little stories that they tell about migration, and the things you can learn about the natural characteristics of the US.  OK, I also like the pretty colors. 

There are a couple different kinds of ranges.  There are the neotropical migrants with summer ranges in the northern US or Canada and winter ranges either absent or in Florida or whatever.  There are the elevation migrants (I'm sure there are scientific names for these things), like Townsend's Solitaire, that stay in the mountains during the summer but spread out to lower elevations when they're forced out by snow and cold.

Then of course there are the non-migratory birds.  These guys are the "downers" of the range pages.  They're boring (just one color) and many of their ranges are broken up by man-made habitat fragmentation (see: grouse).  I try to flip past these guys pretty quick.

The antidote to the lame-o non-migrants are birds with weird bits in their ranges.  I'm using a Peterson guide for this, and there plenty of great examples.  Why are there holes in the American Redstart range in South Dakota and Illinois?  What does the Whip-Poor-Will find objectionable about western Ohio and the Binghamton, NY area?  What's up with that weird spot in south-central North Carolina where Vesper Sparrows can be found?

The bird with the weirdest range, though, is the Black-crowned Night Heron.  Look at this thing!

What a kook!  Stays year-round in Louisiana and south Alabama but skips over Mississippi?  Has no problem getting up into the depths of Alberta but won't touch Wyoming?  What's up with that little dot on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan?  I love it.  

Congrats, Black-crowned Night Heron, stay weird.


Anne C said...

And the dot in the middle of Colorado...

John B. said...

Would you want to live in Wyoming? I thought not!

Ryan O'Donnell said...

From a Utah birder's perspective, I could never figure out Band-tailed Pigeon. They breed from British Columbia to Argentina, from sea level to high mountains. But here in Utah, they can be found in the mountains of the southern half of the state but not the northern half? Why not?

Matt B. said...

I always loved the Least Tern, and how its range follows parts of the major rivers.

Scott said...

I like geography as well as birds so range maps have always been interesting to me.

I find it odd that Greater Roadrunner, a bird of the SW desert, occurs east to La., Ark. and Mo. That is weird to me. Why do they stop there? Is the Miss. Valley a barrier? Perhaps that's why they don't extend farther into the pine forests of the Southeast? No other bird has a range close to this one.

Another weird one is the White-tailed Kite - Fla., Tex., Cal. and Ore. Not connected to each other.

I just found this blog tonight and I like it. And I barely read blogs.


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