Critter Tales

Brown Booby makes rare appearance in Missouri Ozarks

Brown Booby makes rare appearance in Missouri Ozarks

By Missouri Department of Conservation

Photo: The first-ever sighting of the tropical seabird, the Brown Booby, was made in the Ozarks along the Current River in Ripley County in southern Missouri. – Photo courtesy of Debbie Prance-Orosz, MDC.

Missouri recently made history after a pelagic seabird— a Brown Booby — was seen perched in a tree in the Ozarks.

The Department of Conservation staff confirmed a Brown Booby was spotted along the Current River in Ripley County in southern Missouri.

The bird was first seen by Debbie Prance-Orosz while she and her family were out enjoying the river. Not knowing what the bird was, she snapped a photo and posted it to her Facebook page.

“We first got word of it after it was posted to Facebook this past weekend wondering what it was,” said Steve Paes, MDC forester and avid birder. “We didn’t know where it was, other than somewhere on the Current River. After asking around, I got a tip on its location. On Monday, I set out on the river with Cindy Bridges with the Missouri Birding Society and we eventually found it perched on a dead tree.”

Brown Boobies are large, long-winged seabirds that can be seen from southern Florida south on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Central America to northern South America.

According to Sarah Kendrick, MDC ornithologist, this is the first recorded sighting of a Brown Booby in Missouri.

Brown Booby makes rare appearance in Missouri Ozarks“It’s just an anomaly,” Kendrick said. “To spot this tropical seabird in the Ozarks is as awesome as it is bizarre!”

Kendrick speculated that the recent storms in the Gulf Coast could have blown the bird off course or caused it to get lost, leading to its pitstop in Missouri.

“It can be difficult for birds to escape severe weather, and some can be blown hundreds of miles off course, but this is extreme,” she explained.

It’s unclear how the Brown Booby likes the Missouri landscape, but those who have seen it agree on one thing: the seabird is totally oblivious to people.

“The bird is just unfazed,” Paes said. “The few times I’ve seen it, it’s been perched on a dead tree and doesn’t seem to mind being close to people. It looks healthy and very active, too. It doesn’t seem to have trouble feeding and catching fish.”

How long will the seabird enjoy its Missouri vacation? That’s up in the air.

“There’s no telling how long it’ll be here,” Paes commented. “It could be a few weeks, or it could be gone tomorrow! But for serious birders, it’s such a treat. They’re crossing a tropical bird that they got to see in Missouri off their list. It’s absolutely a kick.”

To learn more about birdwatching in Missouri visit the website.

To share bird sightings to help science and conservation efforts, log on to eBird.

– Resources: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, eBird.
Brown Booby makes rare appearance in Missouri OzarksAs awesome as it is bizarre!

A Brown Booby is a pelagic seabird that, like other pelagic birds, spends most of its time except when nesting on the ocean away from land.

Birders and scientists often know much less about the pelagic birds in their region than other species.

Scientists don’t even know what species occur in many places because no one has ever searched in those areas.

Found in tropical oceans, the Brown Booby is brown and white with bright yellow feet and has a flight style of swift aerial maneuvers and deft dives.

Like many seabirds, Brown Boobies have a serrated, comb-like toenail on their middle toe called a preen-claw. They use it, along with their bill, to spread waterproofing oil from a gland in the tail throughout the feathers when preening.

Like all boobies and pelicans, the Brown Booby's feet are totipalmate, with webbing connecting all four toes.

Copyright 2021 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd