North American Birds

VOLUME 68 NO4 2015

A Quarterly Journal of Ornithological Record Published by the American Birding Association. The mission of the journal is to provide a complete overview of the changing panorama of our continent’s birdlife.

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V O L U M E 6 8 ( 2 0 1 5 ) • N U M B E R 4 515 a l a b a m a & m i s s i s s i p p i to better understand this uncommon nesting species' current status and distribution in Mis- sissippi, 2 Grasshopper Sparrows were found in Monroe 21 Jun–4 Jul (WP, GK, RS), and 2 were found at a regular site ne. of West Point, Clay 8 Jul (TLS). Three Scarlet Tanagers were found on the Lee, AL S.B.C. 11-13 Jun, which is on the s. edge of their breeding range in the state (LW, KJ). A male was found at Ross Barnett Reservoir 28 Jun (G&SK); the species is rare in cen. Mississippi in summer. Several Painted Buntings were reported from the Black Belt Prairie region of Mississippi. An ad. male was e. of Macon, Noxubee 1 Jun (TLS, MS). At a regular site ne. of West Point, Clay, an ad. male was found dead 7 Jun (J&DP), and a singing bird was present 8-10 Jul (TLS). Local breed- ers in the I.C.P., an ad. male was in Lowndes 1 Jun, and 2 singing individuals were at the Leroy Steam Plant, Washington 17 Jun (LFG). A male Bronzed Cowbird was at a feeder in Brookhav- en, Lincoln 26 Jun–17 Jul, providing the frst record in Mississippi away from the coast (ph. C&TK et al.). Initialed observers (subregional editors in boldface): Jane C. Allen, Andrew Arnold, Michael Barbour, Bill Baxter, Karen Chiasson, Roger Clay, Shane Coombs, Elizabeth Cooper, Neill & Beth Cowles, Sheri Devouassoux, Paul H. Franklin, Lawrence F. Gardella, Ben C. Gar- mon, Bill & Jodi Gilliland, M. Scott Gravette, Jerry D. Green, Andrew Haffenden (AHaf), Dana C. Hamilton, R. Stan Hamilton, Greg J. Harber, Jeffrey Harris, Amber Hart (AHar), Lynn Hathaway, David Hollie, Rick Ingram, Greg D. Jackson (Alabama), Kevin Jackson, Odis H. Johnson, Brian Johnston, Michael J. Jordan, Ty Keith (TKe), Christopher & Teresa King, Gene & Shannon Knight, Will Lewis, Marybeth Lima, Layne Logue, Sue R. Moske, Jim & Dianne Patterson, Wayne Patterson, Billy Payne, Rick, Pelham A. & Lisa Rowan, Marion Schiefer, Terence L. Schiefer (Missis- sippi), Don & Judy Self, Damien J. Simbeck, Billie Simmons, Eric C. Soehren, Robert Stew- art, John A. Trent, Lorna West, Randy White, Ken Wills. n –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– John A. Trent, 4819 pleasant Hill Road, midway, alabama 36053, (john.trent@dcnr.alabama.gov) sa Ongoing discussions concerning Painted Bunting distribution and genetics have brought to light our Region's unique placement be- tween the two populations of eastern and western birds. These allopatric populations are separated by a gap, often mentioned in the literature, that includes interior Alabama and eastern Mississippi (see Sykes and Holzman 2005). Although very local in occurrence, Painted Bunting is in fact a regularly occurring species in our Region during the breeding season, at least within portions of this gap (map below). This raises intriguing questions as to how these birds relate to our current understanding of Painted Bunting distribution. In Alabama, interior breeding season records are widely scattered throughout the Inland Coastal Plain. Sites in Montgomery and Autauga have been the most dependable in recent years, while the remaining counties have limited data with little or no repeated observations since initial sightings. An exception appears to be a site in Washington, which reported birds this year after a long hiatus from reports in the early 2000s. Birds in e. Mississippi are concentrated primarily in the Black Belt Prairie ecoregion, with multiple breeding season records from Clay, Lowndes, Monroe, Noxubee, and Oktibbeha (T. L. Schiefer, pers. comm.). Kemper and Lee have had limited sightings recently, and while no reports are known from Chickasaw, it is likely that birds are present here as well. Data from counties on the e. side of the state between the Black Belt and the Gulf Coast are very sparse, with only one record from Greene. Alabama records for inland sites markedly increased starting in the early 2000s coinciding with the Breeding Bird Atlas project (Haggerty 2009). In the area surrounding Starkville, Oktibbeha, initial records for Painted Bunting date back to the late 1970s corresponding with when the frst bird records were kept for this area. Subsequent records have been on the increase since the late 1980s, as birding coverage has also increased (T. L. Schiefer, pers. comm.). The primary challenge to understanding Painted Bunting distribution in Alabama and Mississippi has been the paucity of birding coverage of large areas. Many counties are signifcantly underbirded if not virtually unbirded, and it is easy to see how targeted eforts such as the Alabama Breeding Bird Atlas were necessary to document Painted Bunting occur- rence in these areas. While some degree of range expansion might be a factor, it is difcult to know if this is the case, as observer coverage has not been consistent. Additionally, due to the local occurrence of this spe- cies and possible confusion of its vocalizations with other more common species, it is understandable how it could be overlooked (Gardella and Reed 2002). Nevertheless, reports of Painted Buntings from previously un- known areas continue to surface, emphasizing the importance of future survey eforts on this charismatic breeding bird in our Region. Literature cited Gardella, L. F., and S. Reed. 2002. Confrmed, probable, and possible breeding of Painted Buntings (Passerina ciris) in Inland Alabama. Alabama Birdlife 48: 38-40. Haggerty, T. M. (ed.). 2009. Alabama Breeding Bird Atlas 2000-2006. Available online: http://www.buildingthepride.com/faculty/tmhaggerty/BBA%20Homepage.htm. Sykes, P. W., Jr., and S. Holzman. 2005. Current range of the eastern population of Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris), Part I: Breeding. North American Birds 59: 4-17. This map provides a general overview of Painted Bunting breeding season records (mid- May–July) in Alabama and Mississippi within the range gap between eastern and western populations. Each dot represents a county with at least one record occurrence during the breeding season. The vast majority of counties depicted have had records since 2000. The yellow-shaded area represents the Black Belt Prairie ecoregion, which appears to be important for this species, especially in Mississippi. Further investigation is needed in many counties to obtain a better grasp on the current status and distribution for Painted Bunting in our Region. Map adapted with permission from Sykes and Holzman (2005).

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