North American Birds

VOLUME 69 NO2 2016

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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Page 20 of 139

195 V O L U M E 6 9 ( 2 0 1 6 ) • N U M B E R 2 R U F O U S - N E C K E D W O O D - R A I L I N N E W M E X I C O A study on the Mexican caged bird trade by Hamilton et al. (2001) included 13 sur- veys of pet stores, street vendors, and one zoo in the Mexicali area of northern Baja California 1999-2001, the purpose being to understand the potential for escaped caged birds to occur in Baja California and the southwestern United States. Parrots were not included, as they are normally presumed to be escapees, as were a few Old World exot- ics, but all other taxa were recorded, some 1730 birds of 39 species. The birds identi- fied included 1634 passerines (94.45%), 50 doves (2.89 %), 45 gallinaceous birds (2.31 %), and 6 raptors (0.35 %). No waterbirds or rails of any kind were found. Most birds were in a weakened condition and were typi- cally held under sub-standard conditions. There are markets with birds for sale in Ciudad Juárez, adjacent to El Paso, but we have no quantification of size, offerings, or longevity of such markets. Likely escapees from there are occasionally seen in El Paso and, more rarely, in New Mexico's Doña Ana County adjacent to El Paso, north to Las Cruces, but very few are recorded north of the immediate border area. B. R. Zimmer and others have recorded such escapees in the border area for a number of years; tak- ing into account the addition of parrots to their sightings, the proportions of birds seen are similar to the proportions observed in the northern Baja California survey; i.e., largely passerines followed by doves and gallinaceous birds; no presumed escaped waterbirds have been noted, outside of the usual exotic ducks, geese, and swans favored by waterfowl aviculturists, not bird markets. Finally, we considered the possibility that the Rufous-necked Wood-Rail had been transported from Mexico or farther south in order to be deliberately released at the ref- uge. The logistics involved in such a scheme make it appear highly implausible to us; there is scant precedent for such a hoax. Our investigation of the history of Rufous- necked Wood-Rails in captivity yielded three instances: one seen in a market in southern Mexico in the 1980s, one seen in a private aviary in Chile some years ago, and a pub- lished reference to a pair that bred success- fully in a British zoo in the 1960s. We were unable to locate any instances of the species being held in the United States or Canada. Discussion Rails are among the best dispersers in the avian world, and both migratory and erratic movements are common within the fam- captivity in the United States, and his only experience with such was seeing the species once in a private aviary in Chile some years earlier. In the United States, Giant and Gray- necked Wood-Rails are the two species with established captive programs, and avicultur- ists are most likely to get a wood-rail from a zoo or another aviculturist rather than at- tempt to get one directly from Latin America. He noted that essentially all zoo wood-rails would be banded and perhaps up to 50 per- cent of aviculturists would band their birds. He said the value of wood-rails was roughly in the $100–200 range, making wood-rails relatively unprofitable birds when compared to species such as Scarlet Macaw (Ara ma- cao), which can fetch up to $13,000; for that reason, both bird dealers and smugglers would not favor wood-rails. Wood-rails are aggressive toward smaller birds and eat bird's eggs, another reason they are not in much demand. The majority of Latin American birds come to the United States from South America, via airplane, with some 90% en- tering through Miami or Los Angeles, and a small percentage through New York City. Concerning wood-rails in the Latin Ameri- can caged bird trade, he suspected they may show up occasionally, but there would be lit- tle net profit involved, so capture and selling them would not be reinforced; a bird caught by accident or coincidence might be sold, but it would be a novelty. J. E. Parmeter also contacted Josef Lind- holm, curator of birds at the Tulsa Zoo in Oklahoma and an authority of birds kept and bred in captivity in both zoo and pri- vate settings. Lindholm replied that the only Aramides in American aviculture over the last 40 years were Giant and Gray-necked, and that few Neotropical rails of any species show up in North American collections. He said the Mexican trade focused on psitta- cines and passerines; he observed the street trade in Tijuana during the 1980s but never saw any rails. We also sought information on the Mexi - can caged bird trade—an issue about which much is postulated but little is quantified— to learn how that trade might relate to the New Mexico Rufous-necked Wood-Rail. B. R. Zimmer, another N.M.B.R.C. member, reported that he had once seen a Rufous- necked Wood-Rail in a market in the city of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, in the 1980s. Our correspondence with other birders and ornithologists regarding the species in Latin American caged bird markets resulted in no additional observations. historical or other reasons, only Giant and Gray-necked are typically kept. We found a single reference to Rufous-necked Wood-Rail in a zoo—a pair in the United Kingdom at the Bristol Zoo that was successfully bred in 1968 (Jarvis 1968), which was the first and, to the best of our knowledge, only instance of breeding by this species in captivity. We contacted federal agencies for infor- mation on possible importation of Rufous- necked Wood-Rail into the United States. W. H. Howe, then Nongame Bird Coordi - nator for U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (U.S.F.W.S.) Region 2 in Albuquerque, and a member of the N.M.B.R.C., contacted both U.S.F.W.S. and U. S. Department of Agricul - ture (U.S.D.A.) officers at the El Paso border crossing. When any live bird is brought across the border, it is quarantined by U.S.D.A., which notifies U.S.F.W.S. Law Enforcement. All importers are required to declare what they are bringing into the country, and that information is collected and entered into the Law Enforcement Management Information System database. The officer at the border, who had been there for over a decade, que - ried the database and found no listing for Rufous-necked Wood-Rail being imported at El Paso or anywhere else nationwide. The U.S.D.A. veterinarian, who had dealt with the process at the El Paso crossing for the past 16 years, also confirmed that he had no knowledge of a Rufous-necked Wood-Rail ever entering the United States. We contacted the New Mexico Depart- ment of Game and Fish for information on Rufous-necked Wood-Rails being kept in New Mexico. The official in charge of exotic game bird permits for aviculture said that persons keeping such birds are required to have permits and to report their holdings an- nually; there were 105 such permit holders in the state. The official informed us that she was unaware of any permit holder having a Rufous-necked Wood-Rail or any other rail. In an effort to reach as many persons as possible to learn of possible Rufous-necked Wood-Rails being kept in New Mexico or anywhere nearby, M. J. Baumann, another member of N.M.B.R.C., posted an online message to various New Mexico bird lists, seeking information on possible captive rails, but none who replied had such information. For information on captive Rufous- necked Wood-Rails beyond the I.S.I.S. and agency databases, J. E. Parmeter interviewed Dr. Donald Bruning, former director of orni- thology at the Bronx Zoo. Bruning knew of no instance of Rufous-necked Wood-Rail in

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