Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Crossing the Causeway? Keep an eye out for a Brown Booby!

There has been a peculiar spate of sightings in recent weeks along the Causeway to/from Mandeville, of a tropical seabird called a Brown Booby.

Up until just a few years ago, the Brown Booby was very rarely reported from our region- and entirely offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, never close enough to see from shore.  Then a rash of weird sightings began:  from Lake Calcasieu in southwest Louisiana, from Madisonville on Lake Pontchartrain, flying upriver below Venice, and even- the most bizarre- flying with geese in the rice country. 

The recent Causeway sightings began in late March, and have been clustered around mile markers 16-18, although the birds have occurred elsewhere along the bridge as well.

As you can see from the photos below (taken yesterday at marker 16.4- thanks Jody Shugart!), the species is distinctive looking, with dark brown upperparts, head, and chest.  The chest is crisply demarcated from its white belly.  Its pale bill is gradually tapered, and its tail is narrow.  The wings are long, and its wing beats fluid.   It is the size or a large gull, or a bit larger.

Nobody knows why these birds are suddenly turning up, nor how long the phenomenon will continue.

Keep your eyes open as you drive the Causeway!


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