Alabama and Mississippi: Fall 2016

Fall 2016: 1 Aug–30 Nov

Greg D. Jackson

Recommended citation:

Jackson, G. D. 2021. Fall 2016: Alabama & Mississippi. <> North American Birds.

Drought was the byword of Autumn 2016 in our region, particularly in Alabama where the state climatologist labeled it the worst short-term drought in more than 100 years. A deficit in precipitation already was felt coming into the season, and all four months of the fall continued the trend. Higher than usual temperatures across the region made things worse. Though thankfully not enduring the destruction of tropical storms this season, with Hurricane Hermine just brushing the southeast corner of the region, this also meant little of the rainfall associated with these tempests.

The effect was dry wetlands, parched ridgeline forests, and decreased food supplies for migrants. Vegetation losses, including tree kills, were evident in many areas. Birding for passerine migrants was perceived as worse than usual at many sites, both inland and coastal. Despite this, however, several species appeared in record numbers scattered across the avian spectrum. Many lingering migrants also were reported. As is typical, regardless of the perception of a “slow” migration, several rarities enlivened the hunt, including a first state record for Alabama.

Contributors (subregional editors in boldface)

Alabama Ornithological Society, Jane C. Allen, Joyce Balch, Wayne Barger, Susan Barrow, Birmingham Audubon Society, Charles W. Boley, Ned Boyajian, Rodney Cassidy, Karen Chiasson, Lisa Comer, Holly Cox, Denny Daniels, Lauren Deets, R. Scot Duncan, Chuck Estes, William Eubanks, Molly Folkerts, Jean Folsom, Paul H. Franklin, Lawrence F. Gardella, Ben C. Garmon, David P. George, Doris Gertler, Neil Gilbert, Robert Goss, Andrew Haffenden, Greg J. Harber, Ken Hare, Jeffrey Harris (JeH), Eric Haskell, Lynn Hathaway, Geoff E. Hill, Jason Hoeksema (JaH), Jim Holmes, Mary Hooper, Howard E. Horne, Sharon S. Hudgins, John M. Imhof, Greg D. Jackson (Alabama), Erik Johnson, Odis H. Johnson, Brian Johnston

Contributors (cont.)

Michael J. Jordan, Jon King, Rick L. Kittinger, Ron J. Kittinger, Paul D. Kittle, June Ladner, Herbert Lewis, Marybeth Lima (MbL), Michael Linz, Craig Litteken, Warren Martz, Cody Massery, Michael McCloy, Rodney McCollum, Steve W. McConnell, Patty McLean, Anne G. Miller, Leif Milliron, Ralph E. Mirarchi, Aaron Mitchell, Hal Mitchell, Kristina Mitchell, R. J. Moore, Marlee Morris, Sue R. Moske, Janice Neitzel, Steve Pagans, Dianne Patterson, Ben & Brayden Paulk, David Plumb (DaP), Rick Remy, J. R. Rigby, Bob Rosenkrans, Patsy Russo, Thomas W. Savage, Marion H. Schiefer, Terence L. Schiefer (Mississippi), Don & Judy Self, Damien J. Simbeck, Renea Simpson, Eric C. Soehren, Jimmy Stephenson, Bill Summerour, Chris Taylor, Madushan Wanniarchi (MdW), Joe Watts, William White, Mary Wilson.


Blakeley I. (Blakeley Island, Mobile, AL); Dauphin (Dauphin Island, Mobile, AL); Ft. Morgan (Fort Morgan State Historical Park, Baldwin, AL); G.C. (Gulf Coast Region, Mobile/Baldwin, AL); I.C.P. (Inland Coastal Plain Region of south-central Alabama); M.R. (Mountain Region of north Alabama); Noxubee (Noxubee N.W.R., Noxubee/Oktibbeha/Winston, MS); O.C.L. (Oktibbeha County L., Oktibbeha, MS), T.V. (Tennessee Valley Region of north Alabama); Wheeler Dam (Tennessee R., Lauderdale/Limestone, AL); Wheeler N.W.R. (Wheeler N.W.R., Limestone/Morgan/Madison, AL); Wilson Dam (Tennessee R., Lauderdale/Colbert, AL); b. (banded); v.r. (voice recording); p.a. (pending acceptance).


Black-bellied Whistling-Duck continues to expand as a breeder in s. Alabama, particularly on the coast but increasingly inland. Up to 7 were seen 4–5 Aug at a known site in w. Geneva (OHJ), and breeding was documented again at several coastal locales (KC, ECS et al.). Two Greater White-fronted Geese were unexpected beginning 15 Nov sw. of Auburn, Lee, AL (REM, m.ob., ph.). Setting a recent G.C. fall maximum, 190 Canada Geese were near Grand Bay, Mobile 16 Oct (KH, NG, EJ), and an all-time G.C. fall high was established by 50 Wood Ducks in n. Baldwin 28 Nov (MJJ). Joining an unusual summering bird, a Gadwall at O.C.L. 8 Sep (TLS) yielded a new local arrival date. At Weiss L., Cherokee 17 Nov (SP), 800 Gadwall bested prior M.R. highs, and 20 Green-winged Teal furnished a fall M.R. maximum. Two rare summering Ring-necked Ducks were in Hale, AL 19 Aug (RLK, RJK), and 588 from a careful photo analysis 2 Nov in Jackson (JCA) were the most recorded in fall in the T.V. A Greater Scaup 21 Nov at L. Cameron, Montgomery (LFG) was rare but regular for the I.C.P.; the Surf Scoter there 30 Oct–6 Nov (LFG et al., ph.) provided the sixth I.C.P. record. Black Scoter is not often found inland, and 4 in Marshall 5 Nov (GDJ) gave the T.V. a fall high count. Scarce but more expected on the coast, top of three reports was of 20 at Dauphin 15 Nov (CL). Eleven Buffleheads at Dauphin 12 Nov (AH) afforded a fall G.C. maximum. Rarely visiting the region, 3 Common Mergansers were spotted in Marshall, AL 23 Nov (SRM). A new I.C.P. fall peak, 464 Ruddy Ducks were noted in Hale 26 Nov (D&JS). An Eared Grebe, only occasional in the M.R., was in Chambers 23 Oct (PM, ML).

We all know the thrill of censusing Rock Pigeons, but at least tallying 249 in Russell 25 Sep (JH) was rewarded with a fall I.C.P. maximum. Though Inca Dove has been resident and breeding at a single Baldwin site for several years, one present much of August at Mobile (JS et al., ph.) represented only the 11th separate record for Alabama. Rare but increasing in the I.C.P., 2 White-winged Doves were in Covington 26 Oct (CM). Only occasional in recent decades in the I.C.P., and generally difficult to find inland, Black-billed Cuckoos were spotted 2 Oct at Montgomery (LFG) and 22 Oct in Perry (RLK, RJK). Bestowing a fall G.C. high count, 47 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were at Ft. Morgan 20 Sep (JN). An immature male Rufous Hummingbird was early and locally rare 1 Aug in Clay, MS (ph. BR). The scarce Calliope Hummingbird was a delight in Jefferson, AL 6 Nov–28 Dec (SSH, b. MW). A Purple Gallinule remaining at Noxubee 5 Nov (MHS, DP) was behind schedule. Only the fifth for Alabama, a Limpkin was lurking 1 Nov at Cottonwood, Houston (WB, CT, p.a.). Locally notable Sandhill Crane reports included 7 in Henry, AL (GEH) and 2 in Mobile, AL (PR) 12 Nov, and 7 at Noxubee 19 Nov (MM).

Two Black-necked Stilts at O.C.L. 10 Sep (TLS) were locally unexpected, as were occurrences of up to 7 American Avocets at that site 16 Aug–3 Nov (TLS et al.). Occasional in the M.R., 4 avocets were spotted in Birmingham 22 Aug (JW), 4 were in Etowah 19 Sep – 4 Oct (MdW et al.), and one was at Weiss L., Cherokee 17 Nov (vt. SP). Another 4 avocets were rare at Wheeler N.W.R. 19 Nov (GJH, B.A.S.). Marking an I.C.P. fall high, 14 Semipalmated Plovers were in Sumter 19 Aug (RJK, RLK). A Long-billed Curlew was a gangly oddity 11–13 Aug at Biloxi, MS (HC et al., ph.). Occasional inland, 2 Marbled Godwits were in Humphreys, MS 27 Aug (ph. HM). Alabama’s ninth Ruff, and the fourth for the G.C., was a fine discovery 10 Sep at Blakeley I. (ph. EH). Rare inland in much of the region, 3 Sanderlings were in Clay, MS 2 Sep (TLS) and one was at O.C.L. 4–5 Sep (TLS, MHS et al.). Baird’s Sandpiper is an expected low-level autumn transient in Alabama, but one in the se. portion of the state in Russell 17 Sep (GEH) was more unusual. Occasional in fall in the I.C.P., 2 White-rumped Sandpipers were identified in Sumter 18 Aug (RLK, RJK). The count of 30 Semipalmated Sandpipers 12 Aug in Sumter (RLK, RJK) set a fall I.C.P. maximum, and an autumn high for the T.V. was established by 87 Wilson’s Snipe 19 Nov at Wheeler N.W.R. (CWB, MH). Locally rare O.C.L. reports included 6 Willets 14 Aug (TLS) and single Wilson’s Phalaropes 28 Aug (TLS, JeH) and 9 Sep (TLS). A juvenile Red-necked Phalarope granted a 10th local record 22–23 Sep in Oktibbeha, MS (DD et al., ph.). Scarcest of the Phalaropus in our region, a Red Phalarope was a great find on Dauphin 14 Oct (CE, A.O.S., ph.), representing the 23rd for Alabama.


Likely related to Hurricane Hermine, a jaeger, very likely a Parasitic, was an excellent inland sighting 3 Sep at Walter F. George Dam in Henry, AL (GEH et al.). Laughing Gull is rare but regular at select sites in the T.V.; one was spotted 16 Aug at Wilson Dam (DJS), and 4 were at Wheeler Dam 26 Aug (RLK, RJK). Franklin’s Gull is typical in small but fluctuating numbers in the region in autumn. Ahead of the pack, an adult was at Pascagoula, Jackson MS beginning 26 Aug (BJ), joined by a first-cycle bird 18 Nov. Single Franklin’s were noted 31 Oct at O.C.L. (TLS), in s. Mobile 22 Nov (MbL, LH), and in s. Baldwin 23 Nov (KC); 4 were on Wheeler L., AL 6 Nov (DJS et al.). A count of 168 Ring-billed Gulls at Wheeler Dam 16 Aug (DJS) was unusually high so early in the season. The Iceland (Thayer’s) Gull 15 Oct at Dauphin (ph. EJ) was the 27th and earliest for the species in Alabama, and the 10th Thayer’s. Lesser Black-backed Gull continues to appear regularly in small numbers in the T.V. and G.C. regions of Alabama. As many as 6 were in the Wheeler Dam area beginning as early as 16 Aug (DJS et al.) with up to 3 at Wilson Dam 23 Sep and 27 Oct (DJS). An adult Great Black-backed Gull was a rare find for the Mississippi coast at Biloxi on the early date of 11 Aug (HC et al., ph., acc.). Occasionally still detected, an adult Herring x Kelp (“Chandeleur”) Gull was at Dauphin 7 Oct (AH, HEH, ph.). The juvenile Sooty Tern wrecked 6 Sep in Jackson, MS (fide BJ) was unusual. Locally infrequent Caspian Terns included 2 in Jefferson 21 Aug (RLK, RJK) and 6 in Sumter 28 Aug (RLK, RJK). The 3 Common Terns 22 Aug at O.C.L. (TLS) furnished a local arrival record.

Rare, though now annual at this site, a Pacific Loon was at Guntersville, Marshall, AL beginning 25 Nov (GDJ et al.). Another starting 25 Nov gave the I.C.P. a second record at Jordan L., Elmore (RM et al., ph.). Casual in Mississippi, a dead Audubon’s Shearwater was a surprise 3 Aug at Deer I., Harrison (MF, ph. LD, acc.). Good numbers of Wood Storks were noted in the Starkville, MS area this autumn, including high counts of 111 in Oktibbeha 18 Aug (TLS, MHS, JeH et al.) and 101 in Clay 30 Sep (HC, JL). Scarce in n. Alabama, there were five reports from the period 15 Aug–25 Sep (JB, DJS, RM, JMI et at.), with a maximum record for n. Alabama provided by over 63 birds 25 Sep in n. Lee (RM). Two storks were observed 11–30 Sep in n. Baldwin (MJJ), a rare G.C. occurrence. An immature Masked Booby was a prize 8 Oct at Dauphin (HEH). Wildly out of place in n. Mississippi, an adult Brown Booby was at Chewalla L., Marshall 2–8 Oct (WE, m.ob., ph., acc.). Neotropic Cormorant is expected in small numbers in the Delta region of w. Mississippi; 8 were seen 14–16 Aug in Tallahatchie (HM, KM et al., ph.). A steadily increasing species in n. Alabama, the estimated 1000 Double-crested Cormorants 17 Nov in Cherokee (SP) set a new fall M.R. maximum. American White Pelicans in Oktibbeha, MS were the first known to fully summer in that area, including up to 65 birds 6 Aug (TLS, MHS, JeH, m.ob.). The Wheeler N.W.R. area count 1 Oct yielded a state maximum 3200 white pelicans. Alabama’s 16th Great White Heron on Dauphin delighted many over an extended stay beginning 24 Aug (AH, m.ob., ph.). A tally of 58 Snowy Egrets 27 Aug in Hale (D&JS) broke the previous fall I.C.P. high mark. Rare inland in Alabama, a Tricolored Heron was in Barbour 3 Sep (GEH). A few Roseate Spoonbills are now anticipated in summer and fall in the region. Several reports came from the Starkville, MS area, with up to 9 juveniles 18–28 Aug at O.C.L. (TLS, MHS, JeH, m.ob.); 4 spoonbills were notable in Sumter, AL 28 Aug (RLK, RJK, ph.).

Representing the top fall count for cen. and s. Alabama, 105 Black Vultures were observed 6 Sep in Hale (AGM, GJH, m.ob.). The 124 Turkey Vultures 14 Nov in n. Baldwin (MJJ) similarly gave the G.C. a fall maximum. Rare in the M.R., single Swallow-tailed Kites graced Shelby 10 Aug (ph. RJK) and Talladega 27 Aug (B&BP). Mississippi Kite continues to slowly increase in n. Alabama, with several reports at new sites 4 Aug–10 Sep (RJK, DPG, RSD, SWM). Ten Red-shouldered Hawks 1 Oct on the Wheeler N.W.R. area count furnished a new T.V. autumn high. The immature dark morph Broad-winged Hawk 22 Oct at Ft. Morgan (ph. LC) was only the third of that morph for Alabama. A Peregrine Falcon at Noxubee 6 Aug (DP, JeH) supplanted a local arrival record by over a month.


Rare but regular in fall, Olive-sided Flycatchers were tip top 20 & 30 Aug in Birmingham (RSD, RR, PHF, DG et al., ph.), 25 Aug in Jackson, MS (BJ), and 28 Sep at Dauphin (BCG, PR, AH et al., ph.); 3 Olive-sideds were unusually plentiful in the Delta country of Humphreys and Coahoma, MS 27–28 Aug (ph. HM). Expected in small numbers throughout the region, there were widespread reports of Yellow-bellied Flycatcher 25 Aug–2 Oct. Probably regular in fall but infrequently identified to species, a singing Willow Flycatcher was in Shelby, AL 5 Oct (RJK). Two Say’s Phoebes were exciting discoveries in the coastal areas this autumn; one was on Dauphin 1–2 Oct (RJK, RLK et al., ph.) for Alabama’s eighth record, and another appeared 4–6 Oct at W. Ship I., Harrison, MS (WM et al., ph., acc.). Rare but more predictable, 2 Vermilion Flycatchers were in s. Mobile, AL the latter half of October (HEH, BCG, PR, m.ob., ph.). Occasional in the region, a vocal Couch’s Kingbird delighted many with an extended visit to Leflore, MS beginning 30 Nov (JRR, m.ob., ph., v.r., acc.). The Tropical/Couch’s Kingbird 14 Oct at Ft. Morgan (ph. JN) was only the sixth of the complex for Alabama, but unfortunately was silent and vanished rapidly. A long-anticipated first for Alabama, a Cassin’s Kingbird was near Magnolia Springs, Baldwin 25–27 Oct (DaP, BS, ph.; p.a.). Setting a local departure date, an Eastern Kingbird was noted 1 Oct in Lowndes, MS (JaH).

For an I.C.P. fall maximum, 28 White-eyed Vireos were recorded 17 Sep in Covington, AL (TWS); one in Birmingham 11 Nov (RR) was the latest for n. Alabama. Especially notable inland, a Bell’s Vireo was a nice discovery 2 Oct in Pearl River, MS (NB, acc.); rare but more expected was a Bell’s 9 Oct on Dauphin (AH, HEH). The Yellow-throated Vireo 31 Oct in Montgomery (RLK, RJK) marked a late I.C.P. date. Highest fall count for the I.C.P., 4 Philadelphia Vireos were at Montgomery 19 Oct (LFG). Almost regular in autumn in the M.R., a Warbling Vireo was observed at Birmingham 10 Sep (RSD); scarcer in the I.C.P., an individual was located in Elmore 24 Sep (JH, RM). A Warbling 29 Sep at Wheeler N.W.R. (CWB) was noteworthy but more usual. Single Horned Larks in Dale and Houston, AL 5 Nov (GEH) were locally rare. Furnishing a late record for the M.R., 2 Northern Rough-winged Swallows were in Lee 22 Oct (JH). The 201 Cliff Swallows reported 5 Aug in Lamar (RLK, RJK) represented a seasonal high in the I.C.P., and a fall n. Alabama maximum fell with 250 Barn Swallows observed 1 Sep in Lauderdale (PDK). Local autumn record tallies also included 171 Carolina Wrens 1 Oct on the Wheeler N.W.R. area count, 13 Hermit Thrushes 19 Nov in Wilcox (RC), 265 Cedar Waxwings 7 Nov at Huntsville (HL), and 25 American Pipits 20 Nov in Mobile (HEH). A Swainson’s Thrush lingering to 15 Nov in Oktibbeha, MS (MHS, TLS, JeH, ph.) was far later than prior local observations.

Infrequent in the M.R., a Lark Sparrow was spotted in Shelby 2 Aug (ph. LM), and another gave the G.C. a new arrival date 8 Aug at Dauphin (JK et al., ph.). Rare in the T.V., a LeConte’s Sparrow was observed 21 Nov in Lauderdale (DJS). The 130 Song Sparrows at Wheeler N.W.R. 29 Oct (MM) were the most in fall for Alabama, and 160 Swamp Sparrows the same day and site exceeded the autumn high count for inland Alabama. A low-level coastal visitor in fall, single Yellow-headed Blackbirds were found 6 Sep in Pascagoula, Jackson, MS (ph. BJ) and 7 Oct at Ft. Morgan (ph. GDJ); occasional inland in Alabama, an adult male was a treat 12–13 Oct in Lauderdale (RJM et al., ph.). A dozen Orchard Orioles 19 Aug in Lee (RM) established an M.R. fall top count, and one in Colbert 27 Sep (WW) was the latest for inland Alabama. In Madison 6–7 Sep, 24 Baltimore Orioles (RG) set a fall T.V. peak, and up to 9 in Houston through period end (RS) did the same for the I.C.P. Other local fall maxima were granted by 150 Rusty Blackbirds in Birmingham 28 Nov (AGM, JF, SB), and 1200 Common Grackles in n. Baldwin 20 Nov (MJJ).

Latest for Alabama, a Blue-winged Warbler was photographed 8 Nov in Colbert (WW et al.). Fourteen Tennessee Warblers conferred an I.C.P. autumn maximum 17 Oct at Montgomery (LFG). Nashville Warbler is expected in small numbers in migration; of several reports, most notable were 2 in Covington 1 Oct (TWS) and another at Tuscaloosa 11 Oct (NG). Sneakily rare Mourning Warblers were in Birmingham 27 Sep (RR) and at Wheeler N.W.R. 29 Sep (CWB). Rare in the region in fall, a Cape May Warbler appeared on the e. margin in Lee, AL 14 Oct (RM). Locally unusual, a Cerulean Warbler was spotted 7 Sep at Noxubee (TLS), and one nearby in Oktibbeha 2 Oct (JeH) provided a new area departure date. Scarce in the M.R., Black-throated Blue Warblers were seen 30 Aug (RR) and 15 Oct (RSD) at Birmingham. A Yellow-rumped Warbler in Marengo 20 Sep (D&JS) was unprecedentedly early for the I.C.P. Infrequent so late inland in fall, a Yellow-throated Warbler was located 19 Nov at Hattiesburg, Forrest, MS (AM). Also quite tardy, and besting a local record, was a Prairie Warbler 6 Oct in Clay, MS (TLS). The Canada Warbler 1 Oct at Tuscaloosa (NG) was the latest for the I.C.P. A tally of 12 Scarlet Tanagers 6 Sep at Huntsville (RG) was a T.V. fall high. Western Tanager is a rare treat in fall, mostly along the coast; a male was discovered 2 Nov at Pascagoula, Jackson (BJ et al., ph., acc.). In Baldwin 4 Sep, 85 Blue Grosbeaks (MJJ) marked an autumnal peak for Alabama.

Report processed by Eric DeFonso, 21 Feb 2021.

Photos–Alabama and Mississippi: Fall 2016

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