Arkansas & Louisiana: Winter 2017-18

Winter 2017-18: 1 Dec–28 Feb

Kenny Nichols

Paul Conover

Recommended citation:

Nichols, K. and P. Conover. 2021. Winter 2017-18: Arkansas & Louisiana. <> North American Birds.

Seasonal highlights include Tundra Bean-Goose, Lucifer Hummingbird, Limpkin, Mew Gull, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Curve-billed Thrasher, and Gray-headed Junco.

Significance for Arkansas records is based on Arkansas Birds, their distribution and abundance (James and Neal 1986) and the Arkansas Audubon Society (AAS) online bird record database (for records since 1986). The significance of Louisiana records is based on trends derived from the database of bird record cards submitted to and archived at the Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science (LSUMNS); records are taken from rare bird reports submitted to the Louisiana Bird Records Committee (LBRC) and to the Louisiana birding listserv (LABIRD).

Contributors (sub-regional compilers in boldface)
Michael Autin, Jeff Barnhill, Stacey Benson (StB), Sandy Berger (SaB), Than Boves (ThB), Gary J. Broussard, Judy Butler, Terry Butler (TeB), Jeremy Chamberlain, Gail Chance, Brent Clay, Paul E. Conover (Louisiana), Nathan Davidson, Anant Deshwal, John Dillon, Cathy DiSalvo, Ronlyn A. Domingue, Robert C. Dobbs, Emily Donohue, Ron Duvall, Jody  Fite, Bob Foehring, Karen Garrett, Joan Garvey, Matt Gideon, Evelyn Good, Judith Ann Griffith, Cheryl Hall, Karen Hammond (KHa), Bob Harden, Sheena Hare (ShH), Adam Haynes, Donna Haynes, Lincoln Haynes, John Hiller, Sandra Hiller (SaH), Karen Holiday (KHo), Jay V. Huner, Verna Inman, Tim Kaufman, Chris Kellner, Pat Knight, Daniel Lane, Michael Linz, Charles Lyon, Jason McCallie, Patty McLean, Uta Meyer, Chase Milligan, Devin Moon, Margaret Morgan, Rose Must, Michael J. Musumeche, David P. Muth, B. Mac Myers III, Kenny Nations (KNa), Joe Neal, Kenny Nichols (Arkansas), LaDonna Nichols, Michael Nicodemus, Pooja Panwar, Mark Pethke (MPe), Dick Preston, Mitchell Pruitt, Rhett Raibley (RhR), J. V. Remsen, Joan Reynolds, Christina Riehl, Parker Ring, Randy Robinson (RaR), Dan Scheiman (DaS), Samantha Scheiman, Don Simons, Joshua Sylvest, Danny Townsend, Rhonda Townsend, Tim Tyler, Phillip Vasseur, Patrica Walthall, Jacob Wessels (JWe), Jane Wiewora (JWi), Jackie Woolbright (JaWo), Joe Woolbright (JWo), Alex Worm.


Exceptional anywere in the US, a Tundra Bean-Goose taken by a hunter near Dumas, Arkansas 25 Jan (CM) was a most unexpected first for Arkansas and the region. Regionally rare and local, 3 Tundra Swans were south of Atkins, Pope AR 21 Jan (RD), and 4 were photographed at Lake Magness, Cleburne AR 9 Dec (KNa). An American Black Duck, very rare so far west, was seen at Lake Magness, Cleburne 7 Jan (ML, PM). Long-tailed Ducks were well represented in Arkansas with five reports: singles were observed at the Alma Wastewater Treatment Plant, Crawford 21 Dec (SaB); Poole Fish Farms, Prairie 26 Dec (K&LN); Walden’s Landing on the Mississippi River, Phillips 3 Jan (DP); Lake Dardanelle, Yell 1 Jan (K&LN); and Beaver Lake, Benton 3 Feb (JN, JR). Louisiana Long-tailed Ducks included one near Homer, Claiborne (JD) on 3 Dec and three just offshore at Rutherford Beach, Cameron (RCD). An adult male Common Merganser was present on Lake Dardanelle, Yell, AR 31 Dec (K&LN), while a female was in St. Gabriel, Iberville, LA on 12 Dec (JVR). Rare but annual, a Western Grebe was on Lake Dardanelle, Yell 18 Jan and 27 Feb (K&LN). Locally uncommon in Arkansas, a pair of Inca Doves at Mena 8 Jan (VI) was a first for Polk. A stunning Louisiana first state record was a one-day-wonder Lucifer Hummingbird in New Iberia, Iberia 8 Dec (MJM). There were two Arkansas Rufous Hummingbird reports: a bird present since 13 Aug at Pangburn, White was last seen 31 Dec when the nighttime temperature dipped to 3 degrees (TeB, JB); an adult female present at a feeder in El Dorado, Union since “late fall” was last seen 19 Jan (JF).

Locally rare and very difficult to find in Arkansas, King Rails were documented at Choctaw Island West WMA, Desha 14 Dec and 19 Jan (JM). The latter was the first January sighting since the 1950s. One of the most bizarre birding stories in recent Louisiana began with a first state record sighting of four(!) Limpkin in Lake Boeuf, Lafourche 30 Dec (JS). The story took an even more amazing turn when a pair was discovered 31 Jan in Houma, Terrebonne (MA)—and the pair produced 7 young by spring! Three Sandhill Cranes observed near the Siloam Springs airport in Benton AR 10 Dec (JN) joins just a handful of historical sightings for the Ozarks; five were seen at a somewhat traditional location near Arkadelphia, Clark AR 3 Dec (EG). A Ruff near Kaplan, Vermilion 15–20 Jan (PEC) was Louisiana’s only for the season. Rare winter shorebirds for the season in Arkansas include: single Dunlins observed west of Conway, Faulkner 17 Dec (RT, DT, StB) and at the state fish hatchery in Centerton, Benton 19 Dec (MG, PR); 20 Long-billed Dowitchers near Suttgart, Arkansas 22 Dec (TT); and lone Spotted Sandpipers at Dardanelle Lock & Dam, Yell 3 Jan (K&LN) and on the Spring River, Fulton 28 Dec (BF). The 650 Bonaparte’s Gulls counted on Lake Maumelle, Pulaski AR 30 Dec (ML, PM) was the highest count ever recorded in the state. Rare but annual, an adult Laughing Gull was found at Dardanelle Lock & Dam, Yell 24 Feb (K&LN). An adult Mew Gull carefully observed at Dardanelle Lock & Dam, Yell 9 Jan (K&LN) was a long-overdue first for Arkansas. A California Gull was near Baton Rouge, East Baton Rouge 4 Jan (DL, JVR).

An extended mid-January freeze that left Lake Dardanelle AR almost completely covered in ice resulted in an extraordinary number of gulls; among those observed 18 Jan were 2 Iceland Gulls and an unprecedented 6 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (K&LN). Louisiana also hosted multiple Iceland Gulls: one near Welsh, Jefferson Davis 3 Jan (DL); two at Baton Rouge, East Baton Rouge 4 Jan (DL); one near Egan, Acadia 6 Jan (PEC); a different Baton Rouge, East Baton Rouge individual 23 Jan (DL); and a different Egan, Acadia individual 25 Feb (PEC). A Glaucous Gull was at Baton Rouge, East Baton Rouge on 4 Jan (DL, JVR), while an adult white-winged gull at Egan, Acadia 6 Jan (PEC) may have been a Glaucous. Great Black-backed Gulls are rare in Louisiana and are typically found coastally, but most of the records for this season were inland: at Egan, Acadia 6 Jan (PEC), near Welsh, Jefferson Davis 13 Jan (PEC, JVR), and near Baton Rouge, East Baton Rouge 29 Jan (DL, JVR); the one coastal record was near Cameron, Cameron 4 Feb (PEC). Lake Maumelle, Pulaski AR continues to be the hotspot for rare loons: highlights this season include a pair of Red-throateds and a Pacific 30 Dec (both ML, PM). Very rare in any season in Arkansas, an adult Brown Pelican was photographed below Dardanelle Lock & Dam, Yell 3–9 Dec (K&LN). 10 Black-crowned Night-Herons were observed roosting in a cypress swamp south of Lonoke, Lonoke AR 12 Dec (K&LN). This is a high count of this very rare winter resident. 12 White Ibis, rare in winter in Arkansas, were photographed in eastern Miller 8 Jan (PW).

An impressive 75 Bald Eagles were counted near Flanagan Prairie Natural Area, Franklin AR 8 Dec (JN, JWo). A Harris’s Hawk was discovered on a CBC at Cameron Prairie NWR, Cameron LA on 18 Dec (PV). Two White-tailed Hawks near Welsh, Jefferson Davis LA 11 Dec were a good find (MJM); another was near Welsh, Calcasieu 11 Jan (JVH). There were three Rough-legged Hawk reports for the season in Arkansas: a female returning for the 4th consecutive winter near Possum Grape, White 7 Jan (ML, PM); one at the Stuttgart Airport, Arkansas 7 Dec (JN, JWo); and one photographed north of Bono, Craighead 3 Feb (RhR). Louisiana’s only Rough-legged Hawk was found near Transylvania, East Carroll 13 Jan (JVR). Golden Eagles are rare but annual in Arkansas. There were four sightings for the season: one at Hobbs State Park, Benton 1 Jan (JR, JN); one at Holla Bend NWR, Yell 6 Jan (SaB); one in the Boxley Valley, Newton 8 Jan (ND); and one at Lollie Bottoms 15 Jan (ML), which was just the second for Faulkner. Louisiana’s sole Golden Eagle for the season was near Mer Rouge, Morehouse 15 Feb (JB). A Northern Saw-whet Owl—originally radio-tagged and banded 31 Oct 2017—was photographed roosting in a cedar tree at McIlroy Madison County WMA, Madison AR 26 Feb (MP). A Peregrine Falcon observed at Dardanelle Lock & Dam, Yell 3 Jan (K&LN) was the season’s only report of this rare winter visitor in Arkansas. There were two Prairie Falcon sightings for the season, both in the Arkansas River Valley: one south of Atkins, Pope AR 14 Jan (ML, K&LN, CL); and one at Cherokee Park near Morrilton 29 Dec (ShH, GC, BC), that was a first for Conway AR.


Louisiana’s 5th Fork-tailed Flycatcher was found at Stella Plantation, Plaquemines 2 Jan (CR). Rare and now nearly annual in Arkansas, a Say’s Phoebe was photographed east of Jonesboro, Craighead 1 Dec (ThB). A White-eyed Vireo was photographed in St. Charles, Arkansas AR during the White River CBC 30 Dec (JWe, AW, ED); this species is very rarely encountered in mid-winter. Rare in winter in Arkansas, Blue-headed Vireos were sighted at East End, Saline 11 Jan (DM) and the Piney District of the Ozark National Forest, Pope 18 Dec (CK).

A Tree Swallow photographed at Cook’s Landing, Little Rock, Pulaski 30 Dec (DH, AH, LH) was an excellent find of a species seldom encountered in Arkansas in mid-winter. Rare and declining, a Bewick’s Wren was found in Little Rock, Pulaski AR 16 Dec (DaS, SS, JC, UM). Two Townsend’s Solitaires were discovered on Mt. Magazine, Logan AR 28 Dec (DoS); three were found at the same location 13 Jan (ML, BH, RaR, KHo, JWi, MN). Though very rare elsewhere in the state, this species is now almost annual at this location. Louisiana’s 3rd Curve-billed Thrasher caused quite a sensation after being reported in a Baton Rouge, East Baton Rouge suburban yard Feb 26; the bird had reportedly been present since October (RAD). Red Crossbills were observed and their calls recorded at three locations this season: 25 were at Ninestone Land Trust near Metalton, Carrol AR 13 Dec (JAG, JN, PP, AD); 13 were at Hobbs State Park, Benton 16 Dec (JN, JR); and 7 were at Bella Vista, Benton 30 Jan (CH, JN, PP, JW, JaWo). Call analysis later revealed that both Type 2 and Type 4 were present.

Nearly annual in Arkansas, a Spotted Towhee, present throughout the season, was photographed coming to a feeder in Cabot, Lonoke (KHa, MM). An apparent Spotted Towhee noted giving an Eastern Towhee call at Gayle Farm, Cameron LA 18 Dec (RCD, BMM) may have been a hybrid. Rare so far east, a Harris’s Sparrow was spotted on the Lonoke Christmas Bird Count, Lonoke 17 Dec (KHo). A long-staying “Gray-headed Junco” photographed at Hobbs State Park, Benton 28 Feb (KG) was just the second occurrence of this Dark-eyed Junco subspecies. A Bullock’s Oriole made a brief visit in Breaux Bridge, St. Martin LA 17 Dec (GJB), while others were found in Louisiana in Jefferson 9 Jan (JG), East Baton Rouge 18 Jan (MPe), and Lafayette 21 Jan (RM). A Baltimore Oriole, very rare in winter, was photographed coming to a feeder in Lamar, Johnson, and was present 24 Dec–22 Jan (PK). A Shiny Cowbird was at Grand Isle, Jefferson LA 20 Dec (CD). Louisiana’s 1st record of “Mangrove” Yellow Warbler was at Grand Isle, Jefferson 20 Dec (DPM, CR). A Summer Tanager observed 2 Jan in Harrison, Boone AR (SaH, JH) was an unexpected sighting of this very rare winter visitor. A very late Dickcissel was photographed in Clark AR on 13 Dec (TK).

Report processed by Alison Világ, 10 Feb 2021.

Photos–Arkansas & Louisiana: Winter 2017-18

Hover or click on each image to read the caption.