Hurricane Ida Report

by Amy Davis

Hurricane Ida slammed into Port Fourchon, LA 29 Aug 2021, then veered northeast across toward New England and the Canadian Maritimes, leaving a death toll of 66 and damage of at least US$50 billion in its wake. In the following days, storm-birders encountered many displaced tropical and pelagic birds, including the usual storm waifs Sooty Tern and Magnificent Frigatebird, and astonishing records of Bulwer’s Petrel and Wedge-tailed Shearwater, although the latter bird’s presence in FL may not be fully explained by Ida.

The path of Hurricane Ida.

In MS, Pomarine Jaegers were seen from shore at Biloxi, Harrison Co 30 Aug and well inland at Ross Barnett Reservoir in Madison and Rankin counties 30–31 Aug.

Also at Ross Barnett Reservoir, Rankin Co, MS 31 Aug was a Long-tailed Jaeger; another turned up in TN at Pickwick Lake, Hardin Co 30–31 Aug.

Single Sabine’s Gulls appeared at Pensacola Beach Park West, Escambia Co, FL 30 Aug and Ross Barnett Reservoir, Rankin Co, MS 1 Sep.

Brown Noddies were blown into the upper Gulf Coast from Gulf Park Estates, Jackson Co, MS east to Panama City Beach, Bay Co, FL, with high counts of 13 at St. Andrews SP, Bay Co, FL 31 Aug and seven at Pensacola Beach Park West, Escambia Co, FL 30 Aug. Another turned up well inland on the AL–GA border at West Point Lake 31 Aug.

Sooty Terns were swept onto shore as far inland as AR and TN. High counts were 75 at St. Andrews SP, Bay Co, FL 31 Aug; 20 at Gulf Park Estates, Jackson Co, MS 30 Aug; 19 at LSU in East Baton Rouge Parish, LA 30 Aug; and 12 in St. Gabriel, Iberville Parish, LA 30 Aug. Further inland, there were six at Ross Barnett Reservoir, Madison Co, MS 30 Aug; three to four at West Point Lake on the AL–GA border 31 Aug–1 Sep; three over the Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa Co, AL 31 Aug; two at Wheeler Dam, Lawrence Co, AL 31 Aug; two at Pickwick Dam, Hardin Co, TN 31 Aug; and two at Lake Lanier, Forsyth Co, GA 31 Aug. Noteworthy reports of singles came from Desha Co, AR 30 Aug; from Hattiesburg, Covington Co, MS 30 Aug; and from TN in Franklin, Jefferson, and Hamilton counties 31 Aug–1 Sep.

Ida, just before it came ashore in Louisiana as a Category 4 storm on 29 August 2021.

Bridled Terns appeared onshore from coastal MS to the Florida panhandle, with high counts of eight at Dauphin Island, AL 31 Aug; six at Gulf Breeze, Santa Rosa Co, FL 30 Aug; five at Pascagoula Beach, MS 30 Aug; and four at St. Andrews SP, Bay Co, FL 31 Aug.

A Black Skimmer turned up well inland at Ross Barnett Reservoir, Madison Co, MS 1 Sep.

A Wilson’s Storm-Petrel was an unusual sight from shore at St. Andrews SP, Bay Co, FL 31 Aug; the species is not frequently displaced by storms.

A grounded Bulwer’s Petrel was an extraordinary find 31 Aug near Pensacola, FL, where it was delivered to a rehabber. It represents the first documented FL record of the species and one of only a handful from the eastern U.S. Previous records occurred off Cape Hatteras, NC and on the Chesapeake Bay, VA. The species’s Atlantic Ocean range includes seas off the northern coast of South America, over which Ida passed at the beginning of its trajectory.

An anonymous rescuer left this Bulwer’s Petrel at a Pensacola Beach, Escambia County, FL beach bar in a cardboard box on 31 Aug 2021. The bird was then brought to the Wildlife Sanctuary of Northwest Florida, where it was identified through photos and measurements. It recovered and was released on 4 Sep 2021. Photo © Lucy Duncan.

Even more remarkable was the discovery of an apparent Wedge-tailed Shearwater, photographed from shore at Fort De Soto Park in Pinellas Co, FL 31 Aug. If accepted, this would represent a first for FL and the Gulf Coast, and only the second in the eastern U.S. (the other and first having occurred off Cape Hatteras, NC, this in May 2021). The species is frequently storm-blown and is common to abundant off the west coast of Mexico and Central America. While Ida’s trajectory doesn’t fully account for this bird’s occurrence in the Gulf of Mexico, this exceptional record still merits mention here.

A Sooty Shearwater blew past Dauphin Island, AL 30 Aug. Great Shearwaters made unusual appearances in FL at Pensacola Beach Park West, Escambia Co, where there were three on 30 Aug, and at St. Andrews SP, Bay Co, where two more were seen 31 Aug. But by far the most unusual report of this species took place at a dairy farm well inland near Gainesville, Alachua Co, FL 1 Sep.

Magnificent Frigatebirds made appearances in six states: LA, AR, MS, AL, GA, and TN. Noteworthy high counts included 85 at Pearl River, St. Tammany Parish, LA 29 Aug; 30 at LSU, East Baton Rouge Parish, LA 30 Aug; 21 well inland in Hattiesburg, Forrest Co, MS, 30 Aug; 18 well inland at Lake Serene, Lamar Co, MS 30 Aug; 16 over the Mississippi River in Natchez, Adams Co, MS 30 Aug; 13 at the Ross Barnett Reservoir, Jackson, Madison Co, MS 30 Aug; seven at Grand Lake, Chicot Co, AR 30 Aug; and six at Tylertown, Walthall Co, MS 30 Aug. Other noteworthy reports included those of singles from the Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa, Tuscaloosa Co, AL 31 Aug; Chester Frost Park, Hamilton Co, TN 31 Aug; and George T. Bagby SP, Fort Gaines, Clay Co, GA 1 Sep.

Finally, a Masked Booby was seen from shore on the FL panhandle at St. Andrews State Park, Bay Co, FL 31 Aug, and Brown Boobies turned up at Gulf Park Estates, Jackson Co, MS 30 Aug and Panama City Beach, FL 31 Aug.

The above records have been gleaned from eBird and other social media and have not yet been vetted by state/provincial records committees.

Recommended citation:

Davis, Amy. 2021. Hurricane Ida Report. North American Birds.

No stranger to ABA publications, Amy Davis has served as Sightings department editor at Birding and technical reviewer at Birder’s Guide. She was also photo editor for Pennsylvania Birds. Amy loves citizen science and volunteered extensively for breeding bird atlases in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and West Virginia. She resides in Forked River, NJ, and recently broke her home county’s big year record. When she’s not birding the Barnegat Bay, Amy studies nursing and plays classical piano.