Tennessee & Kentucky: Summer 2017

1 June–31 July

Chris A. Sloan

Recommended citation:

Sloan, C. 2020. Summer 2017: Tennessee and Kentucky. <https://wp.me/p8iY2g-98A> North American Birds.

Temperatures were average to below average across the region in June, warming to slightly above average across Tennessee and western Kentucky in July. Rainfall was average to slightly above average across the region throughout the period.

Rarity highlights in Kentucky included King Rail, Wood Stork, and Brown Pelican. In Tennessee, the headliners were the state’s (and region’s) first Broad-billed Hummingbird and the state’s third Arctic Tern. Other rarities included White-winged Dove, Wood Stork, Neotropic Cormorant, Brown Pelican, and Roseate Spoonbill.

Cited Contributors (sub-regional compilers in boldface)

Steve & Stacey Adair, David Alvarez, Sharon Arnold, Jamie Baker, Kristy Baker, Sarah Bell, Rob Biller (RBi), Clay Bliznick, Ray Bontrager (RBo), Gary Brunvoll, Kevin Calhoon (se. Tennessee), Ron Carrico (RCa), Phillip Casteel, Hap Chambers, Charlie Crawford, Rodney Crice (RCr), Roseanna Denton, Janet Dowlen, Bruce Dralle (BDr), Betty Dunn (BDu), Tom Durbin, Melissa Easley, Dean Edwards, Glen Eller, Henry & Sue Farthing, Melinda Fawver, Frank Fekel, Clayton Ferrell, Bambi Fincher (BFi), Richard Fischer, Bob Foehring (BFo), Graham Gerdeman, Steve Graham, Teresa Graham, Mark Greene, Joseph Hall, Rob Harbin, Ron D. Hoff (RDH)

Cited Contributors (cont.)

Susan Hubley, Timothy Jones, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR), Caitlyn King, Roy Knispel (RoK), Mark Kosiewski, Richard L. Knight (ne. Tennessee) (RLK), Kelly Krechmer, Gary Lanham, Andy Lantz (ALa), Amber E. Lewis (AEL), Richard Lewis, Jeremy Lloyd, Thomas McNeil, Samuel Merker, Keith Michalski, Daniel Moss (DMo), Charles Murray, Dollyann Myers (DMy), Teresa Noel, Brainard Palmer-Ball, Jr. (BPB), Brookie & Jean Potter, Josh Powell, Richard Preston, Sherrie Quillen, Pete Range, Tommie Rogers, Cyndi Routledge, Jeffrey Schaarschmidt (JSc), Beth Schilling, Jan K. Shaw (JKS), Damien J. Simbeck (DJS), Mike Smith, Daniel Snell (DSn), Jennifer Snyder (JSn), Jeff Sole (JSo), Ray Stainfield, Eugene & Sean Stephens (E&SS), David Svetich (DSv), Mark Taylor, Michael C. Todd (w. Tennessee) (MCT), AnnMarie Torrance (AMT), Alan Troyer, Linda Walker, Clay Walters, Keith Watson, Jacob Wessels, Randy Winstead, Ben Yandell (Kentucky), Stephen Zipperer (middle Tennessee).


Duck River (Duck River Unit, Tennessee N. W. R., Humphreys, TN); Ensley (Ensley Bottoms, including the EARTH Complex and TVA Lake, in southwest Shelby, TN).

Whistling-Ducks Through Pelicans

Two adult Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks with 8 young at Neboville Bottoms, Gibson, TN 1 Jun (E&SS) were the only ones reported outside the breeding population in Shelby. A Fulvous Whistling-Duck was associating with the local Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks at Ensley 21–24 Jul (ph. MCT, m. obs.). There were four reports of late or summering Blue-winged Teal: one at McElroy L., Warren, KY 1 Jun (TD); two at Ensley 8 Jun (BDu); 1-2 at Walter S. Davis Marsh, Nashville, TN 6 Jun–2 Jul (FF); and a male at John Sevier L., Hawkins, TN 3 Jun (SH). One at Ensley 28 Jul (RP, RH) was likely an early migrant.

There were a number of reports of unexpected summer waterfowl species: a male Northern Shoveler in Jefferson, TN 13 Jul (BS); 2-4 Gadwall at Gupton Wetland, Roane, TN 4–25 Jun (MF, m. obs.); a pair of Gadwall at Spindletop Research Farm, Fayette, KY 27 Jun (DSv); a Green-winged Teal at Duck River 9 Jul (TR); a Ring-necked Duck at Buzzard Rock Marina, Lake Barkley, Lyon, KY 18 Jun (†KM); a Lesser Scaup in Henderson, KY 10–13 Jun (ph. CC); two female Lesser Scaup at Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, Trigg, KY 1 Jul (†JH); and a Red-breasted Merganser at Old Hickory L., Nashville, TN 23 Jun (GG, PC).

A female Common Merganser with 8 juveniles on the Little R. near Walland, Blount, TN 29 May–9 Jun (JL, m. obs.) finally provided definitive proof that Common Mergansers are nesting in Tennessee, after at least two years of mounting evidence. A female at Boone L., Sullivan, TN 10 Jun (CK), two just west of the Virginia border in Pike, KY 6 Jun (ph. MK), and 1-2 on the Red River in Menifee, KY 9 Jun (†CB) also could have been local breeders.

There were four reports of Pied-billed Grebes, including, notably, one with a juvenile at Long Point Unit, Reelfoot N. W. R., Fulton, KY 2 Jun (ME).

A White-winged Dove, now rare but annual in the state, was at Rockvale, Rutherford, TN 4–23 Jul (ph. KB). Black-billed Cuckoos, rare in summer anywhere in the region, were reported twice: one calling at night in Lexington, KY 11 Jun (DSv) and 1-2 at Bluetooth Hollow Heritage Farm, Putnam, TN 14 Jun (MT). A male Broad-billed Hummingbird photographed in Arlington, Fayette, TN 13 Jun (ph. AEL, fide CR), established an unexpected first record for the region.

Marsh habitat is perhaps the most endangered habitat in the region, as evidenced by the decline in reports of historically more common marsh breeding species. A King Rail, now very rare in the region due to habitat loss, was present at Long Point Unit, Reelfoot N. W. R., Fulton, KY 16 & 26 May and 2 Jun (a.r. TJ, HC, ME). A Virginia Rail at Sinclair Unit, Peabody W. M. A., Ohio, KY 11 Jul (TG, SG) was the only one reported. A Sora at Rooty Branch, Sullivan, TN 5 Jul (H&SF) established the first July record for northeast TN. There were three reports of Common Gallinules, all in potentially suitable breeding habitat: one at Walter S. Davis Blvd. Marsh, Nashville, TN 15–16 Jun (ALa, FF); one at Duck River 12 Jul (DJS); and one at Gupton Wetland 4 & 11 Jun (MF / RDH, DMy). A lingering Sandhill Crane continued in Hart, KY through 7 Jun (JSo).

Shorebirds through Falcons

Twenty-four American Avocets at Camp #9 Coal Preparation Plant, Union, KY 23 Jul (BPB, ph. JB) were early fall migrants. A Black-bellied Plover at Fowler Road Irrigation Pond, Lincoln, TN 17 Jun (DSn) furnished only the fourth June record for the state. Early Upland Sandpipers were reported at Horseshoe Road, Henderson, KY 15 & 25 Jul (BPB, ph. CC) and at U. T. Farm, Knox, TN 27 Jul (JW, CW). A Ruddy Turnstone at Ensley 28–29 Jul (RP, RH), a Long-billed Dowitcher at Camp #11, Union, KY 23 Jul (†BPB, ph. JB), and a Wilson’s Phalarope at Horseshoe Road, Henderson, KY 14 Jul (ph. CC) were the only ones reported. Single Baird’s Sandpipers were at Ensley on three occasions 21–24 Jul (MCT/JSo/BFo). Two reports of Willet 23 Jun—two at Eagle Bend Fish Hatchery, Anderson, TN (JD fide DE) and one at Hiwassee Refuge, Meigs, TN (CM)—were presumably very early fall migrants. Single individuals were also reported at Duck River 1 Jul (JSc, GB) and Ensley 21 Jul (BFo). For the second consecutive year, two Spotted Sandpipers on private property in Kenton, KY 25 Jun (ph. RCr) suggested possible breeding.

Presumed late spring transient shorebirds included: 4 Semipalmated Plovers at McElroy L., Warren, KY 1 Jun (TD), with another in Todd, KY that same date (ph. SA); 2 Dunlin at Open Pond, Lower Hickman Bottoms, Fulton, KY 7 Jun (ph. JP, HC); 4 White-rumped Sandpipers at Horseshoe Road, Henderson, KY 13 Jun (ph. CC), with two in Pulaski, KY that same date (RD); two White-rumped Sandpipers at Duck River 19 Jun (AT); and a Least Sandpiper in Todd, KY 1 Jun (SA).

Noteworthy high counts included 4,955 Least Sandpipers at Ensley 29 Jul (RP, RH); 61 Semipalmated Sandpipers in Pulaski, KY 1 Jun (RD); and 475 Semipalmated Sandpipers at Ensley 24 Jul (JSo).

Three Laughing Gulls on the Tennessee R., Hamilton, TN 22–25 Jun (BDr et al.) represented an unusual mid-summer report. Of an estimated 1,000 nesting pairs of Least Terns in Kentucky, only 17% successfully fledged at least one chick (KDFWR); storm-related flooding is believed to have been the most significant factor in nest failures. Separation of Arctic and Common Terns is a tricky identification problem, especially in areas where Arctic is not expected to occur. An immature Arctic Tern at Fowler Road Irrigation Pond, Lincoln, TN (ph. DSn) 11 Jun caught the observer, and eBird reviewers, by surprise. This record would have escaped notice but for the sharp eyes of David Shoch, who saw the observer’s excellent photos on eBird and brought them to this author’s attention! This established the third record for Tennessee, and the first documented with a photo.

Wood Storks are rare post-breeding visitors to the region, and there were three reports this season: as many as 7 were at Duck River 1–30 Jul (AT, m. obs.), and single individuals were reported from Polk, TN 1–4 Jul (LW, m. obs.) and Livingston, KY 16–18 Jul (ph. RSf). A Neotropic Cormorant was at Duck River 7 Jul (BFo). As many as 8 Anhingas were present, and possibly breeding, at Duck River 24 Jun+ (RS, VS, m. obs.); this species has historically only nested very sporadically along the Mississippi R. in the region, so this is a noteworthy expansion. There were three reports of Brown Pelicans, which are rare in the region: single immatures were at Watts Bar L., Roane, TN 15 Jun (RDH, DMy), at Fort Patrick Henry L., Sullivan, TN 15–30 Jul (AMT, BFi, RLK, m. obs.), and at Bailey’s Point, Barren River L., Allen, KY 8–12 Jul (ph. BrZ, ph. JSo, m. obs.).

An American Bittern at Taylorsville Lake W. M. A., Anderson, KY 29 Jun (†CB) was the only one reported this season. There were three reports of Least Bittern, all from likely breeding areas: 1-2 at Standifer Gap Marsh, Hamilton, TN 19–24 Jun (GL, m. obs.); one at Kyker Bottoms, Blount, TN 20 Jun & 17 Jul (RW); and 1-6 at the Sinclair Unit, Peabody W. M. A., Ohio, KY (TG, ph. SG, m. obs.). Two White Ibis were at Duck River 5 Jun (fide CF) and another was in Wayne, KY 27 Jun (ph. RBo). Single Glossy Ibis were reported from Cross Creeks N. W. R., Stewart, TN 2 Jun (ph. SA) and Lauderdale, TN 3 Jun (ph. MG). Three to seven Roseate Spoonbills were at Duck River 23 Jun–31 Jul (ph. AT, m. obs.); seven equaled the previous high count for the state. One was near Maryville, Blount, TN 15–20 Jul (S&SA, m. obs.).

Mississippi Kites continue their expansion through the region. A pair nested in Louisville, KY (m. obs.) and two at Veterans Park, Lexington, KY 20 Jun+ (KK, ph. TN, m. obs.) may have nested. Northern Harriers are extremely scarce breeders in Kentucky; one at Camp #9 Coal Preparation Plant, Union, KY 9–30 Jul (BPB, JB, m. obs.) was the only one reported.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are rare and local breeders in Tennessee, so the following three reports, all from appropriate breeding habitat, were noteworthy: an adult with 3-4 fledglings at Roan Mt., Carter 8 Jun (GE, PR); a pair at Ripshin L., Carter 10 Jun (RBi, RCa); and a pair feeding nestlings at Iron Mtn Gap, Unicoi (B&JP). Pairs of Peregrine Falcons nested in Garrard, Jefferson, and Lexington, Fayette, KY; one at Mt. LeConte, Great Smoky Mountains N. P., Sevier, TN 30 Jul (SM) was the only one reported from Tennessee.

Flycatchers through Warblers

No Western Kingbirds were appeared outside of their highly localized breeding range in southwest Shelby, TN, where as many as 10 were reported from seven different locations. In Tennessee, two Scissor-tailed Flycatchers in Clifton, Wayne 23 & 27 Jun (RS, VS) and one in Sumner 16 Jul (MS) were the only reports away from known breeding territories. Single birds in Elizabethtown, Hardin, KY 2–3 Jun (JSn) and in Christian, KY 21 Jul (ph. SB) constituted the only Kentucky reports. An Olive-sided Flycatcher in Hickman, Fulton, KY 7 Jun (HC, ph. JP) established a record late date for the state. A Least Flycatcher in Oldham, KY 1 Jun (Rfi) tied the state’s latest spring record away from known breeding areas. One at Clinch Mt., Hawkins, TN 3 Jun (RoK) was possibly on territory, although this is not a previously known breeding location.

Up to three Bell’s Vireos were present at Fort Campbell, Stewart, TN 1 Jun–12 Jul (DMo); this is the only known breeding location in Tennessee. Fish Crows continue their expansion in Tennessee, with multiple individuals reported through the season in Washington and Sullivan. Hermit Thrushes were found in likely breeding habitat in the same two locations as last year: at least 5 were at Roan Mt., Carter, TN through the season (RLK, m. obs.) and 4 were at Unaka Mt., Unicoi, TN 17 Jun (RL).

Two White-throated Sparrows, unusual in summer, were reported: one in Nashville 16 Jun+ (JKS) and one at Audubon S. P., Henderson, KY 2 Jul (†DvA). A Dark-eyed Junco at Lookout Mt., Hamilton, TN 14 Jul (BDr) furnished a very rare summer lower elevation summer record. Historically, Bobolink has been a very scarce breeding species in Kentucky. This season, there were 25 reports of Bobolinks from eight different Kentucky counties, including eight singing males at Camp Nelson, Jessamine 17 Jun (ThM).

A Brewster’s Warbler was at Roan Mt., Carter, TN 8 Jun (GE, PR). As was true last summer, Magnolia Warblers were found in likely breeding habitat on both Unaka Mt., Unicoi, TN (3 from 10 May+) (RoK, m. obs.) and Roan Mt., Carter, TN (4-5 from 7 Jun+) (RLK). Similarly, a male Myrtle Warbler at Roan Mt., Carter, TN 7–10 Jun (RLK) and a pair at Clingman’s Dome, Great Smoky Mountains N. P., Sevier, TN 9 Jun (KW) were possibly on territory. A Palm Warbler at Warrior’s Path S. P., Sullivan, TN 30 Jul (BFi, SQ) established a new early fall date for the state.

Report processed by Amy Davis, 29 Oct 2020.

Photos–Tennessee & Kentucky: Summer 2017
Hover or click on each image to read the caption.