About the Checklist
Warren Pulich's original 1988 publication Birds of North-Central Texas, included 385 species from the study area. The original checklist includes three species that have since been split since 1988 - Tufted Titmouse, Rufous-sided Towhee, and Northern Oriole. The original three birds are now split into six species: Black-crested and Tufted Titmouse, Eastern and Spotted Towhee, and Baltimore and Bullock's Oriole. The original list also included one species, Black-billed Magpie, that has since been reviewed for the area (2017) and taken off the list based on questions of provenance. Technically then, Pulich's checklist includes 387 current species since all of these subsequent splits were commonly observed at the time of the original work, minus the Black-billed Magpie.
Since 1988, a total of 62 new species have been added to Pulich's original list of North-central Texas birds. The checklist on this site totals 449 species. As of January of 2020, over 430 of these birds have been photographed in North-central Texas (over 95%).
The study area defined as North-central Texas by Pulich in his 1988 publication was not identical to other reporting venues that were in use at the time. Historically, both the Texas Ornithological Society and North American Birds outlined the North-central Texas region differently. However, these borders varied only slightly at the margins. Please see the "Area Map" link for more information and illustrations on how the area has been defined.
There were weak gaps in the reporting system shortly after Pulich's publication. Most of the 1990s decade was without a good observation reporting system since many venues were in the process of moving to online features. Only the North American Birds reporting system was in place in any consistent format during that period. It's possible that some interesting observations have been lost from that period.
The first part of this century also had significant gaps. This website went up in 2001 and some photographic information regarding North-central Texas was kept by me. But written sightings were housed several different places during that period and much of it was not archived. It wasn't until around 2005, that eBirds became a recognizable force for reporting bird observations. The future of bird sightings will likely now include eBirds for local and regional checklist information. While there may be problems with this reporting method, I'm not sure it's significantly more problematic than anything that preceded it.
Although gaps in the records exist after Pulich's publication, the rarest bird sightings are not the most serious problem. Those birds deemed as so rare as to be listed as review species by the TBRC can be accessed online. The TBRC review records for that entire period from 1988 to the present have been made available. More problematic for this checklist during the period from about 1990-2010, are the regularly occurring species elsewhere in the state that are irregular to this specific study area (Tree Sparrow, Black-capped Vireo) or species splits where documentation is lacking for one species or the other (Cackling Goose, Cassin's and Plumbeous Vireo).
Since about 2005, digital photography has advanced both technologically and in popularity. Almost everyone in the field has the ability to capture bird sightings without heavy or expensive equipment. Digital cameras are now part of the standard birding equipment. Since collecting specimens with a gun is no longer a common practice even among organizations that have the proper permits, it is likely that the documentation of unusual bird records will rest solely on photo-documentation and the ability to archive it. This is where it stands today. Unlike Pulich in 1988, authors of newer works will no longer be seeking old specimens as part of their research. They will be seeking old photo images.
Species Added from Pulich's "Species of Uncertain Occurrence" from Birds of North-central Texas
Pulich's original publication had exactly 33 "Species of Uncertain Occurrence" listed in his last chapter (Pulich p. 399). These were species that were not counted as part of the original 387 because of limited documentation. Exactly 17 of the 33 species within this list have been added officially since 1988, and I have added them in this website. Birds officially added from that list include Least Grebe, Trumpeter Swan, Reddish Egret, Glossy Ibis, Lesser Nighthawk, White-tailed Hawk, Ruff, *Iceland/Thayer's Gull, Sooty Tern, Violet-green Swallow, American Dipper, Brewer's Sparrow, Nelson's Sparrow, Bronzed Cowbird, Hooded Oriole, Scott's Oriole, Common Redpoll. All of the birds added in this list now include photo-documentation with the exception of American Dipper. Written documentation of this record was reviewed and accepted by the TBRC.
Both Stillwell (1939) and Oberholser (1974) refer to Gull-billed Tern sightings in Denton and Dallas counties. Pulich believes these observations to be misidentified and placed that species in his "Species of Uncertain Occurrence," category. There have been no observations of Gull-billed Tern in the study area since Oberholser referred to the sightings in his work. I defer to Pulich here as this is a species rarely found this far inland. I choose to keep it off this list until there is more documentation. Gull-billed Tern is the only species on both Stillwell's and Oberholser's list that did not make it to the current list.
Species Added by Taxonomic Splits or Additional Sightings since 1988
Exactly 44 more birds have been added by field observation or taxonomic split since 1988. These include Pacific Loon, Clark’s Grebe, Magnificent Frigatebird, Brown Booby, Masked Booby, Cackling Goose, Harlequin Duck, Wilson's Plover, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Parasitic Jaeger, Long-tailed Jaeger, Black-headed Gull, Heerman's Gull, Mew Gull, California Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull, Western Gull, Royal Tern, Arctic Tern, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Broad-billed Hummingbird, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Costa’s Hummingbird, Allen's Hummingbird, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Ringed Kingfisher, Acorn Woodpecker, Red-naped Sapsucker, Gray Flycatcher, Dusky Flycatcher, Couch’s Kingbird, Cassin's Kingbird, Great Kiskadee, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Hutton's Vireo, Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay, Fish Crow, Common Raven, Cave Swallow, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Red-faced Warbler, Sagebrush Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Snow Bunting, and White-winged Crossbill. Exactly 37 of the 44 additional species have digital photo-documentation that was added to this site.
* Thayer's Gull was added to the "Species of Uncertain Occurrence" in Pulich's 1988 publication. That species has been removed as a separate species and is now part of the Iceland Gull complex. Iceland Gull is also a new bird for the list, so the total number of species on this list doesn't change. Images were moved from THGU to ICGU, and ICGU's status was downgraded and is no longer a review species.
Plumbeous Vireo and Cassin's Vireo have single sight records from North-central Texas after the split in 1997 (published in North American Birds magazine), but these two species need better documentation. There are no eBird records of either species in the study area. I have removed them from the checklist until more documentation has been received.
List of All Species That Have No Cataloged Specimen or Digitized Photo-Documentation
- Pre-publication - Species in the original Pulich checklist that have never received digitized photo-documentation or any specimen record include Band-tailed Pigeon, Green Kingfisher (specimen lost), Black Phoebe, Clark's Nutcracker, Lucy's Warbler, Bachman's Sparrow, and Evening Grosbeak.
- Post-publication - Species that have been added since the 1988 Pulich publication that do not yet have digital photo-documentation include Harlequin Duck, Magnificent Frigatebird, Parasitic Jaeger, Arctic Tern, Hutton's Vireo, Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay, and American Dipper.
One new species from this region, Arctic Tern, has an archived film photograph. The record reads as follows: One at Lake Worth, Tarrant, on 18 October 2001 (MR; 2002-17; TPRF #2060). This non-digitized photo is cataloged at Texas A&M, but it is not known whether this image of Arctic Tern is identifiable at the species level. Written documentation on this species, however, was reviewed and accepted by the TBRC.
A species in the original checklist, Lewis's Woodpecker, has both an archived film photo (not yet digitized) and at least two cataloged specimens from the study area. Two other species from the original checklist, Northern Saw-whet Owl and Pine Grosbeak, have specimens and written documentation, but no photo-documentation. Documentation of these three species is outlined below.
I did acquire digitized images of three rarities from the study area that were housed at Texas A&M University. Thanks to Dr. Keith Arnold, this website was able to acquire the scanned film images of the following birds: a single Allen's Hummingbird (photo of study skin specimen), two images of Brant (two separate records), and a poor photograph of the most recent Northern Goshawk record. All of these records have been reviewed and accepted by the TBRC.
Also of note, I acquired an identifiable film photograph of a Green Jay taken sometime in 1980-1981 that was sent to me in 2016. This black-and-white photo was only sent after an attentive observer viewed this website and saw that the photo-documentation for this bird was missing. I have since scanned the image and added it to the species account. The original observation of Green Jay in Pulich's work includes several birds that remained in the study area (Johnson County) after apparently being blown northward by Hurricane Allen. It is believed they stayed for almost 4 years. The reference to this unusual record can be found in Birds of North-central Texas, (p. 236), and the black-and-white photo is representative documentation of this extended observation.
List of Species with both Written and Specimen Documentation, but no Photo-Documentation.
Three species are unique on the current checklist. All three species contain accepted field observations and a cataloged specimen, yet they have no digital photo-documentation at this time.
1. Northern Saw-whet Owl (Pulich, p. 182) - There was an accepted field observation in Flower Mound, Denton Co., on 26 December 1989 (ME; 1990-88). No Photo. This was only the second record from the study area. The first was a specimen collected in Somervell County on March 15, 1964 (TCWC 11130).
2. Lewis's Woodpecker (Pulich, p. 194) - Lewis's Woodpecker was in Pulich's original checklist and there are several observations. There are at least two collected specimens including one from Dallas County in 1935 (DMNH 6782). A film photo of this species was apparently taken in 1992 (One in Richardson, Collin Co., 6 April - 2 May 1992, AV, JP, MP, MR; 1992-62, TPRF #1089). The non-digitized photo of this species is cataloged at Texas A&M University. Although Lewis's Woodpecker is no longer a review species, it was considered a review species at the time of the observation. This record was reviewed and accepted by the TBRC during its annual meeting of that year. I was unable to acquire the film image of this bird.
3. Pine Grosbeak (Pulich, p. 389) - One was outside Lewisville, Denton Co., on 28 December 1990 (CBr; 1991-10). No Photo exists. However, Pulich collected a single specimen which was cataloged from Dallas Co., in November of 1969. The specimen remains in Pulich's collection and is cataloged (WMP 1753).
Documentation of New Species to the North-Central Texas Checklist without Photo-Documentation
All totaled, of the 61 new species added since 1988, 55 have digitized photo-documentation. One new species, Arctic Tern, has an archived film photograph that I have not been able to acquire.
There are six new species to the checklist that have no photo-documentation at all. They include Magnificent Frigatebird, Harlequin Duck, Parasitic Jaeger, Hutton's Vireo, Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay, and American Dipper. Two of the species - Harlequin Duck and American Dipper - are "review species" (discussion below) and their observations here have been reviewed and accepted by the TBRC. Two species - Hutton's Vireo and Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay - were recorded to eBird and well-described by known observers. The two remaining species without photo-documentation that have been observed and added to the checklist since 1988, were birds that were reported within the North American Bird reporting system for this region of Texas. They include Magnificent Frigatebird and Parasitic Jaeger.
1. Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus histrionicus). Two birds, a male and female, were at the spillway on Lake Tawakoni, Van Zandt on 5 January 1995 furnishing only the second accepted record for Texas. Review Species.
2. American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus) - One at Prairie Creek Park, Collin, on 23 December 2004. Review Species.
3. Hutton's Vireo (Vireo huttoni) - One recorded singing in Callahan County, eBird, April 18, 2020. This species has inched it's way closer to the perimeter of North-central Texas since Pulich's book. It would not surprise me to see more observations recorded in the near future.
4. Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma woodhouseii) - One well-documented eBird record exists in Palo Pinto County from 2006. More recently observed in Callahan County, eBird, April 18, 2020 (4 birds), and then again on April 25, 2020, (3 birds) in the same location by a different observer.
5. Magnificent Frigatebird was likely a one-day wonder in Denton Co., 1998 after a hurricane hit the Texas coast. It was observed on Lake Lewisville. A second record of a Magnificent Frigatebird was recorded on September 14-15, 2008, on Lake Tawakoni in Van Zandt Co., and seen by several observers. A third observation was recorded by an observer on Joe Pool Lake in Dallas Co., on July 10, 2013. There are no photos of any of these records.
6. Parasitic Jaeger was observed on Lake Tawakoni by two reliable observers in 2001, and their notes taken at the time pointed to field marks that eliminated other species [Martin Reid, per. comm.]. Two were reported from Lake Tawakoni from November 14-16, 1999.
Single Sightings List
Pulich's checklist included several birds where only one record of a species existed. At the time of his publication in 1988, there were twelve species that fit that criteria. None were photographed in the field. Currently, only seven single-record species remain from the original list. The other five have had additional sightings since the publication date in 1988. This list of seven includes some birds that Pulich personally collected and cataloged in various parts of the study area, some have significant written documentation, and a few are based only on personal communication Pulich had with observers. Of the seven species on this list, there is no known observation of any of them since the publication in 1988. Link below.
The Texas Birds Records Committee
The acronym "TBRC" refers to the Texas Bird Records Committee. A thorough understanding of their mission can be found at http://www.texasbirdrecordscommittee.org/
The acronym "TPRF" refers to the Texas Photo Records File housed at Texas A & M University and managed by the TBRC
The TBRC assigns "review species" status to birds that have occurred four or fewer times per year anywhere in Texas over a ten-year average. Sightings are reviewed by committee.
Checklist based on Pulich's species accounts, 1988. Updated by Jim Peterson, Martin Reid, and Matt White
All of the following terms presume the species is being looked for in the appropriate habitat.
(Ab) Abundant - Applied to a species that can be found in quantity without any special search
(C) Common - Applied to a species noted at least daily with some search
(FC) Fairly Common - Applied to a species that may require some search to be detected regularly
(U) Uncommon - Applied to a species that may not be possible to find on some days.
(R) Rare - Applied to a species that is seldom encountered except by chance
(Ca) Casual - Applied to a species that is out of its normal range but can be expected to occur again
(Ac) Accidental - Applied to a species that is far from its normal range it is not expected to appear again
(IR) - Irregular. If this term is applied under the "nesting" category, it mean this species does not nest here year after year. If it is applied under a season, it means it is irregular during that season. If it falls under "likely seen," the location is irregular
(L) - Nesting or observed locally. Not widespread. Seen only at certain locations. In the case of certain species, i.e., Scaled Quail, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Canyon Towhee, Pyrrhuloxia, birds may be found only on the fringe of study area in drier habitat. Other birds such as Ruddy Turnstone regularly show up only at one or two lakes
(H) - Historical nest records only. None recently
N,S.E,W (Compass points) Also FW and FE for "far west" and "far east." These compass point indicators are used under the "Likely" seen" category to indicate that a species is predominantly found in a certain direction of the area's center, i.e., Pyrrhuloxia is likely seen with a "FW" indicator suggesting the bird is generally found in the far west part of the study area
Photo - Photo-documentation from the NC-Texas area is available on this website
Review Species (*) - The asterisk under the column "Photo" means the bird is a Texas review species and documentation is required for state acceptance. This documentation must be submitted to the Texas bird Records Committee.