Birds of Special Interest
What Makes a Bird Special?
Any number of factors may make a bird “special.” The uniqueness of any bird may be in the eye of the beholder or perhaps be based on status and distribution within a local region. Birds may be deserving of special status for the following reasons.
1. Texas rarity as outlined by the Texas Bird records Committee (TBRC)
2. Regional rarity for specific ecological zones
3. Highly sought after species for reasons of localized distribution, irregular movements, or subjective reasons of uniqueness
Texas Rarity as Outlined by the TBRC
The Texas Birds Records Committee is an organizational body that was created in 1972 for the sole purpose of maintaining a checklist of Texas birds. The list was intended to be updated every 5 years to reflect new information gained within intervals. It is now updated as needed. The TBRC is a sub‐group of the Texas Ornithological Society (TOS). This organization maintains the historical database of Texas birds as it relates to status and distribution. The entire Texas state checklist is outlined in publication form (“Handbook of Texas Birds”) and on their website at http://www.texasbirdrecordscommittee.org where updates usually occur quarterly. The list includes the Texas Review Species List – a list of birds that would be considered rare within the state borders.
Texas is a unique state bordering Mexico and oceanic waters to the south, as well as prairie and Rocky Mountain habitats to the north and west. It crosses several transitional habitats from pine forest to desert and from grassland prairie to South Texas chaparral. It has one of the largest lists of birds for any state. As of February, 2020, the Texas Ornithological Society checklist stood at 652 accepted species of birds observed in Texas.
The TBRC maintains a Texas Review Species list. This list includes birds that have occurred four or fewer times per‐year anywhere in Texas over a 10‐year period. The Texas Review Species List includes rarities like Harlequin Duck, Snowy Owl, Varied Thrush, and more than 140 other species to date. These are birds that would be considered special to nearly all Texas birders.
Birds included in the Texas Review Species List are required to have a written report form submitted to the TBRC.
Regional Rarity by Specific Ecological Zone
A regional rarity would be a species rarely found in a particular region of Texas. Geographic regions can be divided in many ways. They are frequently broken up by counties for reasons of reporting purposes. For example, the Texas Ornithological Society has divided Texas into eight regional areas, each with a regional director who reports bird sightings from their specific region. Not surprisingly, these eight regions are very similar to eight ecological zones outlined by Texas Parks and Wildlife in their eco-regions map.
Examples of a regional bird rarity might include an observation of Tree Sparrow for North‐central Texas, or a Cape May Warbler sighting from the Trans‐Pecos region. Knowing what area of Texas in which a bird species is most likely to be found is critical to one’s understanding of Texas avifauna.
Highly Sought after Species (for reasons of localized distribution, irregular movement, or subjective reasons of beauty and uniqueness)
A list of highly sought after species outside the Texas Review Species List could include the following examples for North‐central Texas:
1. Birds of localized distribution in North‐central Texas – These would be birds that generally show up in North‐central Texas year‐after‐year, but are relegated to low numbers in the area. These would include birds like Glossy Ibis, Least Bittern, Bobolink, etc. It also includes birds that may occur regularly in North‐central Texas, but are sought after by birders from out-of-state where they may not occur. This would include birds like Harris’s Sparrow or Smith's Longspur.
2. Birds with irregular patterns of movement – These would be birds not seen every year, but ones that occasionally stray into North‐central Texas for environmental reasons. These would include birds like Common Ground‐Dove, Long‐eared Owl, and Henslow's Sparrow.
3. Birds that are sought after for beauty or uniqueness– These might include birds like Peregrine Falcon, Scissor‐tailed Flycatcher, and Painted Bunting.
Every region of Texas will have its own list of sought‐after species.