Friday, February 10, 2023

Deceased Limpkin on South Padre Island, 2/4/23

I'm a little late with this post as I just finished cleaning up an SD card and made a little discovery.  Last Saturday I took our new jeep up the beach on South Padre Island to the Port Mansfield jetty.  I was hoping to find some good gulls or maybe a jaeger or a booby.  It was a little dull with only the most common species on the beach.  However I came across a bird corpse after I had crossed the line into Willacy County.  The bird had been dead quite a while but the long narrow bill had a reddish base making me think of the most likely species, American Oystercatcher, although it seemed a bit big to me.  The only plumage was brown this some white feather shafts and the long legs appeared blackish.  Well I didn't have a field guide with me and I had forgotten my phone so the best I could do was photograph it and move on.  A large number of Bonaparte's Gulls were in the Port Mansfield channel but otherwise it was a very uneventful trip.  

Fastforward to this afternoon:  I was going through my SD card, saving photos I wanted to keep and making sure I had not missed anything.  And there pops up the images of the bird corpse I had found on the beach.  Maybe I should work on identifying this thing a little better.  So I looked at images of  American Oystercatcher and noticed the tips of the maxilla (upper mandible) and mandible came together evenly like a forceps.  The maxilla of the dead bird was longer and overlapped the tip of the mandible.  Hmmm and American Oystercatcher has pale legs and this one had dark legs, though who knows what week of being dead does to leg color.  When I first observed the bird another species crept into my head..... Limpkin.  Limpkins have invaded SE Texas and are now not rare in wetlands infested with apple snails.  That would explain the large size.  So I looked up images of Limpkin and the bill was perfect and they have dark legs.  I posted my photos on Facebook and someone mentioned the white feather shafts were also a good mark for Limpkin and that seems to be the accepted ID.

So I posted these photos of my presuptive Limpkin on iNaturalist.  eBird and Cornell University only wants photos of live birds and are not forsighted enough to recognize the data a dead bird has to offer.  Or maybe they are worried photos of dead birds will scare away the donors.

On a more positive note, here are some photos of the lovely Bonaparte's Gulls from the Port Mansfield channel.  There were at least fifty of them.

I will head up that way again in a few weeks after things start moving a bit.  I also want to do a trip down the beach along Padre Island through Kleberg and Kennedy Counties.  Oh and there are no previous records of Limpkin occurring the the RGV so mine is the first.  Of course it may have arrived post mortem.

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