Otto Widmann.

A preliminary catalog of the birds of Missouri online

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The need of a list of the birds of Missouri has become more and
more apparent as the popularization of Nature Study has made
progress during the last few years. Nearly all the northern
states have published for many years lists and revised lists, but
this is the first attempt in our state. It is based chiefly on
personal observations made during the last thirty years. Other
sources of information of which I was able to avail myself are
comparatively few and very little has ever been published. To
those gentlemen who were kind enough to favor me with their
notes I would here express my thanks. They are: Mr. Vernon
Bailey of Washington, D. C., who visited Stone Co. in 1892 for a
short time; Mr. Roger N. Baldwin of St. Louis; Mr. James New-
ton Baskett of Mexico, Mo., the author of the Story of the Birds;
Mr. John A. Bryant of Kansas City; Mr. B. F. Bush of Courtney,
Mo.; Mr. Edmonde Samuel Currier of Keokuk, la., who kept
very good records of the birds of his vicinity including parts of
Clark Co., Mo., for more than twelve years prior to his removal to
Oregon in 1903; Dr. Aug. F. Eimbeck and his brother, Mr.
Charles L. Eimbeck, of New Haven, Mo., the owners of fine col-
lections of mounted birds made in Warren and Franklin Co.
during the last forty years; Mr. Ben True Gault of Glen Ellyn,
111., who has twice collected in parts of southern Missouri, mainly
in Dunklin and Reynolds Co. ; Mr. Julius Hurter, Sr., of St. Louis,
whose collection of mounted birds of the neighborhood of St.
Louis is now in Washington University; Mr. John D. Kas-
tendieck of Billings, Christian Co., the owner of a large and fine
collection of mounted birds taken in his vicinity during the last
forty years; Mr. Adolf Lange of Leaven worth, Kan., whose collec-
tion of birds contains specimens taken on the Missouri side ; Mr.

* Presented to The Academy of Science of St. Louis, May 21, 1906.


2 Trans. Acad. Sci. of St. Louis.

John S.Marley of Kansas City, Mo.; Dr. Walter Mills of Webster
Groves, Mo.; Mr. H. Nehrling, the author of "Die Nord-Ameri-
kanische Vogelwelt" and "Our Birds of Song and Beauty," who
lived at Freistatt near Pierce City, Lawrence Co., from October
1882 to April 1887; Mr. Edgar M. Parker of Montgomery City,
Mo.; Mr. Otho C. Poling of Quincy, 111.; Mr. Wm. E. Praeger,
who, when living at Keokuk, la., often visited Missouri soil on
his ornithological excursions; Mr. F. C. Pellett of Salem, Mo.;
Mr. C. W. Prier of Appleton City, Mo. ; Dr. G. C. Rinker of Union-
ville; Mr. Walter Giles Savage of Monteer, Shannon Co., formerly
of Jasper, Jasper Co.; Mr. Frank Schwarz of St. Louis; Mr. Philo
W. Smith, Jr. of St. Louis, an ardent collector of eggs for many
years in different parts of the state, bringing together one of the
most complete collections of North American birds' eggs in the
United States; Mr. A. F. Smithson of Warrensburg, Mo.; Mr.
B. M. Stigall of Kansas City; Mr. Chas. W. Tindall of Indepen-
dence, Mo.; Mr. Sidney S. Wilson of St. Joseph, Mo.; Mr. Julius
T. Volkman of Webster Groves, Mo.; Mr. E. Seymour Woodruff,
who visitd Shannon Co. from March 10 to May 16 and Grandin,
Carter Co., from May 16 to June 7, 1907, and very kindly sub-
mitted all his notes, containing new and valuable records, for use
in this list; Mr. Chas. K. Worthen of Warsaw, 111., who sent me
interesting notes on birds taken on the Mississippi River or so
near the state line that they must be regarded as worthy of a
place in our list. I am also indebted to the gentlemen of the
Bureau of Biological Survey of the United States Department of
Agriculture, for the loan of the schedules containing the reports
.on bird migration in Missouri from 1884 to 1905. They com-
prise the work of thirty-six observers scattered through nearly as
many counties and varying from notes on a few birds in a single
season to full reports on a number of species and a long series of
years, chiefly for spring, but some for spring and fall migration.


The first local list ever made in the state is that of Dr. P.
R. Hoy, published in his Journal of an Exploration of Western
Missouri in 1854 in the nineteenth Annual Report of the Smith-
sonian Institution for 1864. He enumerates 156 species.

Occasional mention of birds of the lower Missouri River is
found among the observations of Max Prinz zu Wied in his
"Reise in das Innere Nord-America in den Jahren 1832 bis 1834"

Widmann A Preliminary Catalog of the Birds of Missouri. 3

and in his " Verzeichniss der Vogel welche auf einer Reise in Nord-
America beobachted wurden" in the" Journal fuer Ornithologie,"
for 1858; also in Long's Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in
1819 and '20, published from notes of Thomas Say in 1823; and
in F. V. Hayden's Report on the Geology and Natural History
of the Upper Missouri River based on explorations in 1855, '56 and
'57, published in the Transactions of the American Philosophical
Society, vol. 12, 1863.

A few notes on the birds of Missouri are found in J. H. Town-
send's Narrative of a Journey across the Rocky Mountains in
1839 (vol. 21 of Early Western Travels), and a larger number in
Audubon's Missouri River Journals, 1843, in "Audubon and his
Journals," by Maria R. Audubon, 1897. Edward Harris, who
accompanied Audubon on his journey to the upper Missouri
in 1843 published a nominal "List of Birds and Mammalia found
on the Missouri River from Fort Leaven worth to Fort Union"
in the Fifth Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution,
1850 (1851).

In his " Notes on an Ornithological Reconnoissance," Dr. J.
A. Allen writes in the Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool., vol. 3: p. 6, July
1872: "Our collections at Leavenworth (in May 1871) were
principally made in the heavy timber on the East Leavenworth
(Mo.) side of the Missouri River opposite Fort Leavenworth.
Most of the water-birds were obtained about a lagoon on the
Missouri side." In Bull. Nuttall Ornith. Club, vol. 3, p. 148,
1878, is a notice by Dr. J. A. Allen of the occurrence of three
species of seaducks and a purple gallinule taken near St. Louis by
Mr. Julius Hurter in 1875, 76 and 77. In vol. 4, 1879, page 139 -
147, of the Nuttall Bulletin there is a list of 148 species observed
by Mr. W. E. D. Scott at Warrensburg, Mo., during the spring
migration, March 27 to June 15, 1874. In the Ornithologist and
Oologist of 1884, Mr. Jul. Hurter of St. Louis enumerates 265
species of birds collected by him during fifteen years in the vi-
cinity of St. Louis. Mr. Otho C. Poling of Quincy, 111., in his
"Notes on the Fringillidae of western Illinois," in the Auk, vol.
7, 1890, speaks of observations made on Missouri soil.

Several papers treating of Missouri birds have been published
by the author of the present list during the last twenty years in
the Auk, the Ornithologist and Oologist, the Osprey, and Bird
Lore. The Reports on Bird Migration in the Mississippi Valley
by W. W. Cooke also contain a large number of notes and dates
on Missouri birds, chiefly from St. Louis. The report for the

4 Trans. Acad. Sci. of St. Louis.

spring of 1882 is published in Forest and Stream during October
and November of that year; that of the spring of 1883 is pub-
lished by the American Field in Bull. no. 1 of the Ridgway Orni-
thological Club of Chicago, December 1883. The reports of
1884 and 1885 are contained in Bull. no. 2 of the Department of
Agriculture, Division of Economic Ornithology, entitled : " Report
on Bird Migration in the Mississippi Valley in the years 1884 and
1885," by W. W. Cooke, 1888, edited and revised by Dr. C. H.


The nomenclature is that of the American Ornithologists'
Union check-list, latest (1895) edition and supplements. The
numbers are also those of the check-list; the species and sub-
species have not been serially numbered, because in a preliminary
list it is too difficult to decide which shall and which shall not be
numbered ; a species doubtful to-day may have to be recognized
to-morrow, and species which have occurred lately may soon be
found exterminated as far as this state is concerned. Species and
subspecies which are known to have bred in the state, or which
occur under such circumstances that it is almost certain that they
breed within the limits of the state, are marked with an asterisk.
Synonyms, both scientific and English, used in the works of
American ornithologists, principally those used by Wilson, Audu-
bon, Nuttall, Baird, and Coues, are given to enable students to
find their way through the many and great changes in nomen-
clature made since the first of these books was printed ninety-
eight years ago. No attempt is made to describe birds ; manuals,
handbooks, keys, and general works on North American orni-
thology are numerous. The catalog is confined to a detailed
treatment of the geographic distribution of each species and sub-
species in accordance with the latest sources of information.
This is followed by a statement of its range in Missouri, manner
of occurrence in regard to season and relative abundance, dates
of arrival and departure, and such notes as may be helpful to the
student in the search of rare species. Species are called residents
when they are found within the limits of the state in every month
of the year ; they are sometimes called permanent residents when
they remain in the same locality throughout the year, but of this
kind we have but very few, while of many species some indi-
viduals remain through winter with us, though the majority go
outh. Of a few species the numbers are larger in winter than

Widmann A Preliminary Catalog of the Birds of Missouri. 5

in summer, because reinforced by winter visitants from the north.
Winter visitants are those which are found only in the colder part
of the year and return to the north sooner or later in spring;
when they are of regular occurrence and long sojourn in the same
locality every winter, they are also called winter residents.
Summer residents are those which pass the warmer part of the
year in our state, leave us in autumn and return in spring. A
few species may properly be termed summer visitants, because
they visit the state only for a short time after their breeding
season in a more southern home is over. Transient visitants are
all those species which breed farther north and winter farther
south, passing through our state in migration and spending more
or less time in the transit.

Residents and summer residents are breeders; transient visi-
tants, summer visitants, winter residents and winter visitants
are non-breeders in the state.

The terms used to indicate relative abundance may be defined
thus : Common means of such regular occurrence in all suitable
localities at the proper time that individuals can be found with-
out any effort. Fairly common, meaning moderately common,
is used to indicate that the species, though of regular occurrence
in suitable localities, is so thinly scattered that it requires more
or less search to find it. Rather rare means uncommon, infre-
quent, known to occur only in small numbers, requiring much
search. Rare means occurring at wide intervals. As the result
of persecution or adverse circumstance formerly common species
have been reduced to this state. Accidental designates those
which are entirely unexpected because extralimital.

The catalog contains not only species and subspecies fully
authenticated, but also a few of such highly probable occurrence
that it seems only a question of time and opportunity to establish
the proof of their presence. This is a slight deviation from the
usual course of relegating everything not fully verified by cap-
tured specimens to an appended, generally overlooked, hypo-
thetical list. But since this catalog is in an initial stage, far from
completion, I hold it to be of the greatest importance to keep
constantly before the eyes of the student what should be done in
the way of filling the gaps. He should not only know what has
already been accomplished, but also what he can do in the
locality in which he works toward completing the list. When
visiting a new locality it is a great help to know beforehand for

6 Trans. Acad. Sci. of St. Louis.

what one should watch, particularly in order to make a dis-
covery of value.

Apparently extirpated species are also retained in the list,
because it is interesting to know what formerly occurred in the
state, and because the possibility still exists that at least a few
individuals remain or have returned from adjacent regions.
Introduced species are also admitted as naturalized members of
our avifauna.

The total number of species and subspecies contained in the
catalog is 383, of which 162 are breeders. Species not actually
taken within the limits of the state are distinguished by being
put into brackets. Of this kind there are 30, which subtracted
from 383 leave as the present status (July 8, 1907) 353 actually
observed species and subspecies for our state.


Our avifauna is mainly that of the eastern United States
generally and differs little from that of the adjoining states on
the east, north and south. The Eastern Province reaches from
the Atlantic ocean to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains,
where the Middle Province begins, but many of the western forms
of birds extend eastward into Kansas and still more so into
western Nebraska, thus swelling the number of species and sub-
species in the latter state to 415. Illinois, too, has a larger list
of breeders as well as of winter visitants, because her fauna is
enriched by water birds visiting Lake Michigan and by its great
north and south extension, which enters the Alleghanian faunal
area of the Transition zone in the north and reaches with its
southern end slightly into the Austroriparian area.

Missouri belongs almost entirely to the Carolinian faunal area
of the upper Austral life zone; only the low alluvial counties of
the southeast can be considered a spur of the Austroriparian
faunal area of the Lower Austral life zone. The circumstance
that all our rivers of the southern slope of the Ozarks have wide,
open and long valleys leading southward gives an opportunity
f 01 a northward advance of southern forms of plants and animals ;
and our broad, open prairie region of the west and north offers no
barrier to an eastward spreading of the western fauna and flora.

In comparing the avifauna of Missouri with that of the At-
lantic States in the same latitude it should be remembered that,
although the mean temperature differs but little, the climate of

Widmann A Preliminary Catalog of the Birds of Missouri. 7

the former is somewhat more severe than that of the latter, the
summers being hotter, the winteis colder. It is therefore not
sui prising to find slight differences in the summer and winter
faunas of the two regions, while the migrations occur at nearly
the same time, owing to the similarity in temperature of the
spring and fall months.


The climate of Missouri, continental as H is in a high degree, is
one of great variations. Generally speaking it may be said that
it is characterized by hot summers and moderately cold winters,
with exceptions of moderately hot summers and very cold winters.
Maximum temperatures of eighty degrees and over occur during
the summer on eighty bo ninety days; ninety degrees and over
on twenty to thirtv days. In ordinary winters the temperature
reaches to and below the freezing point on about eighty days
and falls below zero on trom ten to twenty days. There are on
record a few exceptionally moderate winters like that of 1905-'06
when the zero mark was hardly reached, or readied only in the
more northern counties. There is little difference in the amount
and duration of the summer's heat in the different parts of the
state, but there is a difference of five degrees in the average
winter temperature between the northwest and the center, and
from ten to fifteen degrees between that of the northwest and
the southeast. All waves, cold and warm, appear first in the
northwest and advance southeastward, requiring about twenty-
four hours to reach the southeastern corner of the state. The
most pronounced polar waves of midwinter are nearly as cold in
one part of the state as in the other, but cold periods are generally
of shorter duration in the southeast, moderating more rapidly un-
der the more southern sun and the lower elevation. This is espe-
cially rioticeable in the beginning and at the end of winter, but, due
to its northwest-southeast course, the chilling effect of a departing
high barometer may still be felt strongly in the southeast when
the approaching low barometer has already entered the state 'n
the northwest with rapidly rising temperature. Such conditions
are particularly striking in spring, when north-bound migrants
are thereby enabled to depart, while no migration reaches us
from the south, then still under the influence of the cold east and
southeast w ; nds of the departed high pressure. The first frosts
occur late in October, in the southern part sometimes not before

8 Trans. Acad. Sci. of St. Louis.

November, but exceptionally the last of September even in the
southeast. The last frost occurs in the south about the first, and
in the north about the fifteenth of April, exceptionally later as on
April 20, 1904, when six inches of snow covered the ground at
St. Louis with a temperature of 28 to 30 (max.). Hoarfrosts
may kill tender vegetation as late as the middle of May in nearly
all parts of the state.

The following dates may illustrate the remarkable dissimilarity
in dates of opening spring: Peach-trees were in bloom in St.
Louis in 1878 on March 15; in 1907 on March 25; in 1879 on April
15 ; in 1880 on April 1 and in 1881 on April 28. The same Magnolia
which was in flower on March 12, 1878, did not bloom in 1881
before April 24, but in 1882 again as early as March 18, when
spring opened on the first of March. Though spring opened in
1881 only on April 16 not a single tree was without its leaves at
St. Louis on May 9; but in 1907 the leafing of trees began March
15 and was not completed June 1. An exceptionally early open-
ing of spring with us can, of course, have no influence on the
starting of migrants from their remote winter homes in southern
Mexico, Central and South America, as they cannot know what
kind of weather we have in the United States, but a late spring
may retard their progress after they have entered our country.
Most of the birds which winter beyond the limits of the United
States do not reach Missouri before April, and their arrival is there-
fore not influenced by our weather prior to that time. They do
not come earlier, be the spring ever so early and vegetation corres-
pondingly advanced; but it is different with birds which winter
within the United Stales, as nearly all species do which arrive in
Missouri prior to April. Though the desire to return to their
breeding ground is not dependent on the weather, being the result
of a plrysiological process which through inheritance is fixed to a
certain time of the year independent of meterological conditions,
a precocious rise in temperature with the consequent develop-
ment of plant and animal life exerts some influence by stimulat-
ing this desire, and it is for this reason that considerable fluc-
tuation occurs in the time of arrival of our earlier migrants as
well as in the departure of our winter guests. A backward spring
causes a general retardation of all migration that becomes less
marked as the season advances, but every cold wave, even in
the height of migration, checks farther advancement for the time
being and detains transients at the localities where they happen
to be when the adverse conditions arise. This is of great prac-

Widmann A Preliminary Catalog of the Birds of Missouri. 9

tical value for the observer or hunter, as it affords him oppor-
tunity to find for a longer time and in greater numbers birds
which under other, for them more favorable, conditions would
have passed on at once or with little delay. The abundance and
scarcity of migrants in transit through our state is therefore
largely dependent on the time at which prolonged cold or warm
spells strike our region. Should the cold spell set in at the time
when the bulk of ducks is present, the hunter will have cause to
rejoice; but should their arrival be delayed and then be followed
by a decided and extensive warm period, the bulk will pass on,
proceeding on their way to the northern breeding grounds, and
the hunters will find the season a poor one. This is the case with
all transients and is the reason why we find certain birds common
in one year and rare in another; it is especially noticeable in
May when the presence of north-bound warblers, thrushes, and
others, is greatly influenced, shortened or lengthened, by these
warm and cold waves or spells.

A great diversity is also found in the seasonal distribution of
precipitation which in a year amounts to thirty-four inches in the
northwest and forty-six in the southeast. May and June are the
months of greatest precipitation, and five inches of rain fall in
each of these months throughout the state. This rainy season
is generally followed by dry periods in July and August, when
droughts of several weeks duration are not rare. But there are
no fixed rules: while in some years no appreciable precipitation
takes place from early July to September, in other years rainy
periods occur almost every week throughout summer. State-
ments of average precipitation, as of average temperature, give
no insight into the weather conditions of a region. Four inches
of rain may fall within twenty-four hours and not a drop fall for
a whole month, or the four inches may come down in install-
ments of half an inch distributed over the same period.

The effect of such different conditions on bird life is remark-
able. Heavy storms with copious downpours in the height of
the breeding season destroy immense numbers of broods, and
long droughts make insect life so scarce that some species of
birds find it impossible to provide enough food for their young.
The increase or decrease in the number of individuals of a species
is therefore often the direct result of favorable or unfavorable
weather of the preceding summer.

While spring migration is chiefly influenced by temperature,
fall migration is controlled in a large measure by precipitation.

10 Trans. Acad. Sci. of St. Louis.

In years of drought during August and September, and such
years are by no means rare, migrants proceed southward on
their journey without much delay, because insect food of the
kind they like is scarce, and all birds need water for drinking and
bathing. The drying up of water courses and ponds has much
to do with the early disappearance of birds from their breeding
ground. The condition of our lakes and rivers governs the
occurrence and abundance of water-birds in autumn. Should
our rivers be so full as to cover all sandbanks and mud flats,
waders will not remain with us; on the other hand, ducks will
be rare when our ponds and sloughs are very low or dry, or when
the water is too deep for dabbling. The presence or absence of
particular species at certain seasons is therefore the direct result
of the great variation in the seasonal distribution of precipi-

In winter, too, it is the abundance or scarcity of snow on the
ground that regulates the presence of birds more than the tem-
perature does. Fortunately in most winters we cannot com-
plain of too much snow, though the average snowfall for the
state is said to be eight inches in the southeast, and thirty inches
in the northwest. First snows usually do not fall before the
middle of November; but here, too, the exceptions are almost as
frequent as the rule. Snow once covered the ground at St.
Louis as early as November 5 and did not entirely disappear
from the north sides of houses until the middle of April (1881).
In another year (1889) there was no precipitation of any kind
during the entire fall and winter until the first of January,
1890, when exceedingly heavy rain and wind storms followed.
Snows falling before Christmas are usually light and drifted by
the accompanying cold and high winds. Such snows do not
affect bird life seriously, because they leave much ground un-

Online LibraryOtto WidmannA preliminary catalog of the birds of Missouri → online text (page 1 of 27)