Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Endemics - Our truly native birds

Beth and I are planning a July 4th romp down to Georgia to see some of her relatives and to visit Savannah and the newly renovated Georgia Aquarium (They have a Whale Shark!). Of course, I'll also squeeze in some birding time if possible and Beth will placate her love of wildflowers.

One bird I hope to see down there is the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker. Not only is this bird critically endangered due to its restrictive habitat, it's also a bird that's endemic to the US. So what exactly does that mean? It means that I can't see this bird anywhere else in the world except within our fine US borders. Specifically, I can't see this bird outside of the southeast US. Endemic birds are native to a specific place and found nowhere else.

This got me thinking... how many other birds are endemic to the US? We have so many birds that migrate, so they don't count. However, some of those are considered "endemic breeders". We also have birds whose ranges overlap into Canada or Mexico. After all, being endemic is really just a matter of political boundaries and has little to do with natural history. Here's the list I found (although I'm not sure it's 100% accurate). It does not include Hawaii which has 31 endemics of its own. It does include Alaska though.

Bachman's Sparrow
Black Rosy-Finch
Brown-capped Rosy-Finch
California Condor (Re-introduced))
Carolina Parakeet (Extinct)
Florida Scrub-Jay
Greater Prairie-Chicken
Gunnison Sage-Grouse
Island Scrub-Jay
Lesser Prairie-Chicken
McKay's Bunting
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-cockaded Woodpecker (federally endangered)
Yellow-billed Magpie (not only a US endemic, but a California endemic!)

Honorable Mention:
Brown-headed Nuthatch (there is a small, declining population in the Bahamas which may be a separate species - Thanks to John at DC Birding Blog for this info!)

Am I missing any birds? Please leave a comment if I am.


John said...

The Bahamas population may actually be a separate species, so in that case the Brown-headed Nuthatch may be a full-fledged endemic.

Patrick Belardo said...

Thanks John! I'll actually update my post with this info.

Ruth said...

Hi Patrick, How about about I.B.Woodpecker?? (Assuming there is still one in AR...

p.s. This is Ruth from Feathered Friends. I had no idea how these things worked until today. Your blog is cool, nice work!!

Patrick Belardo said...


The IBWP also lived in Cuba, so unfortunately it is not endemic. And I do believe it's there in AR!

Thanks for reading.

Pamela said...

The red-bellied woodpecker is moving into Ontario--will its northerly ambition lose it its place on the list?

Patrick Belardo said...


I figured it was only a matter of time before the RBWP moved there. Hmm... I guess that technically makes it not endemic if it is officially breeding there. Thanks for the info!