Date: 7/11/18 4:19 pm
From: Kimball Garrett <kgarrett...> [LACoBirds] <LACoBirds-noreply...>
Subject: [LACoBirds] Fulvous Whistling-Duck status in L. A. County

With the discovery and excellent documentation of a Fulvous Whistling-Duck at the Ballona Freshwater Marsh this morning, it seemed appropriate to offer some comments on the species' status.

First off, this species is on the California Bird Records Committee review list, so documentation should be sent to the CBRC. It was added to the review list fairly recently because of strong declines in the state (and the species' virtual disappearance from the Imperial Valley where it used to be regular in reasonable numbers). Although identification is not an issue, this is a species known to be kept commonly in captivity, and some previous local records have almost certainly pertained to escapees from waterfowl collections. Because we cannot predict how the CBRC will handle this particular record, we will probably validate eBird entries but note that the record is under CBRC review (and, of course, invalidate them if the CBRC does not accept the record as being of a naturally occurring vagrant). It seems reasonable to expect that this Ballona bird will end up being treated the same as the recent bird up in Santa Barbara County (currently submitted to the CBRC for review, but with no final decision).

A Fulvous Whistling-Duck at Ballona is, in a sense, a return to the species' former haunts. As noted by Larry Allen in the Los Angeles County Breeding Bird Atlas, this species nested sporadically in the Playa del Rey area in the first half of the 20th century (but obviously did not survive the construction of Marina del Rey); there are older nesting records in what is now the Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park area as well (more correctly, in sloughs in that general area - not the current Lake Machado). Severe declines occurred throughout the species' California range around that time, and especially after the 1980s. A good discussion of the species' status (and declines) in California can be found in the California Bird Species of Special Concern volume (Studies in Western Birds, No. 1, 2008).

Recent records from the county involve a flock of 4 at Piute Ponds 16 May 1981 and one along the San Gabriel River near Peck Rd. (Whittier Narrows area) in December 2005.

Additional sightings of known or suspected escapees have occurred. For example, five were at the El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach in November 1977, but I don't believe these were treated as naturally occurring birds. I recall a bird (in the 1980s?) at a pond near Marina del Rey that was also widely presumed to be an escapee. Perhaps others know of possible or probable escapees found in the county in recent decades.


Kimball L. Garrett
Ornithology Collections Manager
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
900 Exposition Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90007 USA
(213) 763-3368

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