Birders on the lookout for brown booby in the Kansas City region

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Kansas City, Mo. – Birding experts relish adding an unusual species to their list of birds seen or heard, and they’re keeping an eye out in the Kansas City area for a brown booby. The seabird was spotted and photographed on June 2 at the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Maple Leaf Lake Conservation Area east of Odessa in Lafayette County, said Conservation Agent Justin Pyburn. The booby has not been spotted recently in that area, according to reports on eBird Missouri.

Brown boobies are large, long-winged seabirds that are often seen from southern Florida south on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Central America to northern South America. They fly over the water looking for fish to feed upon and capture their prey with dives into the water. Their chocolate brown plumage is contrasted with white bellies and under wings, according to Cornell University’s All About Birds website.

A brown booby sighting in 2020 near the Current River in southeast Missouri made news for the rarity. This year, birders have seen brown boobies at a couple of Missouri sites. On May 1, veteran birder Ruth Simmons of the Backyard Birds store in Kansas City was among the many birders who made a side trip to see one hanging out on a Lake of the Ozarks dock. Appropriately, it was resting on a dock diving board. Birder Eric Nehlsen spotted and photographed the brown booby on June 2 at the Maple Leaf Conservation Area.

Ornithologists are unsure why the birds are being seen so far inland in the Midwest.

“There are some theories,” Simmons said. “They might have gotten blown off course from storms coming up from the Gulf, or maybe there was just something faulty in their guidance system.”

No current sightings of a brown booby are being reported in the Kansas City and northwest regions. But birders visiting large lakes might be on the lookout in case the booby is moving from one large water body to another.

Birds are diverse in habits, shapes, colors, and quirks. Almost 400 bird species have been recorded in Missouri. To learn more about birds and to get started birding, visit