JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri welcomes numerous flying visitors throughout the year, but the state recently made history after a seabird was spotted in the Ozarks. Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) staff have confirmed a Brown Booby has shown up along the Current River in Ripley County.
The bird was first spotted by Debbie Prance-Orosz this past Saturday while she and her family were out enjoying the river. Not knowing what the bird was, she snapped a photo and posted it to her Facebook page.
“We first got word of it after it was posted to Facebook this past weekend wondering what it was,” said MDC Forester and avid birder Steve Paes. “We didn’t know where it was, other than somewhere on the Current River. After asking around, I got a tip on its location. On Monday, I set out on the river with Cindy Bridges with the Missouri Birding Society and we eventually found it perched on a dead tree.”
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.
According to MDC State Ornithologist Sarah Kendrick, this is the first recorded sighting of a Brown Booby in Missouri.
“It’s just an anomaly,” Kendrick said. “To spot this tropical seabird in the Ozarks is as awesome as it is bizarre!”
Kendrick speculated that the recent storms in the Gulf Coast could have blown the bird off course or caused it to get lost, leading to its pitstop in Missouri.
“It can be difficult for birds to escape severe weather, and some can be blown hundreds of miles off course, but this is extreme,” she explained.
It’s unclear how the Brown Booby likes the Missouri landscape, but those who have seen it all agree on one thing: the seabird is “totally oblivious” to people.
“The bird is just unfazed,” said Paes. “The few times I’ve seen it, it’s been perched on a dead tree and doesn’t seem to mind being close to people. It looks healthy and very active, too. It doesn’t seem to have trouble feeding and catching fish.”
And as for how long it’ll enjoy its Missouri vacation? That’s up in the air.
“There’s no telling how long it’ll be here,” Paes commented. “It could be a few weeks, or it could be gone tomorrow! But for serious birders, it’s such a treat. They’re crossing a tropical bird off their list that they got to see in Missouri. It’s absolutely a kick.”
To learn more about birdwatching, visit the MDC website at https://short.mdc.mo.gov/Zhp or join the Missouri Birding Society at https://mobirds.org/. To share your bird sightings to help science and conservation efforts, log on to eBird at https://ebird.org/home.