Tropical seabird makes historic appearance in the Missouri Ozarks

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The Missouri Department of Conservation says the first-ever sighting of a Brown Booby occurred the weekend of August 8, 2020. (Photo: Debbie Prance-Orosz)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Each year, there are numerous flying visitors to the state of Missouri. However, Missouri made history this year after a special seabird was spotted in the Ozarks.

Missouri Department of Conservation staff confirmed a Brown Booby appeared along the Current River in Ripley County.

This past Saturday, Debbie Prance-Orosz spotted the bird while she and her family were out enjoying the river. Not knowing what the bird was, she grabbed a photo and posted it on her Facebook page. 

“We first got word of it after it was posted to Facebook this past weekend wondering what it was,” MDC Forester and avid birder Steve Paes said. “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 typically seen in southern Florida, along the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Central America and northern South America.

MDC state ornithologist Sarah Kendrick says 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 recent storms in the Gulf Coast could have blown the bird off course or caused it to get lost, leading to its flight to 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 is unclear how the Brown Bobby likes Missouri, but those who have seen it all agree: The seabird is “totally oblivious” to people.

“The bird is just unfazed,” Paes said. “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.”

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