Dec 092014


A couple of months ago I forecasted that we might make it to 10,000 observations before year’s end. Well, as I am writing this on the night of December the 6th, we are at 9593 separate and distinct observation submitted to the DFW Urban Wildlife iNaturalist Project. With 25 days left in the year, I have no doubt that we will not only reach 10,000 urban wildlife observations, but we will also surpass that amount handily.

12/9/2014 NOTE: As of this morning the DFW Urban Wildlife iNaturalist Project has recorded 10,171 observations!

This amazing achievement is the result of 168 enthusiastic and dedicated members. Together they have documented over 550 different species living right here with us in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country. That is really an extraordinary accomplishment, plain and simple.

This is the first time ever that a database of urban wildlife like this has ever been collected. Together we are building a extensive and detailed record of the wide variety of wildlife living in and around the Dallas/Fort Worth area! It’s an achievement everyone involved should feel very proud of.

There are a couple of ways you can browse through this great collection of urban wildlife data. The first is via the DFW Urban Wildlife iNaturalist Observations List. You can view this data in tabular format or as points on a map. Click here to browse all of our recorded observations this way.

The other way to explore our data is to visit the DFW Urban Wildlife iNaturalist Checkist. This page a contains categorized list of all species of wildlife recorded in this project. Click here to view the urban wildlife checklist.

Below you will find our four favorite submissions for the past 30 days. Remember that “favorite” in this case can mean a whole host of different things. When selecting featured images we will be looking for examples of rare or unique wildlife, interesting behaviors or situations, and great photography and compositions.

This month’s unofficial theme, by the way, is Birds that are Seldom Seen in the North Texas Area. Enjoy!

Greater Scaup by zoogal1961

Lesser Scaups are seen quite frequently in the metroplex as summer gives way to fall. In fact they are one of our most common ducks during the winter months. Greater Scaups, on the other hand, are very rarely seen.

Because Lesser and Greater Scaups are very similar in appearance, it can take a very sharp eye to differentiate between the two. Here are some tips for making the identification from the Utah Birds website: Comparison of Greater and Lesser Scaup.


Greater Scaup by zoogal1961. Click the image to see the observation details in iNaturalist.

And, here is what Wikipedia has to say about the interesting Greater Scaup:

The greater scaup (Aythya marila), just scaup in Europe, or colloquially “bluebill” in North America for its bright blue bill, is a mid-sized diving duck though it is larger than the closely related lesser scaup. It is a circumpolar species, which means that its range circles one of Earth’s poles. It spends the summer months breeding in Alaska, northern Canada, Siberia, and the northernmost reaches of Europe. During the winter, it migrates south down the coasts of North America, Europe, and Japan.

Drake greater scaup are larger and have more rounded heads than females; they have a bright blue bill and yellow eyes. They have dark heads with a glossy green tint, white undersides and wings with white on the tips. The females are mostly brown, with white bands located on their wingtips. They have a blue bill that is slightly duller then the drake’s.

Greater scaup nest near water, typically on islands in northern lakes or on floating mats of vegetation. They begin breeding at age two, but start building nests in the first year. The drakes have a complex courtship procedure, which takes place on the return migration to the summer breeding grounds and concludes with the formation of monogamous pairs. Females lay a clutch of six to nine olive-buff colored eggs. The eggs hatch in 24 to 28 days. The down-covered ducklings are able to follow their mother in her search for food immediately after hatching.

Greater scaup eat aquatic mollusks, plants, and insects, which they obtain by diving underwater. They form large groups, called “rafts”, that can number in the thousands. Their main threat is human development, although they are preyed upon by owls, skunks, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, and humans. Greater scaup populations have been declining since the 1980s; however, they are still listed as a species of least concern on the IUCN Red List.

Nice work, zoogal1961! Click here to see all iNaturalist submissions by zoogal1961.

Hooded Merganser by chuckd

Another bird that is rarely seen in the metroplex is the Hooded Merganser. I’ve only ever managed fleeting glances at them, and I have never had a real opportunity to photograph one. chuckd did a really great job with this capture. You don’t get an opportunity like this every day in North Texas!

The merganser in the picture below is a female. The male of the species is even more striking in appearance, if you can believe that!


Hooded Merganser by chuckd. Click the image to see the observation details in iNaturalist.

Here is how Wikipedia describes the Hooded Merganser:

The hooded merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) is a species of small duck. It is the only extant species in the genus Lophodytes. The bird is striking in appearance; both sexes have crests that they can raise or lower, and the breeding plumage of the male is handsomely patterned and coloured. The hooded merganser has a sawbill but is not classified as a typical merganser.

Hooded mergansers are the second smallest species of merganser, with only the smew of Europe and Asia being smaller, and it also is the only merganser whose native habitat is restricted to North America.

The hooded merganser is a sexually dimorphic species. The adult female has a greyish-brown body, with a narrow white patch over the lower breast and belly. She has a light reddish-brown crest extending from the back of the head. During the nonbreeding season the male looks similar to the female, except that his eyes are yellow and the female’s eyes are brown.

In breeding plumage the dorsal areas and the head, neck and breast of the mature male are mainly black with white markings; there are large white patches on either side of the crest, and they are particularly conspicuous when he raises his crest during courtship. His lower flanks are a rich reddish-brown or chestnut in colour, and the breast and undersides are more or less white, extending into white stripes across the crop and breast.

In both genders there are narrower pencilled white stripes along the tertial wing feathers; when the bird is in repose, then if the tertial feather stripes are visible, they have the appearance of longitudinal white stripes along the bird’s lower back.

First-winter birds differ from adult females in appearance in that they have a grey-brown neck and upper parts; the upper parts of adult females are much darker — nearly black. Furthermore, the young birds have narrower white edges to their tertial feathers than adults do. Females of all ages are dark-eyed, whereas in males the eyes become pale during their first winter.

Another great find, chuckd! Click here to see all iNaturalist submissions by chuckd.

Least Tern by annikaml

Least Tern only very rarely venture into North Texas. In fact, iNaturalist considers observation by annikaml to be “Out of range!” which they define in the following way:

This observation lies outside the range iNat has for this species. This could mean iNat’s range is wrong, the ID is wrong, a vagrant occurrence, or a range expansion!

Here is the iNtauralist range map for this species: Least Tern Distribution Map.

This has actually been a very good year for seeing Least Tern in the metroplex. I have received word of a higher than normal number of observations this past summer. I even saw a pair them myself in Hutchins, Texas back in June.

The Least Tern in this observation was seen on the White Rock Lake spillway in September of 2012.


Least Tern by annikaml. Click the image to see the observation details in iNaturalist.

Wikipedia describes the Least Tern in this way:

The least tern (Sternula antillarum, formerly Sterna antillarum) is a species of tern that breeds in North America and locally in northern South America. It is closely related to, and was formerly often considered conspecific with, the little tern of the Old World. Other close relatives include the yellow-billed tern and Peruvian tern, both from South America.

It is a small tern, 22–24 cm (8.7–9.4 in) long, with a wingspan of 50 cm (20 in), and weighing 39–52 g (1.4–1.8 oz). The upper parts are a fairly uniform pale gray, and the underparts white. The head is white, with a black cap and line through the eye to the base of the bill, and a small white forehead patch above the bill; in winter, the white forehead is more extensive, with a smaller and less sharply defined black cap. The bill is yellow with a small black tip in summer, all blackish in winter. The legs are yellowish. The wings are mostly pale gray, but with conspicuous black markings on their outermost primaries. It flies over water with fast, jerky wingbeats and a distinctive hunchback appearance, with the bill pointing slightly downward.

It is migratory, wintering in Central America, the Caribbean and northern South America. Many spend their whole first year in their wintering area. It has occurred as a vagrant to Europe, with one record in Great Britain.

It differs from the little tern mainly in that its rump and tail are gray, not white, and it has a different, more squeaking call; from the yellow-billed tern in being paler gray above and having a black tip to the bill; and from the Peruvian Tern in being paler gray above and white (not pale gray) below and having a shorter black tip to the bill.

Thanks for sharing this with us, annikaml! Click here to see all iNaturalist submissions by annikaml.

Thanks to everyone for their continued contributions to the DFW Urban Wildlife iNaturalist Project. We value each and every submission we get! If you would like to contribute, its easy to do. Just follow the link below, create an account and start uploading your observations and photographs. Be sure to add them to the DFW Urban Wildlife project so that everyone will be able to see them. We look forward to seeing what you have to share!


  3 Responses to “DFW Urban Wildlife iNaturalist Project – Favorites”

  1. Woo hoo! 100,000 by the end of 2015?!? Let’s do it!

    • 100,000!?! By the end of next year? What we will need—I think—is someone to go out and take an intimate portrait of each and every ant in their backyard anthill… That ought to get us pretty close!

      • Considering the amount of fire ants in my backyard I think I can get you at least half way! 😉

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