Finding all the birds in Texas can be a lifetime pursuit. Basic Texas Birds, an easy-to-use field guide, will help you identify over 180 species of birds that are found across the state, including a selection of the rarer "Texas specialties" that draw birders to Texas from around the world. These are the birds that form the basis of a birder's life list for Texas.
Basic Texas Birds is organized by bird families to aid in identifying any bird you see in the wild. It is loaded with resources, including:
- 200 full-color, close-up photos of the birds
- State-of-the-art range maps—the most accurate of any currently available—that show each species' distribution within the state
- Up-to-date species accounts that provide a wealth of current and historical information, including each bird's appearance, habitat, status, and distribution, and that also identify similar species
- A glossary of terms used in bird identification
- A list of selected readings for learning more about birds found in Texas
- The Texas Ornithological Society's list of birds documented in Texas
Much more convenient for identifying common birds than a comprehensive state or national field guide, Basic Texas Birds is a must-have resource for both beginning and experienced birders.
The Common Loon is truly aquatic, spending most of its life in the water, coming onto land only to nest. Its legs are placed far back on its body to facilitate swimming, making the bird very awkward on land.
This loon's nonbreeding plumage is gray overall. The upperparts are gray to gray-brown, with first-winter birds usually showing a more pronounced scalloped pattern. The underparts, including the throat, are white. The bird has a fairly prominent white collar and white crescents around eye. The bill is silvery gray with a black upper edge. In late spring many individuals molt into breeding plumage just before leaving the state. These birds have a bold black-and-white plumage pattern. The head, neck, sides, and upperparts are black, and the back is heavily checkered with white. The chest is white, and an obvious white neck ring is marked with vertical black bars. The bill turns black as well.
The Common Loon is the most likely species of loon to be encountered in Texas. The Red-throated Loon (G. stellata) and Pacific Loon (G. pacifica) are very rare winter visitors to the state and are both smaller than the Common. The Red-throated has a more slender bill that is usually held pointed slightly upward and is paler overall with a more rounded head. The Pacific Loon can be identified by an even division between gray and white down the side of the neck and the lack of a pale collar. The Yellow-billed Loon (G. adamsii) is accidental in the state; it is larger with a heavier pale bill, which is usually held pointed slightly upward. These birds also have a distinctive dark ear patch.
In bays and estuaries as well as in the open Gulf close to shore. Also can be found on lakes and reservoirs that are deep enough to accommodate their feeding strategy of diving for fish.
Status And Distribution
Uncommon to rare migrant throughout the state. Common winter resident in bays and estuaries along the coast, and uncommon to locally common on inland lakes and reservoirs. Less common and more local in the western half of the state, particularly on the High Plains and in the Trans-Pecos. On rare occasions, Common Loons will remain through the summer.
Mark Lockwood, of Alpine, Texas, is a conservation biologist in the State Parks Division of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. One of the state's leading ornithologists, he is also the secretary of the Texas Birds Records Committee of the Texas Ornithological Society and a member of the American Birding Association's checklist committee.