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U.S.A. -- NEVADA: Clark County

11 - 12 June 2000

by Ted Floyd

Jason Beason, Stephanie Jentsch, and I just finished up a quickie Nevada Breeding Bird Atlas "blockbusting" tour of Clark County (Nevada's southernmost county).  In addition to finding breeders, we came across quite a number of late migrants and summering vagrants.  We visited the following locations: Corn Creek, Kyle Canyon, Harris Springs, Searchlight, McCullough Peak, and Sunset Park.

Highlights included: GREEN HERON, Golden Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, WHITE-WINGED DOVE, GILDED FLICKER, Willow Flycatcher, Cassin's Kingbird, Gray Vireo, Bendire's Thrasher, Virginia's Warbler, BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER, Grace's Warbler, AMERICAN REDSTART, RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW, Black-chinned Sparrow, ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK, INDIGO BUNTING, and BOBOLINK.


Our first stop was Corn Creek, on the morning of the 11th, where the most interesting birds were late migrants and summering vagrants.  These included: Broad-tailed Hummingbird (male); Western Wood-Pewee (one bird); Cedar Waxwing (single bird in a mulberry tree); American Redstart (a loudly singing male in between AHY and ASY plumages); Western Tanager (several); Indigo Bunting (conceivably a breeder, but unlikely I think); Rose-breasted Grosbeak (immature male); and Bobolink (adult female).  Interesting known or suspected breeders included: Green Heron (we saw singletons repeatedly, at several locations, but never actually saw a pair); White-winged Dove (a pair, north of this bird's usual haunts in far southern Nevada); and Cassin's Kingbird (a pair).

After Corn Creek, we drove up into Kyle Canyon, in the Spring Mountains.  There were Virginia's Warblers all over the place, plus a few Grace's Warblers.  We heard a Black-and-white Warbler, and then spent a very long time trying to see it.  Patience paid off, and we were finally rewarded with killer looks at a handsome male, stealing about the base of a mountain mahogany.

On the drive back down the Canyon, we stopped off at Harris Springs, where we saw adult and fledgling Black-chinned Sparrows.  A Golden Eagle directly overhead was a nice sight, too.

In the afternoon we drove out to Searchlight, and then into the foothills of the little known McCullough Mountains.  There were Gilded Flickers all over the place; we counted at least twelve separate birds, and I'm sure there were many more.  This is yet another location for the species in Nevada, and it's amazing to think that this bird was considered strictly accidental a mere year ago.  Other interesting birds in the foothills included a cooperative pair of Bendire's Thrashers (uncommon in Nevada) and a Willow Flycatcher in a desert willow.

Early the next morning, we birded the highlands (such as they are) in the McCullough Mountains.  Here we found at least four (and possibly more) singing Rufous-crowned Sparrows.  Just a month ago, this species was considered accidental in Nevada, but we now know it to be common throughout the McCullough Mountains.  Our birds this morning, plus others found by Atlas field workers earlier in the month, bring the known population up to at least 10 adults.  There are surely many more Rufous-crowned Sparrows, and probably other as-yet-undetected species, in this fascinating and poorly known section of the state.

Other nice finds up in the rocky pinyon-juniper highlands included: Peregrine Falcon (flushed from a dead snag atop a rock outcropping); Gray Vireo (several pairs and several singing males); and lots of Black-chinned Sparrows.

On the drive back to the airport in Las Vegas, I stopped off in urban Sunset Park.  Nearly every bird, it seemed, was engaged in gular flutter, in a desperate effort to keep cool.  I didn't come across any vagrants here, but I did find a nice representative sampling of Mojave Desert breeders, including: Gambel's Quail (several family groups); Verdin (lots of fledglings); Black-tailed Gnatcatcher (an agitated adult); Northern Mockingbird (juveniles); Crissal Thrasher (a pair); Lucy's Warblers (dependent young); Abert's Towhees (several pairs); and immense numbers of Great-tailed Grackles (including one curious bird who was washing bits of a hot dog bun under a leaky faucet).


There were three especially memorable non-avian spectacles:

1.  A long swath of mountain lion tracks, in one of the washes in the McCullough Mountains.

2.  A stunning, orange-and-black lizard (not a gila monster) in the McCullough foothills.  It had garish orange patches on its uppersides and a bright orange vent, and its long white tail was boldly marked with black spots.  Its coloring was so crisp and sharp as to remind me of an aquarium fish.

3.  An immense and awesome joshua tree forest, the objective grandeur of which I am certain I will not be able adequately to convey here.  Many of the trees stood nearly 25 feet tall, and several approached 30 feet.  Their trunks were massive.  In a few places, their interlocking canopies joined together to shade extensive grassy meadows.  It was odd to consider that this joshua tree stand, in the middle of one of the hottest and driest deserts in the world, was easily the most extensive virgin forest I have ever seen in the United States.  We took pictures and hope to publish some of them in the fall.


We observed 96 species during the two days, of which 9 were presumed non-breeders.  Of the remaining 87 species, we documented confirmed breeding in 26 species (30%), probable breeding in 30 species (34%), and possible breeding in 31 species (36%).  This breakdown of breeding codes is very similar to the Atlas average.

Here is our list.  The codes are as follows: NB = presumed not breeding; PO = possible breeding; PR = probable breeding; CF = confirmed breeding.

   Species                    Breeding Status

 1. Green Heron                   PO
 2. Snowy Egret                   NB
 3. Great Egret                   NB
 4. Great Blue Heron              NB
 5. Turkey Vulture                PO
 6. Golden Eagle                  PO
 7. Red-tailed Hawk               PR
 8. American Kestrel              PR
 9. Peregrine Falcon              PO
10. Gambel's Quail                PR
11. American Coot                 CF
12. Rock Dove                     PR
13. Mourning Dove                 CF
14. White-winged Dove             PR
15. Great Horned Owl              PR
16. Lesser Nighthawk              PO
17. White-throated Swift          PO
18. Black-chinned Hummingbird     PR
19. Broad-tailed Hummingbird      PR
20. Red-shafted Flicker           PO
21. Gilded Flicker                PR
22. Ladder-backed Woodpecker      CF
23. Hairy Woodpecker              PO
24. Western Wood-Pewee            PO
25. Willow Flycatcher             PO
26. Gray Flycatcher               PO
27. Dusky Flycatcher              CF
28. Say's Phoebe                  PO
29. Ash-throated Flycatcher       CF
30. Western Kingbird              PR
31. Cassin's Kingbird             PR
32. Loggerhead Shrike             PO
33. Gray Vireo                    PR
34. Plumbeous Vireo               PO
35. Western Warbling-Vireo        PO
36. Steller's Jay                 PO
37. Western Scrub-Jay             CF
38. Common Raven                  PR
39. Horned Lark                   PO
40. Violet-green Swallow          PR
41. Juniper Titmouse              PO
42. Mountain Chickadee            CF
43. Verdin                        CF
44. Common Bushtit                CF
45. White-breasted Nuthatch       PO
46. Red-breasted Nuthatch         PO
47. Pygmy Nuthatch                CF
48. Bewick's Wren                 CF
49. Cactus Wren                   CF
50. Rock Wren                     CF
51. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher         CF
52. Black-tailed Gnatcatcher      PR
53. Western Bluebird              CF
54. Hermit Thrush                 PR
55. American Robin                CF
56. Northern Mockingbird          CF
57. Bendire's Thrasher            PR
58. Crissal Thrasher              PR
59. European Starling             CF
60. Cedar Waxwing                 NB
61. Phainopepla                   CF
62. Virginia's Warbler            PR
63. Lucy's Warbler                CF
64. Audubon's Warbler             PO
65. Black-and-white Warbler       NB
66. Black-throated Gray Warbler   PO
67. Grace's Warbler               PR
68. Yellow Warbler                PO
69. Common Yellowthroat           PO
70. Yellow-breasted Chat          PO
71. American Redstart             NB
72. Western Tanager               PR
73. Green-tailed Towhee           PO
74. Abert's Towhee                PR
75. Spotted Towhee                PR
76. Rufous-crowned Sparrow        PO
77. Chipping Sparrow              PR
78. Black-chinned Sparrow         CF
79. Black-throated Sparrow        CF
80. Song Sparrow                  PO
81. Gray-headed Junco             PR
82. Rose-breasted Grosbeak        NB
83. Black-headed Grosbeak         PO
84. Blue Grosbeak                 PR
85. Indigo Bunting                NB
86. Lazuli Bunting                PO
87. Bobolink                      NB
88. Yellow-headed Blackbird       PR
89. Great-tailed Grackle          CF
90. Brown-headed Cowbird          PO
91. Bullock's Oriole              CF
92. Scott's Oriole                CF
93. Cassin's Finch                PR
94. House Finch                   PR
95. Lesser Goldfinch              PR
96. House Sparrow                 CF

Ted Floyd
Reno, Nevada