Brown booby of the tropics sets up home on Lake Norrell

FERNDALE (AGFC) – Not since the ivory-billed woodpecker of 2004 has a bird generated such excitement in Arkansas as the interestingly named brown booby.

The lone bird, a resident of tropical oceans, showed up at Lake Norrell in Saline County west of Little Rock on Aug. 9 and has been living a relaxed life with plenty of bream on its menu. It is tolerant of many dozens of hawking, camera-using visitors who are flocking in from all over the nation as well as most of the bird enthusiasts of Arkansas.

Closest normal range for the brown booby is the Caribbean Sea. The species is found in the Pacific Ocean, too, from Hawaii to Australia and Indonesia. The Lake Norrell bird is the first time a brown booby has been known to visit Arkansas.

Vickie Martin, who lives on the lake with husband Ken, said the brown booby was sitting on their dock when Ken spotted it. They took photos, and Dottie Boyles, who works with Vickie at the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, identified it after consulting with other bird fans and with field guides.

Vickie Martin said visiting birders identified the bird as an adult female. It is about the size of a mallard duck but slimmer and with a larger wing span, she said. The bird moves around the lake, using boat docks, a water control structure and other convenient perches.

Lake Norrell covers 280 acres and is a backup water supply for the city of Benton. From the Little Rock area, it is reached by Colonel Glenn Road and Lawson Road west from Interstate 430.