Unique bird likely escaped from a zoo or aviary, biologist says
Working on a rice farm in Acadia Parish definitely gave Phillip Zaunbrecher an advantage in keeping an eye out on the whereabouts of teal this season — but even his job didn’t prepare him for the special bird he knocked down on Friday, Sept. 21.
Zaunbrecher, 23, of Mowata, was hunting from the levee over rice stubble near Eunice with his brother Douglas and his dog Bella when he dropped the last teal of the morning around 7 a.m. — but he didn’t realize how special it was when he shot.
“It was kind of a foggy, overcast morning, and when it flew through I picked up and shot, and I was working my dog on another bird and my brother said, ‘That one had a different color to it,’” he said. “So he ran over there and picked it up, and it was that bird.”
“That bird” was actually a South American ringed teal which had been spotted on the property the week before. Zaunbrecher, who said he’s been hunting since he was old enough to hold a gun, didn’t know exactly what he had shot when his brother returned with the unique looking teal.
“We didn’t know what it was at first,” he said. “We knew it was a teal, but didn’t know what species. My brother Googled it and we sent the picture to another buddy of mine, and right off the bat he knew what it was because he said they had shot one in Texas the week before.”
Larry Reynolds, the state’s waterfowl study leader with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said the bird, which inhabits the South American forests in the wild, is likely an escapee from an aviary or zoo.
“We get one or two killed every year. It’s a really striking looking bird, so it’s real popular in aviaries, and for some reason we get a bunch of them here,” Reynolds said. “But it’s hard to imagine that it migrated past the equator (as a wild bird.)”
For Zaunbrecher, wild or not, it’s headed to the taxidermist and an eventual place of honor at his house.
“It’s going on the wall,” he said. “That’s a once-in-a-lifetime bird, so it’s definitely going up on the wall.”