Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, Oklahoma’s Long-tailed State Bird

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher,

Oklahoma’s Long-tailed State Bird

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Scissortail-OklaDeptWildlifeConservn

SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER in flight

Photo credit: Oklahoma Dep’t of Wildlife Conservation

He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.    (Psalm 91:4)

Feathers provide a soft aerodynamic covering for birds, and parent birds are known to use their feather-clad wings to protect their young –  so much so that God Himself compared His own protectiveness to the protective wings of parent birds (see also Matthew 23:37).  What wonderfully lightweight yet sturdy  structures feathers are – it is amazing how God cleverly imagined and invented such airworthy body parts!  One bird with unusually long tail feathers is the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, several of which my wife and I saw throughout the day last Saturday, while visiting part of Oklahoma.

Specifically, last Saturday (June 16th AD2018) my wife and I undertook a day trip to Frederick, Oklahoma  –  a small town not far from Wichita Falls, Texas (yet obviously north of the Red River, on the Oklahoma side) –  to visit some American West historical sites and the Tillman County Historical Society’s museum, a/k/a Frederick’s “Pioneer Heritage Townsite Museum”, located next to the Tillman County Courthouse — which courthouse’s lawn features a statue of two of Frederick’s most courageous young adventurers, Louis and Temple Abernathy, sons of U.S. Marshal “Catch-’em-alive” Jack Abernathy.

[ See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Abernathy_and_Temple_Abernathy and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Abernathy and http://www.visitfrederickok.com/placestosee/abernathy_boys.html .]

What amazing epic adventures occurred a little more than a century ago, in that area – and are now are chronicled there, for us now to appreciate!

Scissortail-perching.Cornell-allaboutbirds

SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER perching on barbed wire

                                     Photo credit: Allaboutbirds.org / Cornell University

However, that report must appear elsewhere (D.v.) because this is a birdwatching blogsite, so here I will report on the most remarkable of the birds we observed that day, the SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER, which happens to be the official state bird of Oklahoma. Roger Tory Peterson describes this fine-feathered foot-long flycatcher as follows:

“A beautiful bird, pale pearly gray, with an extremely long, scissorlike tail that is usually folded. Sides and wing linings salmon-pink.  Young birds with shorter tails may suggest Western Kingbird.  Hybrids [with other tyrant flycatchers] are known.”

[Quoting Roger Tory Peterson, A FIELD GUIDE TO WESTERN BIRDS (Houghton Mifflin / Peterson Field Guides series, 3rd edition 1990), page 230.]

Scissortail-perching.DickDaniels

SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER, perching on branch

Photo credit: Dick Daniels / Carolinabirds.org

Scissortails breed mostly in Oklahoma and Texas (and Kansas), migrating to Mexico and beyond (to Panama) for the winter. Scissortails (like many other kingbirds) prefer open prairies and semi-open areas, such as thinly wooded farms, ranches, towns, and roadsides – often perching upon ranchland barbed wires, tree branches, or atop bushy shrubs, as they monitor their surroundings for flies to snatch.  As their name suggests, scissortail flycatchers are “hawking” aerial predators of flies and other flying insects (such as dragonflies, wasps, robber flies, bees, etc.), although they also enjoy eating earthbound insects (like beetles and grasshoppers), as well as winter berries.

So here is my limerick, to memorialize the time birdwatching in and around Frederick, Oklahoma, historic home of the adventurous Abernathy family:

SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHERS, OKLAHOMA’S OFFICIAL BIRD

Perching and alert, scissortail

Pearly grey, its plumage is pale;

Hawking flies in midflight,

Eating bugs with delight

Long-tailed bird that Okies do hail!

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SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER with grasshopper

Photo credit: Birds of North America / Joe Overcash

 

 

 

Say’s Phoebe and Nest

On our vacation, we spent the night in El Centro, California. In the morning, while loading the luggage back in the car, I noticed a bird flying in and out of a corner. Investigating, here is what I found:

Say's Phoebe nestling at El Centro Ca by Lee

Say’s Phoebe nestling at El Centro Ca by Lee

Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God. (Psalms 84:3 KJV)

The nest with a young bird in it was patiently waiting for mom/pop to show up with some more food. Sure enough, the parent came and went but didn’t stay long enough for me to get a photo. Finally, they landed on a spot long enough to get a few photos. (He/she was in the direct sun and not the best photo.)

Say's Phoebe (Sayornis saya) at El Centro Ca by Lee

Say’s Phoebe (Sayornis saya) at El Centro Ca by Lee

Yeah! A new Life Bird for my list. This is a Say’s Phobe. Been reading up on this beautiful creation from the Creator. The Say’s phoebe (Sayornis saya) is a passerine bird in the Tyrannidae – Tyrant Flycatchers Family. A common bird in the western United States. It prefers dry, desolate areas. This bird was named for Thomas Say, the American naturalist.

Here is a better photo from Flickr by Dawn Ellner:

Say's Phoebe (Sayornis saya) ©©Flickr Dawn Ellner

Say’s Phoebe (Sayornis saya) ©©Flickr Dawn Ellner

The adult Say’s phoebe is a drab, chunky bird. It is gray-brown above with a black tail and buffy cinnamon below, becoming more orange around the vent. The tail is long and the primaries end just past the rump on resting birds. The wings seem pale in flight and resemble a female mountain bluebird. The juvenile is similar to adult, but has buffy orange to whitish wingbars and a yellow gape. Adult birds are 7.5 in (19 cm) long. They have a 13 in (33 cm) wingspan and they weigh 0.75 oz (21 g). Their diet is almost exclusively insects which they dart out to capture. Sometimes they hover over grass to catch the insects.

Nest – Adherent also under eaves, bridges, in wells; of grass, forbs, moss, plant fibers, lined with fine materials, especially hair. Female believed to build nest. The Eggs – White, mostly unmarked, some (last laid) with small red spots. 0.8″ (19 mm). The female incubates for 12-14 days. Development is altricial (immobile, downless, eyes closed, fed). Young leave the nest after 14-16 days. Both sexes tend young. “Say’s Phoebe is common around people, often nesting on buildings.” (All About Birds)

(Info from Wikipedia, internet and Thayer’s Birding Software)

More about that nest in the next post. Photos can be clicked on to enlarge them.

(Update: Orni-Theology and The Nest)
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Good News
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Need Help With Some Identifications

Western Kingbird Maybe - - California

Western Kingbird Maybe – California

Now that I am trying to put names with the photos of some of the avian creations from our vacation, I have some that I have no idea what they are. Help needed.

Some I have narrowed down to one or two (or three or four) possibilities. Since we live in Florida and these were taken out west, I am not certain of their IDs.

If you have seen these, could you leave me a comment. It sure would help.

Western Kingbird Maybe - California

Western Kingbird Maybe – California

Is this a Western Kingbird or one of the Flycatchers. Some of them are so similar it is hard to tell them apart.

Here’s another:

Costa's Hummingbird - I think - California

Costa’s Hummingbird – I think – California

Pretty certain of this, but not sure. Been checking on-line and in the books.

Here are the last two, for now. Still going through the photos.

Verdin Maybe - California

Verdin – Maybe – California

Same bird:

Verdin Maybe - California

Verdin – Maybe – California

The last one.

Dusky-capped Flycatcher - Maybe - California Cropped

Dusky-capped Flycatcher – Maybe – California Cropped

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: (Matthew 7:7 KJV)

Thanks again for any help with the IDs.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Yellow-legged Flyrobin/Flycatcher

Yellow-legged Flyrobin (Microeca griseoceps) by Ian

Yellow-legged Flyrobin (Microeca griseoceps) by Ian

I haven’t had proper internet access for a week, so please forgive me for another late BoW. I’ve been sequestered away in a girls’ boarding school in Armidale on the tablelands of northern New South Wales attending a recorder playing workshop. It was a wonderful experience but quite exhausting and I’ve discovered that you use the same brain cells for playing music as you do for composing text. I managed find some other brain cells to prepare these two photos several days ago – taking time off from practice – but my plan to skip lunch and search for an internet cafe never had much chance of success.

Yellow-legged Flyrobin (Microeca griseoceps) by Ian

Yellow-legged Flyrobin (Microeca griseoceps) by Ian

The Yellow-legged Flycatcher belongs in the obscure category. Unlike its close relative the Jacky-winter – widespread throughout Australia – it is found only in northern Cape York Peninsula and Papua New Guinea. It is a forest dweller, favouring the outer canopy and small (12cm/4in long) so it is easily overlooked. The bright chrome-yellow legs, however, contrast with its rather sombre plumage.

In recent years it has become better known as more birders visit Iron Range National Park near Lockhart River. My 1986 field guide (Slater) describes its status as ‘rare’ and its voice as ‘precise information required’, while my 2000 one (Morecombe) says it is ‘common’ and provides a detailed description of its call (variations on “wheeit”).

Like the Jacky-winter and the rather similar Lemon-bellied Flycatcher of northern Australia it is a member of the Petroicidae. the Australo-Papuan Robins and is not related to other flycatchers. To emphasize this distinction, the international name for the Yellow-legged and the Lemon-bellied is ‘Flyrobin’ (there are several species in PNG) but this name is having an uphill task in being accepted in Australia.

Now, I’m going to go Dangar Falls National Park near Armidale and have a relaxing day or two.
Best wishes,
Ian

Links:
Yellow-legged Flycatcher
Jacky-winter
Lemon-bellied Flycatcher

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Website: http://birdway.com.au


Lee’s Addition:

Petroicidae Family (Australasian Robins) are in a different Family from other Robins. The American Robin is now the only Robin in with the Thrushes & Allies which are in the (Turdidae) Family. The Clay-colored and White-throated Robins are now Thrushes.  The Muscicadpidae Family which has Robins is in with the Chats and Old World Flycatchers.

The Australasian Robins do not seem to migrate like many others from the other two families mentioned. The American Robin (thrush family) migrates because they are down here now this time of the year.

“Even the stork in the sky Knows her seasons; And the turtledove and the swift and the thrush Observe the time of their migration; But My people do not know The ordinance of the LORD. (Jeremiah 8:7 NASB)