GCBO's Bird of the Month: January
Fork-tailed Flycatcher
Geography/Habitat:

Fork-tailed Flycatcher ( Tyrannus Savana ) is native to Central and South America and is a very rare visitor to the United States. Within Texas, the majority of records are east and south of the I-35 corridor, especially along the coastal counties. Within the U.S., the majority of sightings have been in the eastern third of the country, especially in the Northeast region, but there are a handful of records in the Western U.S. As can be derived from its Latin name, the species favors savannas, grasslands, and other open country with scattered bushes and trees. They frequently perch on fences, low bushes or trees, and even on the ground.

Identification:

Fork-tailed Flycatcher is a member of the Tyrannidae Family (Tyrant Flycatchers) of which 147 different species have occurred in North America. The Fork-tailed Flycatcher shape is similar to a Scissor-tailed flycatcher including the long tail streamers but the overall plumage is similar to an Eastern Kingbird. Fork-tailed Flycatcher is distinguished by a long black forked tail, black wings, gray back, and a mostly white breast and underwing coverts. Occasionally, the black head may show a yellow crown stripe. They are a strong flyer and very acrobatic while chasing insects. The juvenile has a brown head and a shorter tail, but still distinctively long. The diet consists of insects, berries, and fruit. Their typical weight is 1 oz. or 28 grams and their song is a series of low chattering “ek-ek-ek-ek-ek” with the call being a sharp repetitive “sik or “plik”.

Interesting Facts:

  • During migration in South America, Fork-tailed Flycatchers are very gregarious and may roost in flocks of up to 10,000 individuals.

  • The Fork-tailed Flycatcher is a rare example of a neotropical resident species that strays regularly to the northeastern United States and Canada. There are four subspecies (monachus, sanctaemartae, circumdatus, savana) but the majority of U.S. vagrant records are of the nominate subspecies (savanna) and to a lesser extent the monachus subspecies. It is interesting to note that the savana subspecies is the most southern of four subspecies.

  • The males' aerial courtship display consists of a spiral and somersault while calling.

  • This bird was first described by French ornithologist Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot.

  • A group of flycatchers has many collective nouns, including an "outfield", "swatting", "zapper", and "zipper" of flycatchers.
 

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