Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher

Tyrannus forficatus
Range Map

In 2003, I found an immature, out of place Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher on the central California coast at Piedras Blancas beach while photographing newborn Northern Elephant Seals. Word got out quickly about this California rarity. Folks came from far and wide to see it. I donated an image to Cal Poly as a contribution for the scientific record. Seventeen years later, in 2020, I met these birds in the native range in south Texas.

Scissor-Tailed Flycatchers are monotypic, meaning there are no recognised subspecies.

After wintering in southern Mexico and Central America, these birds fly north to breed each spring, where their range includes all of Texas, east to the Mississippi River and north through Kansas. Basically, the south midwestern USA is its summer home.

I remember meeting my first Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher in Texas. It was March 20, 2020, and after staying a week in Aransas NWR, Rockport, and Corpus Christi, I was driving south on Highway 77 headed for Brownsville to explore the Lower Rio Grande Valley, and find out if all the amazing stories about birding there were true. I spotted the flycatcher on a fence-line and pulled off the highway to attempt photographing the showy bird. The images I captured that day were OK. Still, I felt I didn’t do justice to the bird.

The next day, the Covid-19 crisis shut down almost every birding venue in the region. I settled into an RV park to lie low for a while and discovered Laguna Atascosa NWR was the only reserve with its gates open. While on a visit there, I was befriended by a game enforcement officer who suggested Palmito Hill as a destination I should explore. It was there I captured my favorite images of Scissor-Tailed Flycatchers.

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