Monday, April 02, 2007

Utensil Birds: Species #1

I hereby announce the start of a new series of (irregular) posts here at Bill of the Birds. The subject is: Utensil Birds. These are species whose names contain the name of a utensil or tool.

Today's featured Utensil Bird is the scissor-tailed flycatcher.

I LOVE scissor-tailed flycatchers for a variety of reasons.

1.) They are undeniably beautiful. Long tail streamers, pink wing pits, classic gray plumage, and acrobatic aerial maneuvers.

2.) I only get to see them once or twice a year. The nearest breeding scissortails to my SE Ohio home are in southwestern Missouri.

3.) It's one of the only vagrant birds I've ever spotted myself. One flew into view of our Big Sit team at the World Series of Birding at Cape May Point, NJ, on May 15, 2004. Late in the afternoon, the scissor-tailed flycatcher flew off the ocean and into a nearby marshy field, causing me to blurt out its name, followed by a somewhat inappropriate profanity. We'd just finished an issue of BWD with this species on the cover, so it was almost as if I conjured this vagrant bug eater. Hundreds of birders converged on our Big Sit circle atop the hawk watching platform that afternoon to see the bird. It was a great feeling to have been the one to spot it. Scissor-tailed flycatchers are regular vagrants in many places.

4.) I was once asked by a non-bird watcher why scissor-tailed flycatchers were so cruel to other birds. When I asked what he meant, the old fella replied: "Well they use them scissory tails to cut the heads off their victims don't they?"

I dialed 911.

I took some fairly awful images of a lovely scissortail at Santa Ana NWR last Friday. Since you can't stop me from doing so, I'm going to share the least awful ones with you right now.

Here's to you, Special Utensil Bird #1! Don't be a stranger!

Classic scissortail pose: on a wire, facing into the wind, tail streaming out behind.

Landing just after a hunting sortie, this scissortail is turning to face into the strong Texas wind.

Insect gulped down, it's bill-cleaning time. Two quick wipes on the wire and he's good to go.



At 8:10 PM, Blogger RuthieJ said...

Such a cool bird! Years ago I flew down to Shreveport, LA to visit my brother and a scissor-tailed flycatcher flew past the window in the airport. Since it was the first time I had ever seen one, I recall being more excited about seeing that bird than seeing my brother. He's finally forgiven me (I think).

At 11:33 PM, Blogger Liza Lee Miller said...

Ah, yes, Edward Scissor-tail! Used to see them when I lived in Texas. Sooooo cool!

At 9:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gosh what a beautiful bird. Never seen one myself. What is the purpose of the long tail? Mating display? Do females also have that long of a tail? Inquiring minds want to know.

Takoma Park, MD

At 10:11 AM, Blogger Rondeau Ric said...

Two years ago we had one come wandering into our area. A real treat up here.

At 7:11 PM, Blogger birdchick said...

I demand more utensil bird entries! Brilliant category!

At 8:51 PM, Anonymous Andy said...

Ah, I like this category! I'll wait with bated breath to see whether the next entry will be Tong-billed Tyrant or Sewp's Ladler.

Or perhaps the Greater Grater?

At 7:26 AM, Anonymous katdoc said...

I remember flipping through pages of a bird field guide when I was little and stopping at the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. I couldn't believe it was a real bird.

I've never seen one myself, but would love to.

Intrigued by the category of "Utensil Birds," I'm racking my brain trying to guess what might be next. Keep it up!



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