Of all the migratory birds who grace Texas with their collective presence, the scissor-tailed flycatcher (Tyrannus forficatus) often is one of the earliest to arrive (March) and one of the last to leave (November). They migrate out of bordering states earlier, but their stronghold rests in the Lone Star State, the one place where they can be found in great numbers, and they stay here longer than anywhere else.
Briefly they will overwinter in southern Mexico and Central America before heading north again. And interestingly enough, throughout the spring and autumn migrations they become vagrants by traveling throughout North America before returning to their southern breeding and nesting range.
I find them rather approachable, and their prolific numbers here make them easy to find. It doesn’t hurt that they hunt in and nest near open fields; that makes them easier to spot than, say, sapsuckers or kinglets.
Males have the longest tails which reach nearly one foot/30 centimeters in length. So the challenge comes from trying to get an image of the whole bird without chopping off body parts in favor of detail.
Yet subtleties vanish in wider views, intricacies of pattern and color evident only when one can look beyond that glorious tail and see clearly the body that wears it.
Vivid and alluring, the splendor of their dress is unequaled by their only true cousin, the fork-tailed flycatcher. No, when it came to plumage as art, the scissor-tailed flycatcher took the prize compared to the other long-tailed species in this part of the world.
They fill the days with a mesmerizing celebration of song and dance performed on the wing. Whether as courtship or a challenge to territorial interlopers, their aerial acrobatics exist in a solitary class given the magic created by that tail, a stream of feathery ribbons splayed and displayed for all the world to marvel at.
Just yesterday I saw a group of about six scissor-tailed flycatchers as they hunted along the floodplain near my home. Though perhaps hunting wasn’t all they were doing: the constant talking and flitting to and fro, even up to the treetops, made clear they were preparing to leave, preparing to flee winter’s approach in search of the numerous insects they hunt both in the air and on the ground.
I suspect they will be around White Rock Lake a bit longer before vanishing in the southward flow of life autumn has created. Unlike many species, however, their absence will last no more than three months before their voices and antics once again fill the air.
[again, more migration photos coming; and pardon me if these migration posts arrive too quickly; I’d really like to complete them before the migration ends]