Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

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[Mystery bird] Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Tyrannus forficatus, photographed near Brookings, South Dakota. [I will identify this bird for you tomorrow]

Image: Terry Sohl, 18 October 2008 [larger view].

Photo taken with Canon 40D, 400 5.6L.

Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.

Rick Wright, Managing Director of WINGS Birding Tours Worldwide, writes:

My usual admonition to start at the rear seems just a bit too obvious with this bird: the combination of a long, forficate tail and bright salmon on the flanks and belly identifies this Scissor-tailed Flycatcher without a hint of hesitation.

Many birders who haven’t made this species’ acquaintance might think of Fork-tailed Flycatcher as a possible confusion species. In fact, though, the most similar bird is actually the Western Kingbird, which shares with the scissor-tailed a pale head with faint mask and a set of somewhat ludicrous popping vocalizations. Even the birds themselves get confused (or desperate): they interbreed with some frequency, particularly as the range of Scissor-tailed Flycatcher spreads north and east

Review all mystery birds to date.


  1. #1 Kathy H
    March 29, 2009

    Adult Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. What a beautiful bird. Long black and white forked tail; pink wash on the belly. This sighting must be a little north of it’s usual range; perhaps this species is extending its range northward as many others seem to be.

  2. #2 blf
    March 30, 2009

    I’m not sure if this is a Peabrained idiot or a Prebrained genius? It’s small, and sitting on a barbed wire fence. That’s either completely stupid (P. idiot) or a clever defence against predators (P. genius).

  3. #4 RankPay
    February 14, 2010

    It is perhaps better if I take some time off work and indulge in work watching. What do you think? These creatures are lovely.

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