Facts About the Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher
Close Encounter of the First Kind
This is the state bird of Oklahoma and is actually a kingbird. Striking in its own way and unmistakable when seen, unlike the bands of confusing-to-identify vireos and warblers, one will not have difficulty in identification. The most striking feature about this bird, is its tail, which it was named for. During the interesting courtship ritual, the tail is opened and closed like a pair of scissors.
As a matter of fact, it was interesting how I got a series of photos in this tree. This was the first bird that arrived in the area on April 2. He would just perch on wires off the telephone poles and to be honest, that wasn't the kind of photo that I wanted to share with a striking bird like this. Quite frankly, I felt that it was beneath him. So I stood with him, on-and-off, for a couple of days without even taking a picture. On April 8, my day had come. I heard my little friend, but I couldn't see him. He actually flew out of this tree in front of my face and hovered to make sure that I could see. Then he flew back to the tree, and patiently waited for me to get a proper photo of his lovely countenance, tail and all. I hoped to have the entire bird, but his tail is so long. It was either sacrifice a good picture that wasn't a close up, or make do with the entire bird at a distance. He let me do both, just chattering away at me. In a way, I think he was laughing at me. After all, he was waiting for the females to arrive and he wanted the pick of the litter, so to speak, so what did he have to do right now, other than entertain me...or was it vice versa?
How to Tell Adults From Juveniles
This bird is unquestionably a male, as males arrive in their territory first and the females all come in droves about two weeks later. I say this because once the females have arrived, it is nearly impossible to tell them apart if they sit side-by-side. A juvenile is easy to spot, as they are paler with a salmony or yellowish wash on the underparts and a short tail in comparison. An adult's tail looks to me to be around ten inches long.
Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher Fledglings
- Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Fledglings and Parent - YouTube
I digiscoped these Scissor-tailed Flycatchers fledging and being fed by their lone female parent near Hwy 40 and Hwy N in Dardenne Prairie, Missouri today, J...
During courtship, I have witnessed the male do a spectacular sky dance for his chosen female. From about 100 feet above the ground, he suddenly plunges, flies in a zigzag pattern while doing a trilling cackle, then flies straight up and does two or three backward flips, while he displays his long streaming tail. This can be done until the eggs hatch, sometimes daily for two weeks. Every time that I see this display, I feel like I should be holding up a card with a "10" on it for the judges to record.
Feeding and Preferred Home
This is about the closest that I have ever come to this particular male, about two feet away. He met me as I was walking to the lake from my house, just twittering away at me.
I have seen him and others sit for quite some time waiting to snap up assorted flying insects, then catches them in midair from whatever perch has been chosen to wait on. They will even catch insects from the ground like grasshoppers and crickets.
They prefer open country with scattered trees, prairieland and scrub and farmland and have one brood per year.
Coloration and Where to Find This Beautiful Bird
Note the striking colors under the wings of the adults, as well as the sides and flanks. About the only time that you can see all the colors is when the bird is in flight. When I got this picture, it was a bit windy, so this bird was just trying to keep himself stabilized.
This is about all that I can tell you about the state bird of OK. I'm still discovering myself, and hope that you have learned a little about this bird, which you will only see in TX, OK, parts of LA, AR, NM, KS, and just south of the TX border into MX.
From Nesting Season 2013
Here are just a few highlights from this year to keep you engrossed in the world of the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. I happened upon an active nest and just saw a tail sticking out of the top. I had an excellent idea that I was about to witness something interesting. When the adult was done feeding the nestlings, it had to back out of the nest to extricate itself in order to fly off. It surely is an effective way of doing business.
When baby birds are very young, they are fed every ten to fifteen minutes by a parent. Gradually, as the babies get older, the parents get a break, and this increases to every two to two and a half hours. At that point, the nestlings are soon to be fledglings, which means that they will then learn to fly.
At first, the flying lessons are very short, from one branch of a tree to another, until finally, the maiden voyage is to another tree, but many times it is right to the ground. The parents continue to feed the young ones there. Usually, most babies are fine on the ground, and a parent is watching, so it is safe for them to be there.
If you see that harm is inevitable, for example, a baby bird is covered with ants, then take action as a good samaritan. Ants can kill a bird that should not be out of the nest(covered mostly in down) in twenty minutes or less. In most other cases, the bird is fine. If you are not sure about whether or not you should intervene, contact your local veterinarian for the number of a licensed rehabilitator. The rehabilitator can effectively answer your questions.
Summer 2015 Nesting
Due to the amount of rain over the past two years, baby season for Scissor-tailed Flycatchers has been spectacular. Never have I seen so many. There were so many nests, I had to limit myself to how many I observed so that I could keep track of them. Just being conservative, I day say that there were a dozen nests on the east side of Boomer Lake alone, and that is likely a low number.
I also located the largest nest that I had ever seen, with six babies in one cup. Five of them fledged, but one did not make it, as it was crowded in. This is what occurs when there are too many to be fed.