Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Those Tropical Kingbirds! A Fun Coincidence...

Tropical Kingbird, Florence Oregon, Nov. 2022
In October of 2020 during the height of the Covid epidemic, I was beginning the habit of walking the Tuolumne River Trail in Waterford every day for exercise and birdwatching. I saw many interesting birds, over 120 species that year, but on that day in October, the bird I saw was memorable, although I didn't know it in that moment. What I thought I saw was a Western Kingbird. It was a bird that should have been far away in Central America, being a long-range migrant. It was wildly out of season. So I took pictures to document it, and sent copies to some local birders. I was told immediately that it wasn't a Western Kingbird at all, but that it was instead a Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus), a bird I hadn't even heard of before, as it was a bird more native to Mexico and southern Texas. What's more, it was the first sighting of the species ever in Stanislaus County. So that was all very exciting at the time.

Jumping forward to the present day, I was up north in Oregon, in Florence for Thanksgiving. Although there was little time for intense birding, I kept my camera close by and while walking through Old Town Florence, I saw a bird on the wires above that seemed a bit out of place. It was more yellow than the species I was expecting to see. I snapped the picture above and realized it was a Kingbird. I checked for the tail markings that would have meant Western Kingbird, but they weren't there. Cassin's Kingbirds simply aren't found that far north, and it didn't have those tail markings either. I knew that despite their rarity, some Tropical Kingbirds were known to range pretty far north along the coast. So I checked the eBird records and found that one or two had been seen in the immediate vicinity over the last few weeks. I had found the second Tropical Kingbird I had ever seen!
Tropical Kingbird at CSU Stanislaus, Nov. 2022
I got back to the motel and reported the bird and checked my email. Much to my surprise I found that a Tropical Kingbird had been sighted in Stanislaus County that very day! It was on the campus of CSU Stanislaus, where I teach a couple of courses. It was only the second sighting ever in the county, and it stayed in the area long enough for half a dozen birders to catch a view. Being six hundred miles away, I felt I had little chance of getting a look, but I headed down there today to teach my classes. Wouldn't you know, there it was right outside the Science Building. I got just one lousy shot before it flew off, but I got to see the rare visitor.

An interesting convergence of sightings...
The Tropical Kingbird from the Tuolumne River in 2020

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