#516 Fork-tailed Flycatcher

I almost missed this one because the first few times I read the reports I translated it into the much more common species, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. But when I finally noticed that someone had really written “Fork-tailed Flycatcher” in the rare bird alert, I started to dash off a quick note to say, “Didn’t you mean Scissor-tailed Flycatcher?” Fortunately I Googled it first, and lo and behold there really is such a bird as a Fork-tailed Flycatcher, and that is in fact what was showing up in Connecticut just over an hour away from Brooklyn! Whereas the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher is common in Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma and a regular vagrant across most of the continental United States, the Fork-tailed Flycatcher is normally found from Mexico south to Argentina. It is much less common around here than the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. I.e. this is the first one I’ve even heard of, though apparently there’s about one report on the East Coast every year. The ABA rates the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher a 1 (easy to find in appropriate habitat and range) whereas the Fork-tailed Flycatcher is a 3 (rare birds annual in occurrence).

After cluing in that this bird really was something special and worth chasing, my first day off from work was Thanksgiving. The wife vetoed that though. However it was seen on Thanksgiving, by birders with less family obligations than me, so this morning I rented a pickup truck (the only Zipcar left in my neighborhood), drove across the Whitestone Bridge and up I-95 to Stamford, got off at Exit 9, drove down the street to to Cove Island Park, parked at the correct corner of the parking lot, walked over to where two other birders had a scope set up, and there it was:

Fork-tailed Flycatcher perched


Despite the drizzle, it gave us some great looks and photo opportunities. This was actually my first “official” birding trip to Connecticut so my Connecticut list now stands at 16 species:

  • Canada Goose
  • Mallard
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Herring Gull
  • Rock Pigeon
  • Mourning Dove
  • Monk Parakeet
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Fork-tailed Flycatcher
  • Blue Jay
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Carolina Wren
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Song Sparrow
  • Northern Cardinal

I wish I could say that “Fork-tailed Flycatcher” was my first Connecticut bird, but I spotted Canada Goose from the I-95 Exit and Ring-billed Gull in the parking lot before I found the flycatcher.

I would have stayed longer to try for some better photographs, but I was nervous about keeping the camera out in the rain, so instead I drove south to Long Island to look for the Common Ground Dove, the Northern Shrike, and the Cave Swallow. No luck there though, but this was still a damn good day, even with only a couple of dozen total species. Others I added on Long Island included Northern Flicker, Boat-tailed Grackle, European Starling, Great Black-backed Gull, Laughing Gull, Northern Gannett, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Dunlin, Long-tailed Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, and White-throated Sparrow.

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