Sunday, May 31, 2015

Bulletin #223 - Best of 10 years #4 - Flycatchers and Thrushes

The Tyrannidae family (Tyrant Flycatchers) of the New World is the largest family of birds with some 430 species. Although many are rather plain brown or olive, a few are quite beautiful.

The beautiful Scissor-tailed Flycatcher occurs on grasslands from Kansas to Texas. This male has a pearly gray head and body, salmon underwing and exceptionally long tail feathers. I photographed this bird on the coast during spring migration.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - male
The male Vermilion Flycatcher of the USA southwest is another amazing bird. He has a brown back and wings with red head and underparts and a brown stripe through the eye.

Vermilion Flycatcher - male
This third flycatcher is the cute little Black Phoebe. It is a resident from west Texas to California. It likes to be near water. I photographed this on a rock by the Pacific in Monterey California. He let me walk right up to him and take his photo.

Black Phoebe
The Great Crested Flycatcher has been a life long favorite. It is a resident of eastern North America. We had a pair of them nesting in a bird house for many years when I was growing up in Canada. Flycatchers will eat fruit at times and I photographed this one at High Island during spring migration with a bright red mulberry in his mouth. He is typical of the myiarchus genus with brown back, gray breast and yellow belly. I framed a photo of this and put it in my office and some people noticed a whole parade of bugs walking on the underside of the branch. I hadn't seen the bugs!

Great Crested Flycatcher
The thrushes are a worldwide family of 180 species. They are familiar to everyone in North America as the American Robin and bluebirds are thrushes. Many thrushes are beautiful singers.

The Varied Thrush is a bird of the mountains from northern California to Alaska. I have only seen it twice and I was lucky to get this male on the ground in Alaska. It resembles a robin, but has a stripe across the chest and wing bars.

Varied Thrush - male
The Omao is the thrush on the Big Island of Hawaii. As I talked about in bulletins of Hawaii birds, extinctions have been rampant in the Hawaiian Islands. There were 4 thrushes, but 2 have gone extinct in last 30 years and a third one is critically endangered and being raised in captivity to save it. The Omao is the only one that can be seen.

The La Selle Thrush is an endemic to Hispaniola. It also sort of resembles an American Robin with the red breast. One has to go to the Dominican Republic to see this bird. I had one morning to see it, and was successful.

La Selle Thrush

The Bicknell's Thrush is a small thrush that is the hardest to find in North America as it nests on mountain tops in New England and New Brunswick, Canada. I had not made a trip to see it. I was pleasantly surprised when I was in Dominican Republic last November, to discover that 90% of the birds winter there. So I was able to add photos of this species.

Bicknell's Thrush
A cousin of the Bicknell's is the Hermit Thrush. I had seen this bird several times in California, but never in Texas until I found this one in my back yard, one Thanksgiving weekend. He spent the winter in my yard and I photographed him many times. Some mornings I would hear him singing his beautiful song. This was the best of hundreds of photos and was right outside my kitchen window. He had become used to me and I could approach to within 15 feet of him. This photo made it on the Houston Audubon web site as well.

Hermit Thrush

The last is the male Eastern Bluebird. In 25 years of birding in Texas, I have seen it in my yard 4-5 times. This one landed on my bird bath and stayed long enough for me to run and get the camera set up and take his photo. What a treat to have such a beautiful bird by your house.

Eastern Bluebird - male
Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2015 David McDonald

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