What are those birds in our Black Walnut tree?

by Dave Hanks

They are WESTERN KINGBIRDS and I about went crazy trying to identify them. That was because it was early in my interest in bird observation, and I didn’t have a decent field guide. There were babies in that tree, and they emitted loud, insistent feeding calls whenever the parents were away from the nest. I thought the parents to be most attractive, as up to the time that I started opening my eyes to the bird life around me, all I had noticed were those ugly, little brown House Sparrows. But these birds had a vivid yellow front and an attractive gray head. At that time they seemed quite glorious, as I was yet to make the acquaintance of the more brilliantly colored species.

This is an open country species of the Flycatcher family. Like all flycatchers, it will dart out to catch an insect on the wing and then return to the same perch. The name Kingbird comes from the stately way this 8 to 9” bird perches. The Western Kingbird is human tolerant, and they thrive in agriculture habitat. Their range has expanded eastward – probably due to the turning of the prairie into farms.

Four eggs are the usual, and they are creamy white. However, the clutch size and brooding success depends upon the quantity of insects available. They are yearly nesters in the tall trees behind our corrals – the babies setting up a noticeable racket.

You may see Kingbirds on farm fence posts, and there are always some on the road before you enter North Heglar Canyon. The farm roads close to Massacre Rocks, and the park itself, are also dependable places to observe this bird. In early September, just before migration time, the young of the year have fledged - looking like adults - but are more easily approached.

(Yellow and gray against a vivid, blue sky)