[CT Birds] Mystery Kingbird

james.bair at snet.net james.bair at snet.net
Fri Jan 11 20:11:44 EST 2008

Dear Brian:

You wrote:
I was going through some old slides when I happened upon one that created quite a stir back in 1998.  

Jay Kaplan and myself were leading a bird walk at Hammonasett SP on August 19, 1998.  Our group was enjoying a couple of Philadelphia Vireos in this large isolated tree.  When all of a sudden this unusual looking kingbird flew in.  I managed to get a couple shots before it was never seen again.  Now, before I tell you the conclusion of the story I would like your thoughts on this bird.  I was never truly satisfied with the identification.

If you are familiar with this photo please don't give it away ~ just yet.  

Click on the link below to see the pic.


Have Fun!

This was fun! It has enough features to make one think it was a Cassin's Kingbird--darker breast, white on tip of tail and fine white lines on wings. However, the photo is fuzzy enough and apparently backlit by the sun, that my inclination is to call it a Western. We get them in CT; the first Western I ever saw was a fall bird with no white on the outer tail. The darker breast could be attributed simply to the shadow since the sun is clearly behind it. The realtively dark underwing coverts are clearly attributed to the position of the sun as all the yellow-bellied kingbirds have yellow coverts.

That position of the sun could also account for the whitish appearance of the tail feathers in the photo as a refraction through the tips or edges of the feathers.

Photos don't always have the complete answer. Last summer there was a photo in this forum we discussed as a possible Mourning Warbler or Yellowthroat. The photo by itself could have been of either one, but the jizz of each of those two birds is so different, that the field observation would be critical. In the case of the warblers, I would ask, "Did it look and act like a green wren [Yellowthroat] or a green thrush [Mourning Warbler}?" Similarly, my question would be to you and Jay: did you see the white band on the end of the tail or was that only visible in the photo? If the white band at the end of the tail was clearly part of the tail and not just a trick of the lighting, then perhaps it was a Cassin's. I might still be leaning to Western...or did anyone consider a Western x Eastern hybrid? The time of year would certainly be appropriate for any of the western kingbirds to be a vagrant here.

In the meantime, I will wait till the next issue comes out with the puzzle solution...

Jim Bair

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