[CT Birds] Mystery Kingbird Revealed (Brian Kleinman)

snaketat at cox.net snaketat at cox.net
Sun Jan 13 08:33:43 EST 2008

Sorry the slide scan is not that great.  It was scanned at 1200 dpi (which is as high as my scanner goes), also if I recall I was using 400 speed film which can make the photo a little grainy.  If anyone would like a copy of the original to study I would be glad to send you one.

Now, from memory I recall the Kingbird being very yellow, more so than the photo shows.  I've raised Eastern Kingbirds at Roaring Brook Nature Center and they never had any yellow on their bellies to the extant of this bird.  As I mentioned before I was never satisfied with final ID of this bird.  I researched the hybridization of WEKI/EAKI and could not find much documentation.  I found this interesting article:


This bird was also hanging out with a small flock of EAKI's.


Hi all - 
To clarify my earlier post - I did not see any hint of yellow on my laptop 
monitor, but the accuracy of the slide scan could also contribute to that. 
Hence my comments.   Since it sounds like the people that saw the bird are 
all in agreement that it showed noticeable yellow underneath, I accept that 
as evidence that it was indeed an "unusual" kingbird, and definitely not a 
normal Eastern.    I have never seen a "yellowish" Eastern, nor have I seen 
a photo of one. 
IF an hypothetical WEKI / EAKI hybrid were to show up in CT, mid to late 
August is as good a time as any fall date - I saw my only CT Yellow-headed 
BB at Hammo in August, and banded a Loggerhead Shrike at Hammo in August. 
I don't have any decent WEKI photos with me, so I was trying to see if there 
was any difference in primary extension between EAKI and WEKI, Cassin's, 
Couch's, etc.   The Mystery Bird clearly has the primary tips just reaching 
the end of the undertail coverts, and my Cassin's Kingbird photos from CA 
seem to show that the primaries extend just a little past the UTC, but it is 
REALLY close. 
A second note to the guys with up-to-date Banding Manuals - are there 
differences in primary feather formulae between EAKI / WEKI / etc?    The 
full image of the open wing shot should be sufficient to show any 
differences, and also whether the bird is an adult or immature (usually 
immies have differently-shaped primaries than do adults of the same 
Clay Taylor 
Moodus, CT 
ctaylor at att.net 
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "James P. Smith" <keenbirder at yahoo.com> 
To: <snaketat at cox.net>; <ctbirds at lists.ctbirding.org> 
Sent: Saturday, January 12, 2008 6:41 PM 
Subject: Re: [CT Birds] Mystery Kingbird Revealed (Brian Kleinman) 
> Greetings CT birders, 
> I haven't followed all of this discussion but if I understand correctly 
this an identification challenge concerning a kingbird that wasn't seen well 
in the field, but identified at a later date from one or two images on 
> I'm quite intrigued by the conclusions drawn about this bird and have a 
couple of questions. 
> 1) Where are the Western Kingbird characteristics shown in the images? 
> 2) I'm not aware that hybridization in kingbirds is a particularly common 
event. So what are the odds of photographing a kingbird very briefly in 
mid-August in Connecticut and finding out later that is actually from a 
hybrid pairing? This seems like an  exceptional circumstance to me and 
perhaps requiring more exceptional evidence. I was wondering if there was 
any additional material that would point to this bird being from a hybrid 
> I'm actually in agreement with Clay Taylor here. I think it's an Eastern 
Kingbird. My personal feeling is that it's in fresh juvenile plumage, 
identifiable by the prominent white fringes to the primaries and wing 
coverts and a subtle yellow wash on the lower belly. As Clay indicated 
pretty heavily, there is probably some photographic distortion, thus 
exaggerating the appearance of the yellow and the extent of the gray wash on 
the breast. The throat appears to be in shadow rather than being genuinely 
> The location and time of year would be totally appropriate for a juvenile 
Eastern Kingbird. 
> A couple of years ago I went to look for a Western Kingbird found locally 
by Harvey Allen in South Amherst. I was lucky and met with success, but the 
same spot was also loaded with Eastern Kingbirds. I remember being impressed 
by the appearance of the juveniles, many of which showed a notable yellowish 
suffusion on the lower belly when I was fully expecting the Western to be 
the only yellow bellied kingbird there. 
> One could argue that a hybrid is difficult to rule out but I think it's 
even more difficult to reach the conclusion, from these images alone, that 
one of this bird's parents was a Western. 
> Definitely an interesting and fun exercise. Is there any chance we can be 
pointed to the Western Kingbird characteristics? 
> Best Wishes, 
> James. 
> ----- Original Message ---- 
> From: "snaketat at cox.net" <snaketat at cox.net> 
> To: ctbirds at lists.ctbirding.org 
> Sent: Saturday, January 12, 2008 7:18:40 AM 
> Subject: [CT Birds] Mystery Kingbird Revealed (Brian Kleinman) 
>  Cograt's to Jim and Clay for attempting to ID this kingbird.  Jim you 
were right in calling it a hybrid and Clay you were 1/2 right.  Here is  the 
actual report from the CT Rare Records Committee. 
> CASSIN'S KINGBIRD (Tyrannus vociferans). A single bird thought to be of 
this species was seen and photographed at Hammonasset Beach State Park  on 
19 Aug 1998 (99-12). This report initiated one of the most  interesting 
ornithological investigations in ARCC history. The bird was fairly  well 
studied. The photographs were suggestive at best but actually  provided some 
key evidence for this investigation. The write-ups and photos  describe a 
kingbird shaped bird with fairly yellow under parts; a  distinct and fairly 
broad white terminal band to the tail, a dark breast  set off from the 
yellowish under parts by a narrow white area, a "medium"  sized bill for a 
kingbird, and moderately dark upper parts. Lacking,  or unable to be 
determined were the white malar area typical of Cassin's  Kingbird, a clear 
determination of the number of tail feathers  evident, the certain age of 
the individual, or the true extent of the  yellowish coloration to the under 
> Many committee members felt that this bird showed real possibilities to 
be vociferans but a few were initially troubled by the tail pattern.  The 
white tip seemed to be a bit extreme for Cassin's Kingbird which has  white 
or pale fringing to the tip of the tail and not really a defined  white tip 
as this bird showed. The tails suggested that of an Eastern  Kingbird (T. 
tyrannus), but the yellowish coloration to the under parts  seemed to be 
beyond what reviewers have experienced with the species.  Copies of the 
slides were sent digitally to experts from around the  country and what 
ensued was extremely interesting. Most of these people  felt that the bird 
was not Cassin's Kingbird for the same reasons as  stated above. A few felt 
that the images did not conclusively identify it  as Cassin's, nor did they 
conclusively eliminate Cassin's. The most  important bits of information 
came when the ARCC asked reviewers if they  had any experience with hybrid 
>  Eastern X Western Kingbird (T.  verticalis). Surprisingly, a few people 
had some experience with this pairing and  more importantly, numerous 
extremely experienced ornithologists felt  that these photos suggest what a 
hybrid of this pairing could, in fact,  resemble (V. Remsen, K. Garrett, T. 
Leukering, pers. comm.)! While  identification to this hybrid combination is 
far from provable, the  committee agreed that the bird was not Cassin's 
Kingbird and that  identification of this bird as an Eastern X Western 
Kingbird hybrid could not be  ruled out. 
> The breeding range of Western Kingbird is spreading eastward at an 
impressive rate and recent nestings in Tennessee and in the upper Midwest, 
east of the Mississippi, seem to indicate that hybrid pairings like the  one 
suggested above may become more frequent (Winging It, Aug 99).  Observers 
are asked to carefully note all details of yellow-bellied  kingbird 
> This committee would like to extend special thanks to Louis Bevier, 
Kimball Garrett, Greg Lasley, Tony Leukering, Van Remsen, and Don Roberson 
for their careful analysis and comment on this confusing issue. 
> Thanks for playing! 
> Brian

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