[CT Birds] The Bridgeport yellow-bellied kingbird

Nick Bonomo nbonomo at gmail.com
Mon Oct 27 13:48:50 EDT 2014

Thank you to everyone who chimed in with their observations on the bird.
Dan Rottino was kind enough to share a few more images which indeed look
better for Western Kingbird. That, especially combined with observers'
field notes of the bird's head/throat/chest pattern as pro-Western, I think
(IMO) pretty safely documents this bird as a Wesern Kingbird as initially
found and reported by Tom Murray. Thanks Tom and everyone else who
contributed! It's nice to have this one squared away thanks to a group

That being said, please do report if the bird is seen again. Even better
photos would be nice to see. These birds do move around some. I recall a
WEKI several years back that was found at Stratford Point and ended
up moving across the river to Milford Point. Seaside Park itself and
Pleasure Beach should be checked as well.

Nick Bonomo
Wallingford, CT

On Mon, Oct 27, 2014 at 2:29 AM, Nick Bonomo <nbonomo at gmail.com> wrote:

>     The difficulty of Western versus Cassin's Kingbird identification, in
> particular, is under-appreciated in the East, particularly where birders
> are not used to seeing yellow-bellied kingbirds of any species with
> regularity.
> I understand that the Bridgeport kingbird has only been seen at great
> distances, which makes observation and photography really difficult. The
> only photo I have seen thus far appears equivocal to me - nothing
> convincingly wrong for Western, but Cassin's probably not ruled out. The
> photo is understandably poor given the distance involved and is difficult
> to trust when assessing detail.
> The problem with this ID lies in the reliance of tail pattern that is
> emphasized in the major field guides. What many references do not explain
> is that **Cassin's Kingbirds can have white or whitish edging to their
> outer tail feathers that can contrast surprisingly well with the very dark
> tail.** So, reliance on this field mark alone can lead one to misidentify a
> Cassin's as a Western Kingbird.
> This has happened before. In autumn of 2011 a bird at Cherry Hill
> Reservoir in Massachusetts was initially identified as a Western Kingbird
> based on this feature. Further analysis revealed the bird to be a Cassin's.
> For some background reading and links to photos, click this link and scroll
> down to the Nov 25th posts:
> http://www.surfbirds.com/birdingmail/Group/ID_FRONTIERS?page=3&count=50&year=2011
> A few things worry me about the photo I viewed of the kingbird in
> question. The tail may have a pale tip, white outer tail feathers are not
> really obvious if even visible at all, the back is rather dark olive
> showing little contrast with wings, the wing coverts may be pale-fringed,
> the belly is really intensely bright yellow. I cannot get a good read on
> the all-important head/throat pattern from the photo. Please keep in mind
> that the photo, while useful, is very poor in that it was taken from a
> great distance. Lighting and shadows may be wreaking havoc here. But, in my
> opinion, this bird should be pursued until diagnostic views or photos are
> obtained. Pay particular attention to the distribution of white and gray on
> the head/face/throat/chest.
> This is all based on viewing one poor photo (which is always dangerous)
> combined with personal knowledge of this sometimes tricky identification.
> Good views and photos of the bird would answer our questions and could very
> well reveal a classic Western Kingbird after all! Some of those experienced
> folks who have seen the bird in the field might already know that! (Please
> chime in if you do...and thank you to those who already have!!). But I
> would rather call further attention to this bird until diagnostic images
> are obtained and made public. As of now, a significant public discussion
> regarding details of this bird's plumage from head to tail has not
> occurred. As far as I can tell, only the tail has been addressed. Any and
> all information would be appreciated on this distant and difficult-to-see
> bird.
> Best,
> Nick Bonomo
> Nick Bonomo
> Wallingford, CT
> www.shorebirder.com

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