Monday, May 21, 2012

Edward Scissortail

No doubt one of the coolest Flycatchers in our galaxy, the Scissor-Tailed took Tim Burton's bleak plot device (Edward Scissorhands) and said, "You know what, I'll do that with my tail, and I'll make it look good." Let it be not said that the Scissor-Tailed is not a Flycatcher of its word, for it does indeed have scissor-tail, and it does indeed look very, very good.

Scissor-Tails were my favorite birds when I lived in Dallas, and one of my main goals while visiting last weekend was to get some suitable pictures of these daredevil flycatchers. The rainy conditions made photography difficult at first, but with a bit of luck and perseverance my birding buddy Taylor Butler Posey and I found a cooperative pair of Scissor-Tails at Cedar Hill Lake.

This male, told by his exceedingly long plumes (which, with some straining, you can see extend all the way to the left border of this photograph), took a break from his hunting to stare out at the lake.

We pulled into some parking spaces behind him. While the car helped to shield us from the bird and prevented a total retreat, he did relocate to a bush further down the rail. Unfortunately the tail is obscured, but this did give us the opportunity to see the ruby-red armpits, something few adventurers glimpse and live to tell the tale.

Safe and secure atop his new perch, the male struck a few poses, scratched his shoulders, and just generally enjoyed being the most awesome bird in town.

Here you can see the four primaries on the tail, as well as the red epaulet. These features are much less exaggerated on the female, and the male seemed willing to show off.

The female Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher was very comfortable swinging back and forth on her willow perch. Her tail is not as long as the males, neither in overall length nor relative to her body length, and her epaulets are less red. That being the case, she picked a prettier perch than the male and one with more light. I contend that she is thus the photographically superior specimen!

These were the only two Scissor-Tails I saw in Dallas, so I consider myself lucky to have come away with some photos. We got the soul-satisfying view and I am so glad. It would've felt like a failure to leave Dallas without revisiting these graceful birds.