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Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Tyrannus forficatus ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: TYRANNIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

An elegant gray and salmon-pink flycatcher festooned with an absurdly long tail, the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher is the bird to look for on fence wires in the south-central United States. They typically perch in the open, where their long, forked tails make an unmistakable silhouette. The tail proves useful as they expertly catch insects on the wing with sharp midair twists and turns. In late summer and early fall, scissor-tails gather in large, bickering flocks to migrate to Mexico and Central America.

Songs

Scissor-tailed Flycatchers sing a series of sharp notes that sound rather like a puppy playing with a squeaky toy, rising in pitch and speeding up toward the end of the song. They sing from conspicuous perches like trees and wires. Like other flycatchers, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers probably do not learn their songs, but instead use innate cues.

Calls

Their calls include squeaks, chirrs, and buzzy rattles.

Other Sounds

Scissor-tailed Flycatchers snap their bills during fights, and both sexes make a high-pitched whirr with their wings during aggressive interactions.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

Scissor-tailed Flycatchers occasionally supplement their insect diet by visiting berry bushes such as mulberry or hackberry.

Find This Bird

Within their range, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers are one of the most conspicuous roadside birds—easily visible at 65 miles per hour if you keep your eyes peeled along fencerows from the passenger side of the car. Their pale color can make them hard to spot against the sky, but their long tails are eye-catching both when at rest and in flight. During migration in fall and early spring you may see them in very large, noisy flocks. They leave the U.S. in winter, so look for them in spring and summer.

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eBird Occurrence Maps, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

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bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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