Living Bird Magazine
Scissor-tailed FlycatcherTyrannus forficatus
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Tyrannidae
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.More ID Info
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.
- Tijereta Rosada (Spanish)
- Tyran à longue queue (French)
Scissor-tailed Flycatchers occasionally supplement their insect diet by visiting berry bushes such as mulberry or hackberry.
- Cool Facts
- The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher forms large premigratory roosts in late summer, with up to 1,000 birds in one flock. They often roost near towns, perhaps taking advantage of the large trees as roosting sites.
- The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher uses many human products in its nest, such as string, cloth, paper, carpet fuzz, and cigarette filters. One study of nests in an urban area in Texas found that artificial materials accounted for 30% of the weight of nests.
- A member of the kingbird genus Tyrannus, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers resemble other kingbirds in behavior, voice, and morphology. Only one other Tyrannus species—the Fork-tailed Flycatcher—has a dramatically long tail.
- Scissor-tailed Flycatchers tend to wander widely on their way to and from the wintering grounds, a habit they share with Fork-tailed Flycatchers and Tropical Kingbirds. During spring and fall they may show up almost anywhere in North America, as far north as British Columbia and Nova Scotia.