Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Marblehead Kingbird awaits ID

Having just returned from a trip to chase rarities, Kirtland's Warblers, Henlow's Sparrows, Lark Sparrows and the like, I had no idea we would find an unusual bird in my old hometown. 

Kingbird: definitely not an Eastern, or a Great Crested Flycatcher.
 Maybe it was my new "birding burka" that brought me good luck, or maybe I was tuned-in to the rarity mode.  Whatever it was, I noted this bird looked different.  It was definitely not one of Ohio's regular flycatchers.

Marblehead Lighthouse, Ohio's most photographed location.
We had just arrived back in Marblehead after three days of hard, black-fly bitten, mosquito-ridden, tick infested Michigan birding. Once we landed, what did my friend Michael Godfrey and I do?  Go birding.

We were hoping for some cuckoos and thought the lighthouse might be a good potential location.

What is that in the dead limbs of a Basswood tree?

Instead, I noted a flycatcher,that was "too big" and "too bright".  I asked Michael to take a look; he's birded everywhere, man. (Insert Johnny Cash song here.)

 Michael's first impression was a Western Kingbird.  
"Cool," I said. "We don't have those here."

The speculation on Facebook has created quite a stir and honestly I cannot say "what" I saw at this time, except- that ain't no Eastern Kingbird.

So here you go, arm-chair birders: enjoy this series of totally un-touched photos. I have not adjusted color, I have only cropped their size.  We will get Michael Godfrey's video up as soon as he has processed it

 But as we studied the video in the field and took photos, we could not see the distinctive white tail-linings a Western Kingbird should have.  But the end of the tail did appear flattened... like a Western.

Except when the tail looked notched.

I thought it looked liked it had an eye-stripe, (so what do I know?) but no tail stripes.  Could they be "worn off"?

We are awaiting the experts opinions, as I have little to no experience with these birds.  I only know this is not a bird  regularly seen in Ohio.

Happy birding!  I am wishing you a rarity, too.


  1. To me the bird looks like a Western Kingbird. The bird appears to have small outer white tail stripes on the fourth photo. This bird also shows a lack of a notched tail which also points towards Western. The website I used is

  2. Hope to be able to send you a video clip this evening
    for you to post.


  3. Thanks Michael- as always, it is an honor to bird with you, Sir.

  4. I agree that the bird looks like a Western Kingbird, based on the photos presented so far. To me the bill does not look overly large, thus good for Western but maybe not so for Tropical/Couch's.

  5. Looking over discussions of this bird on the facebook page and elsewhere online, it seems like all of the folks familiar with "non-Eastern" kingbirds unanimously agree this is a Western Kingbird.

    Perhaps you could edit the post up near the top to mention that it's a Western Kingbird? :-)

    Great find! :-)