Tuesday 27 October 2015

Interesting kingbird in Hamilton

On October 25, Gordo and Tammy Laidlaw were walking at Princess Point in Hamilton when they discovered and photographed an unusual flycatcher. Initially they thought it was an Eastern Kingbird and that evening photos were posted to the Facebook group "Ontario Birds". This created quite a bit of discussion as in some photos the bird looked like a Fork-tailed Flycatcher. It was extremely worn, missing its tertials and having some broken feathers, complicating the identification.

The bird was not seen on October 26, but this morning (October 27) Daniel and Garth Riley relocated the bird near the area where it was first observed. Several birders were able to see and photograph it, myself included. I've posted some photos here for the benefit of those who may not be subscribed to the Facebook group "Ontario Birds".

I am not about to write an extensive piece on its identification right now, but after today's encounter I am leaning towards a very worn, young Eastern Kingbird. Additional commentary may appear at a later date! Eastern Kingbirds generally vacate the province by early September, with occasional individuals trickling by until the end of September and occasionally into October. It is quite unusual for an Eastern Kingbird to still be present in Ontario on October 27, though there have been some later records. The ID is very much up for debate, and some well-respected and credible birders in Ontario and North America have weighed in thinking it is a Fork-tailed Flycatcher.

For those wondering, the bird was seen to roost near the pedestrian bridge crossing Chedoke Creek at Princess Point in Hamilton this evening, after being seen throughout the day. The bird was very weak and may be on death's door. I am sure that the upcoming weather in the next few days will be very hard on it, and I would be quite surprised if it makes it through. At times it was even attempting to eat berries.

Without further ado, here are some photos that I took today of the bird.

This photo, taken by Richard Poort, is the only decent photo that I've seen which shows the underwing pattern of the bird. I took one as well, but it is not much more than a blur.

photo taken by Richard Poort

Barb Charlton took this photo yesterday afternoon, which shows well the white tips to each of the rectrices (tail feathers). In my mind, this is a feature that should not be present on Fork-tailed Flycatcher, but I have no field experience with young Fork-tailed Flycatcher, and there are very few photos online. Could this just be an artifact of the extensive feather wear on the bird?

photo taken by Barb Charlton

A very interesting bird, and commentary is always welcome!


Brandon Holden said...

EAKI imho. Great bird for study.

Lily said...

Please let us know what happens in the next few days.

Anonymous said...

Juvenile eastern kingbird

David Welch said...

I would be interested in knowing more about why people think this is not an Eastern Kingbird.

Unknown said...

Like many flycatchers Eastern kingbirds eat fruit in their winter range I have seen them behaving like waxwings in the tropics. Brian Henshaw.

Josh Vandermeulen said...

Thanks Brian. Several others have said similar things - I had no idea!