E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Wildlife of British Columbia

Tyrannus forficatus (Gmelin, 1789)
Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher
Family: Tyrannidae
Photo of species

© Rick Toochin  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #10113)

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Distribution of Tyrannus forficatus in British Columbia
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Introduction


Status and Occurrence of Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (Tyrannus forficatus) in British Columbia

by Rick Toochin, Louis Haviland and Don Cecile

Read the full article with photos here.

Introduction and Distribution

The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (Tyrannus forficatus) is one of North America’s most elegant and spectacular looking passerine species. It breeds from southeastern Colorado, to southeastern New Mexico, southern Nebraska, southwestern Missouri, western Arkansas, and western Louisiana south through southern Texas (Sibley 2000, Dunn and Alderfer 2011). It also breeds in Mexico in northern Coahuila, central Nuevo León, and northern Tamaulipas (Howell and Webb 2010). There are isolated breeding records as far east as South Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia with additional reports of breeding from Tennessee, Indiana, Mississippi, and Iowa (Regosin 2013). There is also a recent record of a female Scissor-tailed Flycatcher that was paired and bred with a Western Kingbird in southeastern California (Small 1994). The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher is a migratory species that winters from southern Mexico through central Costa Rica, rarely to western Panama (Regosin 2013). There are also regular winter records from southern Florida (Regosin 2013).

The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher is a regular wanderer throughout all of eastern and western North America (Dunn and Alderfer 2011, Regosin 2013). Along the west coast, the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher is an annual species in California and is not on the State review List (Hamilton et al. 2007). In Oregon, there are 18 accepted records by the Oregon Bird Records Committee (OFO 2012), in Washington there are 8 accepted records by the Washington Bird Records Committee (Wahl et al. 2005, WBRC 2012) and there are 4 records for southeastern Alaska (Roberson 1980, Gibson et al. 2008). In British Columbia, the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher is a casually occurring species with over 30 records coming from scattered locations from all over the Province (Campbell et al. 1997, Toochin et al. 2014b, see Table 1). Well suited to life in open grasslands, it eats mostly grasshoppers (Orthoptera) and beetles (Coleoptera), more so than other North American flycatchers (Regosin 2013). Although this species shares many similarities with other kingbirds in the genus Tyrannus, only the Scissor-tailed and Fork-tailed (Tyrannus savana) flycatchers have dramatically elongated tail-feathers (Sibley 2000, Dunn and Alderfer 2011.

Occurrence and Documentation

There is probably no species more sought after by observers in British Columbia than the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher because it is such a spectacular-looking species that can turn up anywhere in the Province. There are 34 Provincial records of this majestic bird with records being reported from almost every region of British Columbia except for the Queen Charlotte Islands (Campbell et al. 1997, Toochin et al. 2014b, see Table 1).

The number of records for the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher in British Columbia is mostly clustered in the months of May and June (Campbell et al. 1997, Toochin et al. 2014b, see Table 1 & 2). This pattern of vagrancy mirrors California where there are over 100 accepted records by the California Bird Records Committee with the bulk of the State’s records coming from these two months (Hamilton et al. 2007). The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher is an annual species throughout California and, as a result, the species was dropped as a review species by the California Bird Records Committee after 1997 (Hamilton et al. 2007).

The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher is a species that breeds early in the spring in the Deep South (Regosin 2013). Birds that are found in British Columbia are either post breeding birds or young birds that are on the move (Regosin 2013). As a result of this fact, most observations of this species are one-day-wonders (Campbell et al. 1997, Toochin et al. 2014b, see Table 1). This species is notorious for being in a location one day and gone the next (Regosin 2013). The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher likes to forage on insects in open field habitats; consequently it is not surprising that many records in the Province come from agricultural areas or airports (Regosin 2013, (Campbell et al. 1997, Toochin et al. 2014b, see Table 1). There are 15 records for British Columbia that come from the interior of the Province (Campbell et al. 1997, Toochin et al. 2014b, see Table 1). These observations are from as far north as the Liard area of the Peace River region and as far to the east as the Creston Valley (Campbell et al. 1997, Toochin et al. 2014b, see Table 1). There are 8 records for the Scissor-tailed flycatcher in the Lower Mainland and Upper Fraser Valley area (Toochin et al. 2014a, Toochin et al. 2014d), with 4 of these coming from the Hope area (Campbell et al. 1997, Toochin et al. 2014a, see Table 1). Like interior Provincial observations, the Scissor-tailed Flycatchers found in the Lower Mainland and surrounding areas have been found in open agricultural habitats or at airports (Campbell et al. 1997, Toochin et al. 2014b, see Table 1). Almost all of these birds were seen for only one day or two at the most (Campbell et al. 1997, Toochin et al. 2014b, see Table 1).

On Vancouver Island, the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher has been found 10 times from all corners of the Island (Campbell et al. 1997, Toochin et al. 2014e, see Table 1). Unlike with other regions of British Columbia, most birds were found along beaches and near the water (Campbell et al. 1997, Toochin et al. 2014b, Toochin et al. 2014e, see Table 1). There are a few sightings in agricultural habitats, but unlike other regions of British Columbia, on Vancouver Island most birds are found flycatching on driftwood near the ocean (Campbell et al. 1997, Toochin et al. 2014b, Toochin et al. 2014e, see Table 1). There is also a record from Port Neville across from the mid-northern section of Vancouver Island, but on the Mainland side of the Georgia Strait (Campbell et al. 1997, Toochin et al. 2014b, see Table 1). There are very few fall records in British Columbia for the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and, to date, no late November records or early winter records (Campbell et al. 1997, Toochin et al. 2014b, see Table 1).

The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher is a species that is obvious and can often be found by non-birders since it is so distinctive. Due to its habit of sitting on wires and out in the open, it is highly likely there will be more records in the Province of this charismatic species in the future.

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
COSEWIC
NativeSNAAccidentalNot Listed
BC Ministry of Environment: BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer--the authoritative source for conservation information in British Columbia.

Additional Range and Status Information Links

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General References


Recommended citation: Author, Date. Page title. In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2021. E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Fauna of British Columbia [efauna.bc.ca]. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. [Accessed: 2024-05-24 9:49:55 AM]
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