Visitor from the Plains

Two days ago, while driving southward through Longboat Key, Florida, I observed a male scissor-tailed flycatcher, sitting on a power line.  Though I have seen this bird many times across the Great Plains, this was the first time I encountered one in the Sunshine State.

Indeed, scissor-tailed flycatchers are common summer residents of the Southern Plains, from Kansas and western Missouri to Texas and northern Mexico.  While the great majority winter in Mexico and Central America, a relatively small population travels to South Florida and the Bahamas for the colder months.  This latter group is known to wander widely during their autumn migration, turning up almost anywhere in the Southeastern U.S.

Frankly, this elegant flycatcher, sporting a long, forked tail, seems to be more at home in Florida among the other colorful species of subtropical wetlands.  Yet, he is better known across the hot, semiarid terrain of the Southern Plains, where trees are sparse and water usually arrives in widely spaced torrents.