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First Colorado Record - Tropical Kingbird
Category: Birding at the Chico

 Seventeen-year-old David Tonnessen and two of his younger brothers, Jonathan and Judah, watched a never before seen in Colorado Tropical Kingbird at the far end of the banding station woods on 17 September 2017. As the name implies, this flycatcher is primarily a tropical species, breeding in the U.S. only in SE Arizona and the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas.  Its full breeding range extends south through Mexico, all of Central America and west of the Andes to central Peru and east of the Andes, south to central Argentina. Some of the distinguishing characteristics that separate this tropical tyrant-flycatcher from its more northern congeners, especially Western Kingbird and Cassin’s Kingbird are its large bill and long, slightly notched tail. Couch's Kingbird with one Colorado record is the most difficult congener to separate from Tropical Kingbird. But, Couch's give one-note calls whereas Tropical Kingbirds give high-pitched twittering, metallic calls that are easily recognized.

David used his iPhone to get a recording and the sonogram he produced proved the bird was a Tropical Kingbird. 
Tropical Kingbird is a very common bird in most of its range and easy to find as it perches in the open often on wires or exposed to view on the top of tall trees.  Compared to other flycatchers, it has a specialized diet, primarily chasing large insects in flight.  It will eat fruits as well which might explain why the Colorado bird was seen in a fruiting Russian olive tree although on the 17th of September there were still large numbers of grasshoppers and other insects present.

The photograph of the Tropical Kingbird is one I photographed in San Blas, Mexico. Unfortunately, only the three brothers saw the Chico bird before it flew to the west. Ironically, a second Tropical Kingbird was discovered in NW Colorado a few weeks later. 

Posted by Bill M. on 10/21/2017
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