A western kingbird in Holmes County

A western kingbird in Holmes County

Eastern and western kingbirds are regularly found where you would expect based on their names. They are similar birds in many ways. However, although western kingbirds nest in the western half of the country, their eastern relative ranges all the way to Northwestern United States and north into Canada. The westerns barely reach the border.

When the nesting season is over and insects are hard to find, both species of kingbirds head south. However, westerns winter mainly from Southern Mexico to Costa Rica. They are quite common in Western Nicaragua and Costa Rica but only rarely further south into Panama.

Eastern kingbirds fly over Central America and winter in South America, all the way down to Bolivia, where we lived for four years. During the northern winter, eastern kingbirds were very common, filling the parks near us in Santa Cruz every evening.

Small numbers of western kingbirds winter to the east, as far as South Florida, and some can be found at times in the Atlantic coast states. Sometimes they show up in other eastern states, as recently happened in Holmes County.

The western kingbird that has been seen by many birders at or near 8418 TR 654, Fredericksburg, has been seen mainly in the morning and evening. Where it goes during the middle of the day is unknown. Birders are welcome at this location. I think this bird was found on Sept. 24 and has been seen at least through the 28th. Call the Bobolink Bird Hotline for more information at 574-642-1335.

It’s no surprise kingbirds don’t stay around during the winter. Their diet is made up almost entirely of insects. For that reason they nest where and when insects are readily available and spend the rest of the year in areas that also have insects. I wonder why eastern kingbirds fly all the way to South America while western kingbirds choose Central America.

With climate change happening, perhaps more kingbirds and other flycatchers will shorten their migration, staying further north in areas that have a good food supply during the winter. Perhaps that also is happening with western kingbirds remaining in the Southern United States.

That has already happened with some birds in Europe, where several species that used to winter in North Africa are now finding suitable wintering grounds in Southern Europe. This makes life easier for them by reducing the risks involved in long-distance migrations.

Other recent birding reports mention on-going shorebirds at Funk Bottoms Wildlife Area and a laughing gull and a Franklin’s at Pleasant Hill Lake. By now the gulls may be gone. Warblers are still being reported but not in large numbers.

Recent arrivals include yellow-bellied sapsucker, dark-eyed junco, white-crowned and Lincoln’s sparrows, common loon, and ruby-crowned kinglet. Two red-necked phalaropes were found at the Wakarusa sewage ponds, not far from our place in Goshen, Indiana.

As I write this column, it is still hot outside, but soon the coolness of fall will arrive, along with more birds heading south.

Good birding.

Email Bruce Glick at bglick2@gmail.com or call 330-317-7798.

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