Foam Lake Birding No. 75

Down here in Texas the rainy and cool weather continues in sharp contrast to previous years when the sun shone and temperatures were summer-like. On the bright side, this kind of weather makes it easy to stay indoors and spend the time necessary to write these articles. However, there are nice days also, and we take full advantage of them. For example, on February 15, 2010, we got our first really good look at a Tropical Parula Warbler – an uncommon south Texas specialty.
In this article I am going to go back to a family of birds that I have covered before – the flycatchers. (See article #30 for a detailed discussion on flycatchers). I will cover two closely related and extremely similar birds that are also south Texas specialties – the common Couch’s Kingbird and the uncommon Tropical Kingbird. In appearance both birds are very similar to the Western Kingbird that occurs in Saskatchewan. (In fact, a pair of Western Kingbirds nested and raised young in our back lane in Foam Lake in the 1980s). Essentially, all three species have dark brownish grey topsides and yellowish undersides. So, how does one tell the Couch’s and the Tropical apart when the two are so similar that, unless they vocalize, they cannot be safely separated in the field, and there is as much variation between individuals within the same species as there is between species? This is how. The Couch’s makes rather shrill sharp sounds typical of most flycatchers while the Tropical twitters. The calls are very distinctive and are used by birders in identification.
I have included a photo of each species so that readers can appreciate the great similarity between the two. Even in full colour the birds cannot be distinguished from each other; in black and white there is absolutely no difference. Both birds were positively identified in the field by their vocalizations by an expert birding guide from the area. After they were identified, I took the pictures. In other words, they are what I say they are.
This is the 75th article in the series and I would like to remind readers of my website for these very same articles. The big advantage of following these articles on the website is that the pictures are in full colour and there are more of them. Moreover, I often edit the articles (usually in inclement weather) by adding or changing photos and by adding or changing text. It is free, so feel free to log on at any time. Enjoy.
The web address is as follows: