Piratic Flycatcher (Legatus leucophaius)

On September 12, 2003 a vagrant from southern Mexico suddenly appeared at Bosque Redondo near Fort Sumner, NM.  It has since been seen by multiple observers and identified as a Piratic Flycatcher, distinguished from the larger Variegated Flycatcher by its small bill, nearly unstreaked back and less extensive rufous areas on its tail.  It gets its name from the manner in which it nests.  Rather than building its own, it harasses other species of flycatcher until they abandon their nests, then does some remodeling before laying its own eggs.

For more information about this species, see:  http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/legatus/l._leucophaius$narrative.html

We missed seeing it when we stopped by on the morning of September 14
while on our way to Amarillo to visit three of our grandchildren.   On our way back to Albuquerque on September 16, we arrived at about 8:30 AM  to hear that it had been seen only 20 minutes earlier.  Luckily, we re-found it at 9:10 AM and observed it for almost an hour.  The bird ate Russian Olive fruits.  It hovered (fluttered rather clumsily) as it plucked the olives from the tree.  Once it made a brief foray and caught and ate a medium-sized dragonfly.  We did not hear any vocalizations.

Here are several thumbnails to illustrate various plumage features.  Click on them for full-sized views.

Front View=====================Back and Rump========Side View=============Wing Covert Detail

Face-on view of Piratic FlycatcherBack viewSide viewWing Detail

Throat, cheek, chin, all-black bill====Close-up of throat===Contour feathers, back===Under tail===========Back and tail

Throat and billClose up of throatContour Feathers of backUnder tailBack and tail

The latest reference I could find was in Birding,December, 2001.  At that time, it had been seen only four times in North America: 

On an oil rig off the Texas coast, 21-22 October, 2000 (the only other bird identified contemporaneously);
Big Bend National Park, TX, 4 April 1998 (first thought to be a Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher);
Rattlesnakes Springs, NM, 1-7 September, 1996 (first identified as Variegated Flycatcher);
and retrospectively, south Florida 15 March, 1991.

The species ranges from southern Mexico into northern Argentina and southern Brazil.  Jerry Oldenettel believes this bird is the Mexican subspecies. 

Photos taken with Canon A40 digital camera (3x optical zoom) through lens of 77mm KOWA spotting scope (20x zoom).  For more information and pictures of equipment and camera adapter, click here.

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Photos and content Copyright 2003 Ken and Mary Lou Schneider