Tropical Kingbirds (and Swamp Sparrow) at Andree Clark Bird Refuge

Dave Compton
 

I spent some time at the Bird Refuge in Santa Barbara this morning, looking for the bird reported as a possible Couch's Kingbird. There are photos of this bird in eBird, here:


Ron Hirst was present when I arrived, and he pointed a kingbird out to me near the first platform, but closer to the railroad tracks, that did not look like the bird in the above checklist. The bird Ron pointed out clearly had a more ragged tail tip than this bird and lacked that shorter tail feather growing in on the bird's right side. It also seemed to have a subtly slimmer, rather long bill, and appeared to be an adult, based on the evenly fresh greater coverts. I later saw this bird near where I believe the possible Couch's was yesterday, in a fallen tree just west of the second viewing platform as you walk west from the parking lot. After a couple of minutes, this bird disappeared, and I heard a Tropical Kingbird calling back in the direction of the first sighting. As I walked back, I saw two large-billed kingbirds on Myoprum on the first (more easterly) island. One then flew back to shore and was calling frequently. This bird had the same short feather on the right side of its tail that you can see in the photos in the above checklist. The call it gave, very persistently, was the typical twitter of a Tropical Kingbird. 

I can't speak to what was heard yesterday, but the description of the call's "cadence" suggests that it was not the "kip" call of a Couch's that is so distinct from any call of a Tropical. So I wonder if the call might've been the same one I heard, and the same one Cuyler Stapleman recorded a couple of days ago. Anyway, I'm pretty confident that there are two Tropical Kingbirds here, and that neither bird I saw was a Couch's.

While birding near the second (middle) platform, I also heard, and then saw poorly, a Swamp Sparrow that was perching up and moving from shrub to shrub, before disappearing near the shore by the second platform.

Dave Compton
Santa Barbara


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