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Fork-tailed Flycatcher

Tyrannus savana

Length: 10 to 16 inches (dependent on tail length) Wingspan: 15 inches Seasonality: Non-resident in South Dakota
ID Keys: Extremely long tail, males with significantly longer tail, black head and white throat, gray upperparts, white underparts

Fork-tailed Flycatcher - Tyrannus savanaThe Fork-tailed Flycatcher competes with North America's Scissor-tailed Flycatcher for the bird with the longest tail on the continent.  However, while the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher has a native range over parts of the United States, the Fork-tailed Flycatcher is just a vagrant to the United States. They are normally found from southern Mexico, through Central America, and into much of South America.  While many sightings of the species have occurred near the Atlantic coast of the United States, they have been found from coast-to-coast in scattered locations, and have even been found as far north as southern Canada.  Given that Mexican and Central American populations are largely permanent residents, it is thought that birds found in the United States and Canada are from migratory populations in South America.

Habitat: Found in open habitats, including shrublands, savannahs with scattered shrubs and trees, and agricultural land.

Diet: Feeds on insects.  They will also occasionally feed on small fruits and berries.

Behavior: Most often forages by observing from a perch, and flying out to capture insects that it spots. Will also perch while feeding on fruits and berries.

Nesting: The nest of a Fork-tailed Flycatcher is an open cup built of twigs, grasses and weed stems.  The female usually lays between 2 and 4 eggs, and she alone incubates the eggs.

Song: In North America, they aren't often heard. The most common call  is a series of high, sharp twittering and chip notes.

Migration: Considered a permanent resident in part of their normal range, but other populations are migratory.  Given the number of sightings in the United States, the species is obviously prone to wander on occasion away from its normal range.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Fork-tailed Flycatcher sightings

Similar Species: Given the length of the tail, when the species is seen in the United States, it is most likely to be confused with the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.  The two species do have rather different plumages, however.

Conservation Status: Populations are large, spread over a wide geographic area, and they are relatively common in parts of their range.  The IUCN lists the Fork-tailed Flycatcher as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information: 1) BirdLilfe International - Fork-tailed Flycatcher

2) Cornell's NeoTropical Birds - Fork-tailed Flycatcher

3) USGS Patuxent - Fork-tailed Flycatcher

Photo Information: Photo taken by Claudio Timm - November 2nd, 2010 - Rio Grande du Sol, Brazil - Photo licensed under Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.


Click below for a higher-resolution map
Fork-tailed Flycatcher - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Non-resident in South Dakota

Additional Fork-tailed Flycatcher Photos (coming soon!!)