Couch’s Kingbird – Accepted

1. 31 Dec 1997–21 Feb 1998


Fullerton ORA



Fig. 243, ph., audio, FN 52:258,270








Figure 243. Couch’s Kingbird was widely considered a long shot to reach California until this vocal first-year bird was found wintering in Fullerton, Orange County, 31 December 1997–21 February 1998 (1998-001; Brian E. Small).






Couch’s Kingbird

COUCH’S KINGBIRD Tyrannus couchii Baird, 1858

Accepted: 1 (100%)

Treated in Appendix H: no

Not accepted: 0

CBRC review: all records

Not submitted/reviewed: 0

Large color image: see Figure

This kingbird is resident from southern Texas south along the Atlantic slope of Mexico to northern Guatemala and Belize. Some of the northernmost breeders migrate southward, but the movements of birds in central and southern Mexico are not well understood. West of the Pecos River, a specimen was collected on 2 September 1968 at Big Bend National Park in Texas (Oberholser 1974), and central New Mexico claims two records: Bosque del Apache 23–30 September 1985 (AB 40:153) and the Gila River valley 24 February–10 April 1998 (FN 52:370). The species has also strayed casually to northern Texas and east to Louisiana and Florida. To the north, a 7 September 2001 report from Massachusetts was accepted by the Massachusetts Avian Records Committee (Rines 2002), and a fall vagrant “thought to be” this species was found in Nova Scotia on 16 October 1997 (FN 52:23). An apparent Scissor-tailed × Couch’s Kingbird was photographed in New York during late fall 2003 (McGowan and Spahn 2004).

Considering the Couch’s Kingbird’s extreme scarcity in the West, and limited evidence of long-distance vagrancy elsewhere, the well-documented overwintering of a first-year bird in Fullerton, Orange County, from 31 December 1997 to 21 February 1998, came as a great surprise (Figure 243). Compared with the extremely similar Tropical Kingbird, some observers noted a somewhat shorter, stouter bill and perhaps brighter olive upperparts, but this bird’s distinctive kip, keep, and rolling breer calls were necessary to confirm its identity (see Mlodinow 1998a).