Fork-tailed Flycatcher – Accepted

1. 04–08 Sep 1992


Bridgehaven SON



Figs. 242, 358, 359, ph., AB 47:146, cover of WB 25(3), Heindel & Patten (1996)


Fork-tailed Flycatcher – Not submitted

late summer 1883


Santa Monica LA



Toppan (1884)








Figure 242. California’s only accepted Fork-tailed Flycatcher was present at Bridgehaven, Sonoma County, 4–8 September 1992. This photo was taken on the day after its discovery. The worn wing coverts may be retained juvenal feathers, which would indicate a first-fall bird (1992-240; Shawneen E. Finnegan).



Figure 358. A 4 September 1992 field sketch of the Fork-tailed Flycatcher at Bridgehaven, Sonoma County (1992-240, Keith Hansen).

Click image above for enlargement.



Figure 359. The Fork-tailed Flycatcher is rare almost to the point of myth in the West. This photograph of the only one ever recorded in California was taken on 4 September 1992, the day of its discovery (1992-240; Nancy Conzett).








Fork-tailed Flycatcher

FORK-TAILED FLYCATCHER Tyrannus savana Vieillot, 1808

Accepted: 1 (100%)

Treated in Appendix H: yes

Not accepted: 0

CBRC review: all records

Not submitted/reviewed: 1

Large color image: see Figures

Populations of this charismatic flycatcher comprise four subspecies (Zimmer 1937). Subspecies savana breeds across much of South America and migrates as far as extreme northern South America during the austral winter. The paler-backed T. s. monachus is localized and somewhat nomadic, breeding from Veracruz and Tabasco east and south to Venezuela and southern Surinam, with some southward movement during the boreal winter. Subspecies sanctaemartae is resident in the Caribbean lowlands of Colombia and extreme northwestern Venezuela, and T. s. circumdatus is resident in the Amazon basin of Brazil (Traylor 1979). Adult males of all four subspecies are most reliably diagnosed by patterns of emargination of the outer primaries.

Although the localized and long-distance movements of Fork-tailed Flycatchers are poorly understood, nominate birds are among the most energetic southern vagrants. As of 1999, 120 had been recorded in the United States and Canada, all but about 20 having occurred since 1970 (Lockwood 1999). Most records come from the Northeast in autumn, and presumably the great majority of these involve nominate birds, which are hypothesized to occasionally fly northward instead of returning to their southerly breeding grounds (McCaskie and Patten 1994). Records from the Southeast during winter and spring may involve monachus that overshoot their wintering grounds (McCaskie and Patten 1994, Lockwood 1999). A specimen (ANSP 35423) labeled simply “New Jersey” appears to be referable to sanctaemartae (Bond 1940, McCaskie and Patten 1994), but there is good reason to suspect mislabeling of the specimen (Lockwood 1999). Monroe and Barron (1980) questioned its subspecific identification, but apparently did not examine the specimen. The northernmost Fork-tailed Flycatcher records are from northern Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nunavut (Abraham 2003). West of the Rocky Mts., the only records in addition to California’s are from Idaho and Washington (ABA 2002). A report from British Columbia (NAB 56:94) is considered unconfirmed (BJ 11:199).

California’s first Fork-tailed Flycatcher, a first-year bird most likely referable to nominate savana, was present 4–8 September 1992 at Bridgehaven in Sonoma County (Figures 242, 358, 359). With regard to age, McCaskie and Patten (1994) stated: “Brown visible on the rump and uppertail coverts and extensive brown fringes on the wing coverts on the recent California bird…[suggest] that it was a nominate bird in its first ‘spring’ (our fall), having hatched during our winter.” See also Appendix H.

Toppan (1884) reported a specimen allegedly taken at Santa Monica, Los Angeles County, in “late summer” 1883. The specimen could not be located even a decade or two after the claim, leading Joseph Grinnell (1915, Grinnell and Miller 1944) to question the report.


[ROSE-THROATED BECARD Pachyramphus aglaiae
(Lafresnaye, 1839) – see hypothetical section]