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Fertile Hybrid Scissor-tailed Flycatchers / Western Kingbirds in Memphis, Tennessee

Sex In The City –Bird Hanky-Panky

Western Kingbird and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Pairings in Memphis, Tennessee

When I started finding and documenting the Western Kingbird and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers nesting here in TN-AR-MS, I never thought it would come to the following:

A few years back, I discovered the first nesting of Western Kingbirds in Tennessee at Memphis, also the first in Mississippi just south of here and the first eastern Arkansas loose colony at Blytheville near the Mississippi River. I found the first nest of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers in Shelby Co, TN on President’s Island and this is where the sordid “tale of tails” began.

At the time I first saw the female of the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher pair on president’s Island, the bird just did not look right, in fact at a distance I thought I had found another Western Kingbird. After the adult male Scissor-tail showed up at the nest, I kind of passed it off as a female with slightly aberrant plumage and coloration. She never did look exactly like the numerous females seen in their breeding areas to our west in central Arkansas. This nest was located just a mile or so from the first bunch of Western Kingbird nests at the Steam Plant in Ensley Bottoms. This pair of Scissor-tails hatched four young, which looked pretty good for Scissor-tails but having slightly different tails, and two having a lot of bright yellow on their bellies. This odd female was replaced last season by a normal plumaged bird and now this year another or the original odd female has appeared, vying for the male’s attention. Evidently the hybrid ran the normal female away and she is now setting eggs with the male Scissor-tailed FC in attendance.

The first nesting Western Kingbirds at the TVA Steam Plant in Ensley bottoms grew to a loose 6 nest colony but has since dropped to only two nests last year and apparently only one this year. All participants at this location appeared to be full-blooded Western Kingbirds.

Since then, I’ve found another colony in northwest Memphis, nine miles from the original, a second loose colony of Western Kingbirds that grew to at least 4 nests last year and late last season a female type Scissor-tailed Flycatcher appeared. She also did not fit the pattern of a typical Scissor-tail and I found her on a nest closely attended by a presumed male, Western Kingbird. This nest produced 5 young that exhibited traits of both parents and were fed by both birds.

This past week, at this north Memphis site I found two pair building nests, both pair consisted of male Western Kingbird and a hybrid type female, each female looking pretty much like the young of the previous year’s mixed pair.

Recently, about 3 miles from this site, I located 5 Western Kingbirds in a new area where last year Mike Todd and I had found a Western Kingbird. There appears to be two nests so far at this location. All five of the birds seen so far at this new site appear to be full-blooded Western Kingbirds.

On June 30, 2007, I located another group of 3 Western Kingbird nests in an industrial/warehouse section of southwest Memphis. Making 4 nesting colonies of Western Kingbird nest sites in the city.

2008 Update - as of July 4th there are now 10 plus active Western Kingbird nests at 5 location spread across Memphis with a couple of more pairs that I've not located suspected nests. Two of these nests are tended by 2nd generation hybrid females with Western Kingbird males, both nest have produced young. The hybrid female Scissor-tail on President's Island has returned and is attending 4 fledged young and again with no help from the male.

April-2009, The Frayser hybrid female in back on location with her male Western Kingbird now for her third season.

In 2010, there were 22 nests of Western Kingbirds found at 6 locations within the Memphis city limits.

I’d be interested in any info of other mixed pairings of these species.
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S-T Flycatcher - 8-1-04 female
S-T Flycatcher - 8-1-04 female
S-T Flycatcher 7-24-04 Pesidents Is female at nest.
S-T Flycatcher 7-24-04 Pesidents Is female at nest.
Scissor-tailed FC  - male Pres. Is. 6-11-05
Scissor-tailed FC - male Pres. Is. 6-11-05
Scissor-tailed FC - Western Hybrid female -Presidents Is. 5-20-2007
Scissor-tailed FC - Western Hybrid female -Presidents Is. 5-20-2007
Western-Scissor-t - female 8-6-06
Western-Scissor-t - female 8-6-06
Western Kingbird - Frayser - 6-2-06
Western Kingbird - Frayser - 6-2-06
Western-Scissor-t -  young 8-6-06
Western-Scissor-t - young 8-6-06
Western K - Scissor-tailed Hybrid young tail 7-29-06
Western K - Scissor-tailed Hybrid young tail 7-29-06
Scissor-t FC - Western - male at nest 5-13-07
Scissor-t FC - Western - male at nest 5-13-07
Western Kingbird - male tail
Western Kingbird - male tail
Scissor-t FC - Western Kingbird north Memphis -hybrid -adult 2007
Scissor-t FC - Western Kingbird north Memphis -hybrid -adult 2007
Scissor-t FC - Western Kingbird hybrid - second female - 2007
Scissor-t FC - Western Kingbird hybrid - second female - 2007
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