The Fork-tailed Flycatcher showed up last Wednesday November 17, 2010 at 7:30am in Cove Island Wildlife Sanctuary, Stamford, Connecticut and birders from all over have been streaming in to visit with this rare vagrant from South and Central America. As it turns out, humans were not the only ones interested in the fancy flycatcher with the pretty long tail and contrasting black and gray and white coloration. Some of the locals were not as thrilled to see the rare visitor as the numerous visiting birders continue to be.
Northern Mockingbirds, themselves relative newcomers to Connecticut, now consider Cove Island Sanctuary their home as it provides food and cover enough to support several pairs for most of the year. However, if you look at the world and Cove Island Sanctuary in particular, from the Mockingbirds point of view, this interloper from out of the country with all the fancy feathers is like a relative from out of state who stays too long and is eating everything in the pantry. All in all, I’m sure that the flycatcher would rather be in South American than eating Crab apples and grasshoppers with pushy Northern Mockingbirds as neighbors.
So this afternoon we observed the mockingbird deliberately and with apparent aggressive intentions approach the flycatcher that was using a favorite high perch in a crab apple tree to hawk for late fall grasshoppers. The accompanying photo sequence shows the key points of one interaction. The mocking bird makes its approach and then with a stunning burst of speed lunges at the flycatcher that was minding it’s own business. The flycatcher takes off, and as it is no slouch in the air, makes it’s own aggressive counter move to chase off the mockingbird. The interaction was over in seconds. Of note is the distinctive yellow head patch visible for split second on the flycatcher as it turns the tables on the mockingbird. The undaunted flycatcher returned to the high perch and turned it’s back on the departing mockingbird.