Monday, August 08, 2011

Couch's Kingbird vs Western Kingbird

With a Couch's kingbird in my neighborhood,  I wanted to get better at distinquishing the Couch's from the Western kingbird.  I knew that I had western kingbird photographs from an Amarillo trip.  I wanted to compare them side by side.

Western Kingbird

This picture of the western kingbird was taken at Lake Tanglewood in Amarillo.  These birds swarm the area behind lawnmowers catching tons of insects.  In comparing the two species, the western kingbird has a dark, blackish square tipped tail with obvious white outer feathers.  While it is a beautiful yellow bird, the yellow is not as bright as the Couch's kingbird and the top of the breast is more gray.  The beak is smaller and thinner than the Couch's kingbird.  The western kingbird is found throughout the western United States during the summer and winters in Central America. It prefers open habitats of grassland, desert shrub, pastures and even urban areas.  

Couch's Kingbird

This photo of the Couch's kingbird was taken in Central Texas in Hutto.  The Couch's kingbird is a vibrant yellow, much brighter than the Western kingbird. The yellow extends all the way to the neck.  The bill is stouter and larger and the tail is lighter in color and slightly forked but  without the white tail edges of the western kingbird.  The Couch's kingbird has a gray head with a dark eyeline.

The northern range for the Couch's kingbird is the far southern tip of Texas in the Rio Grande Valley and it extends south through the eastern coast of Mexico down through Central America.   It prefers woodland boarders and brusy streamside thickets but is also found in abandoned overgrown agricultural fields and  urban areas. 

This sighting in Williamson County is only the second record for this species in the county. The first sighting was back in 1993.  It is the first record of nesting Couch's kingbirds in Williamson County.  This summer there are nesting Couch's kingbirds in both Williamson County and Bastrop County.  

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