Date: 9/29/19 10:46 am
From: Robert O'Brien <baro...>
Subject: [obol] Re: Tropical vs. Couch's Kingbirds in Oregon (& elsewhere)
How often are Tropical Kingbird *calls* reported to eBird?

In the previous post I said it would be tedious to determine. That's true,
but then I realized I had already done most of the work after downloading
the eBird data a year or so ago. In eBird there are about 302 Tropical
Kingbird reports for Oregon up to about a year ago. Many of these would be
of the same bird by different observers. This could be determined but I
didn't do that (yet anyway).
Of these, 12 report the call. I determined this by searching for the words
'call' or 'twitter' in the observer's comments.
These 12 verbatim comments are below.

Now of course you can't assume that all the other reports were of silent
kingbirds, but it does illustrate the advantage of reporting the call if
you hear it.
Now I don't think anyone is claiming that a (large, significant,
important?) fraction of these are Couch's. But, how would you know?
As to reports in non-eBird documentation, undoubtedly there are some,
perhaps many. But finding them is problematical and unlikely to be carried
out by anyone, least of all me.

But, by the way, it is, I believe, fine to report any and all bird
sightings *ex post facto* to eBird. You don't need to report only 'recent'
And (I don't know a lot about this), some other databases have indeed been
uploaded to eBird, especially if the process could be automated.

Here are the 12 call comments out of ~302 reports Bob
OBrien Carver OR
SPECIES COMMENTS including ‘call’ or ‘twitter’ (The latter will include
One in 8' pine about 15 ft from me along fenceline, the other at top of a
spruce. Both had bright yellow belly and breast, white throat. Calling
between both birds, single note brief trill. Both actively feeding. These
birds have been reported by others at this location during the last few

Reported on OBOL. Hawking insects from low to middle height perches. Deeply
notched dark--brown tail, no white edging. Calls as in Sibley app.

got a nice photo of the two together on a branch. Very likely the same pair
that has been sporadically seen at this location since the begining of

Photos available upon request (both myself and Tom got some). This is
presumably the same bird that many have been seeing at this location.
Vocalizing freely with characteristic metallic twitter. Obvious kingbird
morphology and behavior, sitting on various treetop perches and flycatching
before returning to perch. Forked tail and long heavy bill and yellow
breast evident.

Found today by Janet Lamberson, who told me of it. Thank you, Janet! About
2 minutes after I stepped out of the car, I heard the characteristic
chittering call of this species. As I jogged toward the sound, I saw two
birds in the air and realized it was the kingbird being chased by a
Sharp-shinned Hawk! The Sharp-shin came within a couple of feet and just
missed. The kingbird escaped and flew about 200 m to a perch atop a tall
conifer and continued chittering. Apparently it was really worked up
(understandably so!) -- and likely had been scolding the hawk in the first
place when I'd initially heard it.

Seen by other local birders, including Linda Perkins, who gave me a call
yesterday PM letting me know where this bird was hanging out. I couldn't
make it yesterday, but arrived today about the exact time she saw it
yesterday and there it was, sitting on the wire when I drove up.

Seen by others previously at this location recently. Watched it fly from
the east into the trees behind the pizza shop calling.

Yellow-bellied Kingbird, much larger bill than western. Rattling call
different than western. Photo.

Heard his trilling call across the pond near the parking lot first- I was
on the northern side opposite. Used my scope to locate him on roadside
wires. Distant view but could detect his yellow breast, large bill and
characteristic kingbird perching style. Wasn't able to relocate when I
returned to parking lot. Seen here previously a couple weeks ago.

Photos plus heard calling giving the zippy trill which we are very familiar
with. Video can be seen at:

Photos plus heard calling giving the zippy trill which we are very familiar

Heard and seen. Twittery call diagnostic (as opposed to the "pip" of a
Couch's). Primaries appeared to be of uneven length which also suggests
Tropical rather than Couch's, which tend to have evenly spaced primaries
(Couch's).--Seen in shrubbery on the south side bank of river downstream
from bridge.

Heard and seen, photos to come. Twittery call.

On Fri, Sep 27, 2019 at 10:48 PM Robert O'Brien <baro...> wrote:

> I find this discussion useful as it hearkens me back to ~35 years ago when
> I photographed a stakeout Tropical Kingbird along the Nehalem Loop road.
> It was a horrible photograph but somehow still appeared in the seasonal
> section of American Birds. Embarrassing. I did hear several times the
> characteristic twittering calls and submitted a brief note to that effect
> to the Oregon Birds Records Committee pointing out that the call eliminated
> Couch's. At that time, as now, Tropical was just the default species, but
> it was still a review species. Oddly I got a return note from OBRC saying
> my submission
> had not been accepted. Oh well, that was then, this is now; but I'm happy
> to see the subject raised.
> I don't have much to add to the ongoing discussion in the way of opinion,
> other than a few factual items..
> 1. eBird does list Tropical/Couch's as a possible entry so nothing
> prevents an eBird 'ambiguous' record.
> 2. Surely if the twittering calls are heard that should be described in
> the eBird report for Tropical. If not mentioned at all one could only
> assume the bird was silent. I didn't check all the Oregon Tropical records
> to see how often the calls were reported, a tedious task. But checking
> could be done..
> 3. OBRC _could_ reopen this/these species for review. Up to them, of
> course.
> 4. The farthest NW 'duality' eBird record is from Arcata Bottoms, not all
> that far from Oregon. The authors of this report go into great detail in
> the field and in the report, attempting to document the
> possibility/likelihood of a Couch's among Tropicals.. It makes interesting
> reading vis a vis the current discussion:
> Still they
> conservatively list it as Tropical/Couch's.
> 5. I didn't check all the more southerly dual records, but those I did
> check didn't attempt to separate the species, often just separating them
> from Western/Cassin's
> 6. I was unable to find any guidance from eBird online discussing how to
> report these species.
> 7. Here is one eBird report of a Couch's near Fresno CA. The call is
> mentioned but not described but may be in other reports. Apparently this
> bird was around a long time.
> 8. The first accepted California record (Los Angeles,1998) is mentioned
> here:
> 9. As Alan has stated, eBird is not the be-all, end-all (yet) for avian
> distributions, but it surely is the only easily accessible one, a
> tremendous resource.
> Bob OBrien Carver OR

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