King of Country Roads

| 8/27/2015 10:48:00 AM

Connie MooreAlong a quiet country road with sunlight-dappled shade, a black-jacketed bird sits regally on his fence. This is his home, for summer at least. Now though, he is contemplating a move to southern regions.

As he ponders the move, a movement in the air a distance from him catches his eye. He is off in a flash, swooping in to snap up some of a swarm of gnats hovering over the ripening soybean field.

As he swings back through the air to his perch, his mate joins him and also his children of this year. They will stay together as a family until relatives join them for a large flock sojourn to their southern, wintering grounds in South America.

This Eastern Kingbird is dressed out in his black tuxedo, white vest and red crown patch. He is truly a king among flycatchers. His call however has been compared to an electric fence buzzing in the hot summer air. If humans would discount his musical abilities, they have only to hear one of his sweet, phoebe-like spring songs to realize he is multitalented. His ability to swing through the air is most amazing, too.

It is this flight agility coupled with a fierce, aggressive behavior that enables the kingbird to defend his territory and nest during his summers here. He is able to keep much larger birds such as crows and ravens from devastating his nest that he and his mate build out in the open. Kingbirds can also recognize and eliminate cowbird’s eggs placed in their nest by hopeful female cowbirds who have no interest in raising their own offspring. Kingbirds do not tolerate anyone slacking in parental duties.

As August dwindles down to a few hours of late summer scents of corn ripening in the fields and roadside lilies, the kingbird and others of his kind gather on high telephone lines, cell towers and barn roofs, waiting patiently for their instinct to signal a departing date.