Scissor-tailed flycatcher

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Scissor-tailed flycatcher
Tyrannus forficatus on branch.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Tyrannidae
Genus: Tyrannus
T. forficatus
Binomial name
Tyrannus forficatus
(Gmelin, JF, 1789)
Tyrannus forficatus map.svg

Muscivora forficata

The scissor-tailed flycatcher (Tyrannus forficatus), also known as the Texas bird-of-paradise and swallow-tailed flycatcher, is a long-tailed bird of the genus Tyrannus, whose members are collectively referred to as kingbirds. The kingbirds are a group of large insectivorous (insect-eating) birds in the tyrant flycatcher (Tyrannidae) family. The scissor-tailed flycatcher is found in North and Central America.

Latin name and etymology[edit]

Its former Latin name was Muscivora forficata. The former genus name Muscivora derives from the Latin words for 'fly' (musca) and 'to devour' (vorare), while the species name forficata derives from the Latin word for 'scissors' (forfex). The scissortail is now considered to be a member of the Tyrannus, or 'tyrant-like' genus. This genus earned its name because several of its species are extremely aggressive on their breeding territories, where they will attack larger birds such as crows, hawks and owls.


Adult birds have pale gray heads and upper parts, light underparts, salmon-pink flanks and undertail coverts, and dark gray wings. Axillars and patch on underwing coverts are red.[2] Their extremely long, forked tails, which are black on top and white on the underside, are characteristic and unmistakable. At maturity, the male may be up to 15 in (38 cm) in length, while the female's tail is up to 30% shorter. The wingspan is 15 cm (5.9 in) and the weight is up to 43 g (1.5 oz).[3] Immature birds are duller in color and have shorter tails. A lot of these birds have been reported to be more than 40 cm (16 in).[citation needed]

They build a cup nest in isolated trees or shrubs, sometimes using artificial sites such as telephone poles near towns. The male performs a spectacular aerial display during courtship with his long tail forks streaming out behind him. Both parents feed the young. Like other kingbirds, they are very aggressive in defending their nest. Clutches contain three to six eggs.

In the summer, scissor-tailed flycatchers feed mainly on insects (grasshoppers, robber-flies, and dragonflies), which they may catch by waiting on a perch and then flying out to catch them in flight (hawking). For additional food in the winter they will also eat some berries.

Their breeding habitat is open shrubby country with scattered trees in the south-central states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas; western portions of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Missouri; far eastern New Mexico; and northeastern Mexico. Reported sightings record occasional stray visitors as far north as southern Canada and as far east as Florida and Georgia. They migrate through Texas and eastern Mexico to their winter non-breeding range, from southern Mexico to Panama. Pre-migratory roosts and flocks flying south may contain as many as 1000 birds.[4]

The scissor-tailed flycatcher is the state bird of Oklahoma, and is displayed in flight with tail feathers spread on the reverse of the Oklahoma Commemorative Quarter. Professional soccer team FC Tulsa features a scissor-tailed flycatcher on their crest. The scissor-tailed flycatcher is also displayed in the background of the current license plate.

In eastern Arkansas and western Tennessee, USA there is a hybrid zone between Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and Western Kingbirds, which are sympatric, ecologically similar sister species.[5] Both these species have simultaneously expanded their breeding ranges eastward over the past 50 years



  1. ^ BirdLife International (2016). "Tyrannus forficatus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T22700500A93780461. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22700500A93780461.en. Retrieved 11 November 2021.
  2. ^ Godfrey, W. Earl (1966). The Birds of Canada. Ottawa: National Museum of Canada. p. 250.
  3. ^ Sibley, David Allen (2000). The Sibley Guide to Birds. New York: Knopf. p. 338. ISBN 0-679-45122-6.
  4. ^ "Scissor-tailed Flycatcher". All About Birds. Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
  5. ^ Worm, J.R.; Roeder, D.V.; Husak, M.S.; Fluker, B.L.; Boves, T.J. (2019). "Characterizing patterns of introgressive hybridization between two species of Tyrannus following concurrent range expansion". Ibis. 161 (4): 770–780. doi:10.1111/ibi.12674.

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