Friday, May 31, 2013

Western Kingbird

The hundredth is a mystical meridian (those imaginary lines on maps that run between the Earth’s poles). The 100th meridian is the line Peterson drew separating the western and eastern United States, each region with roughly its own suite of birds. In South Dakota, this line runs just east of the Missouri River, and the river marks a transition between eastern and western birds.

John Holden and I came upon our first Western Kingbirds as we approached the 100th meridian. This flycatcher breeds across most of the western United States, as well as southern Canada and Northern Mexico. The bird is even found into western Minnesota, where it is uncommon and local. We found them to be common and widespread in central South Dakota.

Western Kingbirds are aggressive birds that catch flying insects in the air and on the ground. They favor a variety of habitats, but require open areas for feeding and and trees and shrubs for perching. Western Kingbirds can also be found in urban areas. The species has become more common with the breaking of the prairies and consequent planting of trees and bushes (Gamble and Bergin 2012).

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