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Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher


Birders from around the state flocked to see a Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher following a recent sighting near Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge north of Jamestown, perched on utility wires and on windrows in a newly cut alfalfa field. Jamestown attorney and bird enthusiast, Daniel Buchanan, described it as “nearly unmistakable with its long forked tail and salmon-pink belly.”

Scissortails are up to 15" long, almost two-thirds of which is tail, and are very rarely seen this far north. Of his state bird, photographer Bill Horn writes, “Soon after the birds arrive (here in Okalahoma), the males begin their famous ‘sky dance’... After climbing about 100' in the air, the male makes a series of V-shaped flights, then plunges down in an erratic zigzag course often somersaulting while uttering a rolling, cackling call. The performance has been described as ‘an aerial ballet of incomparable grace’...During flight, the bird opens its tail like a pair of scissors and folds or closes the ‘scissors’ when perching. The principal threat to scissortails is poaching,” writes Horn. “A great number of birds have been killed by poachers who wanted only the bird’s tail.”

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm