Big Country Audubon Society

Stories from September, 2006

Great Kiskadee in Abilene


If you’ve been following the Sightings section, you know we’ve been seeing and hearing a very rare bird for this area. It is the Great Kiskadee. A bird of the Valley, you know the Valley in far South Texas where Brownsville, Harlingen, McAllen, and other Valley cities are. Whenever we get a photograph of this bird, we’ll be sure to post it for all to see. In the meantime, the link above will take you to a site with pictures and the bird’s call. I was the first to hear the bird while out birding the Cedar Creek area in NE Abilene on Thursday, Sept. 14. Then the bird put in an appearance and as soon as I could get my lower jaw off the ground I started calling my birding friends to come verify what I saw. A couple of others have been to the area and heard the bird but not seen it until Saturday morning when John English and I went back to the creek. John used to live in the Valley (he actually grew up there) so he is very familiar with kiskadees. The bird put in an appearance so he no longer thinks I’m crazy. The kiskadee was not cooperative for a mug shot but tomorrow morning is a few hours away.

Then I noticed the neighbor (whose house backs up to the creek) in his backyard so I went to visit him about the bird. What he told me is unbelievable but I’ll let the experts evaluate his story.

According to this man, this bird has been coming to his house for many years. When pressed to give a number, he said ten years. The bird comes and drinks his hummingbird nectar. He thought it was an oriole of some type. This man thoroughly enjoys the outdoors so he’s got pretty good observation skills. When I asked him to describe the bird (my only prompt was that it had a lot of yellow on it) he proceeded to describe it with a black and white striped head. What kind of call have you heard it make? He said, a “weeee” type of call. When I asked him if he had ever heard it say, “kis-ka-dee” he had not.

What’s odd, I remember a couple of years ago talking to this man and he was telling me he had a very colorful bird that came to his house with a big black eye line and black on the head, a rusty and yellow-colored bird; could I tell him what it was. I remember being totally baffled because I was thinking of the local birds, not something from the Valley. (sorry for the aside)

He further stated the bird shows up “some time in the spring.” But he’s uncertain if it leaves in the fall or hangs around during the winter. And he said the bird doesn’t come every year to feed off his nectar. But you know, if you’re not really watching for this, you may miss some of the action.

I found a large grassy nest in a huge magnolia tree. (West Texas, yeah, right.) The kiskadee was in this tree this morning, skulking around in it. We watched it fly from this big lone tree back to the riparian area about fifty yards away.

If what this gentleman says is true (and I have no reason to doubt him) this bird has been in Abilene, probably breeding because I don’t think kiskadees live as long as 10 years. The length of time would indicate the kiskadee is migratory and has been imprinting Abilene’s location on their young because why else would the sightings continue this long? When I asked him if he ever saw it feeding young or bringing young to his hummingbird feeder he said no. The bird I saw a couple of days ago was definitely an adult; it had a large yellow crown patch with flecks of black in it. I’ve been reading that juveniles lack the yellow crown patch (Birds of North America Online). When I asked him if he had ever seen more than one bird at a time, he said no. Just seeing one bird at a time.

I definitely plan to monitor this bird/location to discover what is going on. Any advice or comments will be greatly appreciated. This man was thrilled that someone was taking an interest in this bird. Unbelievable or Fascinating?

And birding in Abilene this week? Forget about it until the next post. We’ve got a kiskadee to photograph!

Sept. 16, 2006 – Great Kiskadee Update

The Great Kiskadee continues in NE Abilene. This morning John English and I first heard the bird and then saw the bird. Anyone wishing to look for this bird, please contact us through this web site and I can give more detailed directions. We will continue to monitor this bird/location and attempt to get its picture for all to see.

Sept. 15, 2006 – Great Kiskadee – Lake Kirby

The Great Kisdadee continues in NE Abilene. It does not say “kis-ka-dee” but utters its call note “kreah.” I heard the bird start calling shortly after sunrise (7:20) but it had stopped calling by 8 a.m. I am still attempting to get pictures.

At Lake Kirby:

Best bird(s) of the day:

  • Sora 1 (heard but seen Monday 9-11 by Larry Millar)
  • Tricolored Heron, 1 juvenile (also seen Monday by Larry Millar)
  • Solitary Sandpiper, 1
  • Least Sandpiper, 1
  • Greater Yellowlegs, 1
  • Willet, 1 (seen Monday by Larry Millar)
  • Snowy Egret, 5
  • Great Egret, 2
  • Harris Hawk, 1, (seen Monday by Larry Millar)
  • Yellow-headed Blackbird, 5 (seen by Gary Hunter on Thursday, 9-14)


  • Pied-billed Grebe, 1 (fos for Kirby)
  • Cooper’s Hawk, 1 (fos for Kirby)
  • Green Heron, 2
  • Mallard, 4
  • Turkey Vulture, 12
  • Eurasian Collared-Dove, 1
  • Red-winged Blackbird, 30

Sept. 14, 2006 – Great Kiskadee NE Abilene

Unbelievable! Great Kiskadee along Cedar Creek in NE Abilene! I’ll be going back on Friday morning to look for this bird again and try to get a picture of it. Anyone wishing to join me, please drop me a note and I’ll contact you.


  • Great Horned Owl, 1
  • Cooper’s Hawks, 2
  • Baltimore Oriole, 1
  • Wild Turkey, 9

Sept. 12, 2006 – Abilene State Park

Best bird(s) of the day:

  • Black and White Warbler, 1, first-fall male
  • Yellow Warbler, 1
  • White-eyed Vireo, 2, vocalizing
  • Summer Tanager, 2, all-red males


  • Eastern Phoebe, 3
  • Carolina Wren, 8
  • Northern Cardinal, 10
  • Carolina Chickadee, 7
  • Black-crested Titmous, 6
  • Bewick’s Wren, 2
  • Great Blue Heron, 1
  • Belted Kingfisher, 1
  • Black-chinned Hummingbird, 1 imm. male
  • Red-shouldered Hawk, 1
  • Red-winged Blackbird, 18
  • Blue Jay, 2
  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker, 2
  • Downy Woodpecker, 1 (fos, wintering species)
  • Black Vulture, 12
  • Turkey Vulture, 14

Sept. 11, 2006 – Dyess AFB

I birded Mesquite Grove GC and the best bird(s) of the day was a Northern Waterthrush, Yellow-throated Vireo, and an immature Little Blue Heron that was half white–half blue. The waterthrush was in the diversion ditch, the vireo was east of Totten Pond behind housing, and the heron was in Totten Pond.


  • Northern Waterthrush, 1
  • Nashville Warbler, 1
  • Yellow-throated Vireo, 1
  • Painted Bunting, 1
  • Ash-throated Flycatcher, 1
  • Little Blue Heron, 1
  • Solitary Sandpiper, 2
  • Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, 22
  • Hummingbird species: 3


  • Eastern Bluebird, 11: They are beginning to form their winter flock.
  • Great Horned Owl, 1
  • Carolina Chickadee, 1
  • Chimney Swift, 21
  • Barn Swallow, 12
  • Blue Jay, 7
  • Northern Cardinal, 4
  • Great Blue Heron, 2
  • Green Heron, 2
  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker, 4
  • Wild Turkey, 8
  • Lark Sparrow, 4
  • Bewick’s Wren, 2
  • Northern Mockingbird, 5
  • American Crow, 1
  • Black-crested Titmouse, 5
  • Swainson’s Hawk, 2
  • House Finch, 34
  • House Sparrow, 8

Sept. 10, 2006 – Lake Kirby


  • Least Sandpiper (3)
  • Spotted Sandpiper (1)
  • Willet (1)
  • Black Tern (40)
  • Forster’s Tern (2)

At a south Abilene residence:

  • Wilson’s Warbler
  • Rufous Hummingbird, since mid-July

Are We There Yet? (Early September)


Pick a rainy, drizzly day to go birding and you will be rewarded! This shorebird called a Sanderling was found last week at Lake Fort Phantom grounded by the rain. You remember, our Labor Day that was rained out? Although found worldwide, Sanderlings are very rare inland. They breed in the high arctic tundra and migrate along the Pacific or Atlantic coastlines. This juvenile could winter as far south as Chile or it might stay on the gulf coast.

This week’s group of pictures focuses on migration again. Baird’s and Stilt Sandpipers showed up at Waste Water along with some other shorebirds; Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are sipping nectar voraciously at feeders; and a few winter residents are beginning to show up (such as Sharp-shinned Hawks, American Kestrels and ducks). If you’re interested in following the most recent sightings, check out our newly created Sightings section. It’ll give you a good idea of what is currently in the area.

As for the Sanderling I imagine his parents were tired of answering the question, “are we there yet?” And they secretly flew south when junior wasn’t looking, leaving junior on his own to figure out this thing called migration.

Sept. 9, 2006 – Waste Water

The best bird of the morning was a Barn Owl, flying along the dikes at 7:40 a.m. It flew within 10 feet of the car! (drool). I watched it for another 15 minutes (camera ready) as it continued to hunt but it never came close enough for a picture.


  • Pectoral Sandpiper, 1
  • Baird’s Sandpiper, 12
  • Semi-palmated Sandpiper, 4
  • Least Sandpiper, 90+
  • Stilt Sandpiper, 5
  • American Avocet, 1
  • Black-necked Stilt, 4
  • White-faced Ibis, 16
  • Solitary Sandpiper, 4
  • Lesser Yellowlegs, 8
  • Greater Yellowlegs, 18
  • Cattle Egret, 40+
  • Yellow Warbler, 1
  • Oriole sp. heard, 1
  • Yellow-headed Blackbird, 1
  • Bank Swallow, 2


  • Mixed flock of Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal, eclipse plumage, 60+
  • Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, 34
  • American Crow, 1
  • Loggerhead Shrike, 3
  • Lark Sparrow, 9
  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker, 4
  • Red-tailed Hawk, 2
  • Western Meadowlark, 1
  • Northern Bobwhite, 5
  • Chimney Swift, 6
  • Barn Swallow, 40+
  • Cliff Swallow, 12
  • Brown-headed Cowbird, 30+
  • Red-winged Blackbird, 70+
  • Eurasian Collared-Dove
  • Killdeer, 6
  • Great-blue Heron, 1
  • Northern Cardinal, 1
  • Blue Jay, 2
  • Turkey Vulture, 3

    Birds of a Feather Flock Together


    Big Country Audubon had their Annual Meeting Thursday, September 7, at Oakwood Trails. We all had a great time visiting with each other, eating, birding, eating, electing new officers, eating, and well, you get the point. Thanks to all who brought food, drinks, and desserts! And thanks to all who’ve worked so hard to make the past year remarkable. Special thanks goes to Lorie for her three years of excellent leadership; to Dolores for her newsletter work; to Charline for keeping us in the black; to John for his ability to continually bring us closer to the birds; to Joan and Kathy for picking great birding spots; to Esta for keeping the public informed; and to Jay for creating this web site.

    I’m looking forward to another great year.