En­thu­si­asts flock to see rare bird in park

Fly­catcher, na­tive to Latin Amer­ica, likely con­fused mi­gra­tion path.

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - By Pam Leblanc ple­blanc@states­man.com CHASE A. FOUN­TAIN / TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE Con­tact Pam Leblanc at 445-3994.

A lo­cal birder has spot­ted a rare trop­i­cal bird in the Austin area dur­ing the Travis County Audubon So­ci­ety’s an­nual Christ­mas bird count.

She­lia Har­gis recorded a fork-tailed fly­catcher, na­tive to Cen­tral and South Amer­ica, on Satur­day near McKinney Falls State Park.

The bird is rarely seen so far north. Texas Parks and Wildlife bi­ol­o­gist Mark Klym at­trib­uted the sight­ing to a con­fused mi­gra­tion path.

“The fork-tailed fly- catcher usu­ally comes from Ar­gentina to Mex­ico at this time of year,” Klym said in a news re­lease. “Ev­ery once in a while one of them seems to over­fly that north­bound mi­gra­tion and end up in Texas.”

Fe­males usu­ally mea- sure about 12 inches; males are about 15 inches. De­spite their length, the bird weighs only about an ounce, al­low­ing it to glide thou­sands of miles.

Bird­ers are flock­ing to the park from around the state (and as far away as Illi­nois) to see the bird, said park ranger Am­ber Con­rad.

“This bird is rel­a­tively small,” Con­rad said. “It’s like a lit­tle cot­ton ball with some black string hang­ing off of it for its head and its tail.”

State bird­ers have doc­u­mented only 25 sight­ings of the fork-tailed fly­catcher in Texas dur­ing the past 150 years.

A spe­cial pro­gram show­cas­ing the bird is sched­uled for 10 a.m. Satur­day at the Smith Vis­i­tor Cen­ter. The pro­gram is free and open to the pub­lic af­ter park ad­mis­sion.

The park is at 5808 McKinney Falls Park­way. For more in­for­ma­tion, call 243-1643.

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