This week I have two birds for you. Some birds, like this week’s pair, can be quite exciting for an amature ornithologist like me! Birders have a name for birds we’ve never seen before: “lifer”. And this week’s birds were both lifers for me!

The first bird this week is a Western Kingbird, which is considered common in all of the western US during their breeding season. I heard and saw these birds for several weeks beginning in May. Every morning, as I got in my car to go to work, I would see and hear them in my neighborhood. But I never had my camera handy!

Finally, a few weeks ago, I was watching the birds in my back yard when I saw a flash of yellow high in a neighboring tree. Initially I thought it might be another kind of bird, but that yellow meant it was the Kingbird! Thankfully I was prepared, because these birds don’t sit still for very long.

The Western Kingbird is a flycatcher, so they dart about as they chase bugs through the air. Or, sometimes, they’ll hover for a moment and then dive to the ground to catch a bug there. This flight pattern makes it really difficult to catch them in the air. When they do eventually settle down, they can be found perching on fences and wires.

The other bird this week was an exciting find, because it’s a rare bird to see in Rio Rancho. This Bronzed Cowbird made its way to one of our feeders, which was a surprise because they don’t typically make their way too far north of the US-Mexico border. When it does move north, it usually doesn’t make it much past the southwestern corner of Texas.

I wasn’t sure what kind of bird it was, so I snapped a quick photo and then uploaded it to Merlin, a phone app from the Cornell Ornithology Lab. This app allows me to identify unfamiliar birds using photos and/or sounds. It’s not always one hundred percent accurate, but this time it hit the nail on the head!

The Bronzed Cowbird is a very dark bird with a bright red eye, and is about the size of a small pigeon. It typically eats bugs from the ground, but this bird was very interested in the black oil sunflower seed we had in our feeder. An interesting fact that I learned about this bird is that they are a brood parasite. This means that the bird will lay eggs in another species’ nest and then leave the young to be raised by this other species. They will even poke holes in the other species’ eggs to give their own young a better chance of being raised by the “host” birds.

There is always something to learn in backyard birding!

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