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Great Kiskadee

Pitangus sulphuratus

If you're near the east coast of Mexico, or in the far southern tip of Texas, Great Kiskadees are a dime a dozen.  In South Dakota?  In WINTER!??! It's not a sight you see every day, or would ever EXPECT to see!  However, in 2015, a family who farms near Volga, South Dakota, had noticed a very unusual bird over the course of the summer. They suspected it was something unique, but they weren't birders, and didn't realize the significance. In November, they reported the unusual bird, and immediately their lives changed! A Great Kiskadee!  In NOVEMBER!  In South Dakota!  There had never been a Great Kiskadee sighting in South Dakota before, much less in winter.  In fact, there had only been 3 or 4 sightings of Great Kiskadees north of the state of Texas, EVER, and the closest bird to South Dakota was seen in central Kansas!  The family started playing the role of very gracious hosts to all of the birders from the region who trekked to their farmstead to see the bird. I made the trek in early December (this is December 2nd), and the bird was still doing well, despite a foot of snow on the ground.  What is even more amazing is that the family said that at one point during the summer, there were two or maybe even three Kiskadees that were using their farmstead!!

The family did everything they could to help the bird.  They built a shelter on a prominent perch the Kiskadee liked to use. They put out food for the bird, not knowing what it might eat. They tried putting out catfood, and even a little container of water with minnows from a bait store.  Alas, Kiskadees are not meant to survive a South Dakota winter! In January, the family found the body of the Kiskadee.  It's still not clear why the bird (and potentially two others) decided to trek up to South Dakota and try to spend the winter there, but he certainly provided a thrill to birders who had a chance to see him.

Great Kiskadee - Pitangus sulphuratus

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