Yet One More Kingbird – A Takeoff Pose I Like A Lot

I apologize for all the Western Kingbird posts of late but I shoot what’s available to me and recently that’s largely been kingbirds.

For the past few days a mated pair of them has been trying to decide on a nesting site and as of yesterday that decision has been made. The female (only the female builds the nest) has been busily hauling in nesting material while the male spends much of his time on a nearby perch, guarding against other birds and potential threats as she does so. Her work ethic is admirable. I timed her yesterday and sometimes it takes her as little as 20 seconds per twig-hauling trip. The male seems to approve…

 

western kingbird 3399 ron dudley

1/3200, f/6.3, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM, canvas added for composition, not baited, set up or called in

This is the male as he left his sentry perch, calling as he did so. Sometimes he’d be gone for a short while but he nearly always returned to the same sagebrush perch which is only about 10′ from the nest. Only the female incubates eggs or broods nestlings so this guy will be living the life of Riley until the eggs hatch when he’ll begin helping to feed the chicks.

Due to the flight posture, partially open bill, light, clean background and natural setting this is one of my favorite kingbird flight shots.

Ron

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Sequence of a Western Kingbird Casting A Pellet

Birds typically eject pellets very quickly and this Western Kingbird was no exception.

 

western kingbird 2485 ron dudley

 1/2500, f/6.3, ISO 1250, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM +1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

Three days ago on Antelope Island I was mostly watching it through my lens rather than photographing it because it had its back to me. Here the bird looked over its shoulder as if to see if I was watching…

 

 

western kingbird 2517 ron dudley

 1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 1250, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

and then it began to retch. In times like this I’m glad for the 10 frames/sec burst rate of the Canon 7D Mark II because it allows me to catch more of the fast action than I used to be able to capture. It happens so quickly that I often don’t even know if I’ve got the pellet in frame as it falls away until I’ve reviewed my images.

 

 

western kingbird 2518 ron dudley

 1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 1250, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

This time I got it.

 

 

western kingbird 2519 ron dudley

   1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 1250, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

In fact I got it twice, though it isn’t very sharp in the second shot.  Different species have varying styles in casting pellets. In some the pellet mostly drops in front of them but Western Kingbirds seem to fling it away from them by violently shaking their heads.

 

 

western kingbird 2528 ron dudley

 1/2500, f/6.3, ISO 1250, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

Immediately after the pellet was ejected the bird seemed to perform a celebratory dance on top of the twig before it flew off.

Birds Of North America Online says that they have “no information” on pellet casting in Western Kingbirds but I’ve photographed the behavior three times over the years. Several years ago I sent them a link to some images demonstrating pellet casting in the species and they asked to use the images on their site, which I allowed, but as of this morning they apparently still haven’t used them and the text still reads “no information”.

Perhaps they’ll change it on their next scheduled update of the Western Kingbird species account.

Ron

 

 

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