As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Sunday 17 June 2018

'That's his tree now': Pensacola birder finds rare and flashy African songbird

Troy Moon
Published 11:00 p.m. UTC Jun 5, 2018

If you see a pretty little songbird with a long tail plume doing a sexy dance in your backyard, take a picture. And tell the other birds to hide their nests.

Because it might be a pin-tailed whydah, a small songbird native only to sub-Saharan Africa — a rare sighting in Escambia County and across the United States.

But for about three weeks, a conspicuous male pin-tailed whydah has been seen in the backyard of retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. James E. Rickmon and his wife, Juanita Rickmon, who live off Burgess Road near Woodham Middle School. Juanita Rickmon believes she's also seen a less-flamboyant female pin-tailed whydah in recent weeks.

"They're extremely rare,'' said Lucy Duncan, an avid birder and field trip coordinator for the Francis M. Weston Audobon Society in Northwest Florida. "We started hearing about sightings of them about seven or eight  years ago, but it doesn't happen often. They don't belong here."
What makes the pin-tailed whydah rare?

The species is a brood parasite, meaning they don't build their own nests, instead laying eggs in the nests of other birds, primarily finches. The pin-tailed whydah will leave the eggs and the chicks to be raised by the host bird. The male of the species has a long black tail that grows even bigger when breeding. Its bill is bright red and it has a black back and crown. The female of the species have less distinctive markings and no tail extension. 

While it is a native African bird, it has been introduced to parts of Portugal, Puerto Rico, Singapore and Southern California, but is not seen as established in Florida, with only sporadic sightings. 

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