Troy Moon email@example.com
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.