RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas – The day starts early for the scissor-tailed flycatchers nesting in a blooming retama at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.
The female chirps repeatedly as she checks her chicks at dawn. There are four young in the nest, and before flying off to catch the first insects of the day, she seems content to take a few moments in the quiet of the early morning to simply perch and chirp bonding with her brood.
As the day rapidly brightens the deliveries begin in earnest. The male is the first to arrive with a tasty insect. Both sexes are almost identical, but the male has a slightly longer tail. The distinctive forked black and white tail is more than half the bird’s length. When the male departs four hungry mouths remain open and pointed skyward ready for the next meal.
The youngsters don’t have to wait long, as within minutes the next tidbit is airlifted in. Lingering at the nest for a few moments, the female examines her offspring making sure all is well in the swaying nest. Satisfied every thing is as it should be she takes another look around before lifting off in the summer breeze in search of another meal for her hungry babies.
The parents stay busy all morning delivering insects, and sometimes both arrive simultaneously, and for a moment the entire family is together.
The adults have no trouble snaring bugs and feed the week old chicks every few minutes…and of course what goes in must come out.
The young will fledge around 14 days and by then they will have no doubt consumed literally thousands of insects.