Birds of Oklahoma

Oklahoma State Bird

  Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

 Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

From its long tail to its famous "sky dance," no other Oklahoma bird is more striking and identifiable than the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. It was officially adopted by the State Legislature May 5, 1951 as the Oklahoma state bird. The common name is derived from its former Latin name-Muscivoria forficata, meaning "flying"-"scissors" and "to devour."  In Oklahoma, scissortails can be found on open prairies, along tree-lined roads, and along roadsides perched on fences, limbs and in isolated trees.  They consume a great number of grasshoppers, crickets, spiders, and other ground-dwelling insects  making them economically important and popular with farmers and ranchers.

Soon after the birds arrive in the state, the males begin their famous "sky dance," a popular site along roadsides during spring and early summer. After climbing about 100 feet in the air, the male makes a series of V-shaped flights, then plunges down in an erratic zigzag course often somersaulting  while uttering a rolling, cackling call.  The performance has been described as "an aerial ballet of incomparable grace." Nesting usually takes place in an isolated tree 7-30 feet  above ground. Often two broods of 4-6 each are raised during the summer.

Scissor-tailed flycatchers are easily identified by their long scissor-like tail, which may reach nine inches in length.  During flight the bird opens its tail like a pair of scissors and folds or closes the "scissors" when perching. The nape of its neck and its back are pearl gray, and the breast is white. Wings are sooty black with a touch of scarlet at the shoulders. The principal threat to scissortails is poaching.  A great number of birds have been killed by poachers who wanted only the bird's tail. 

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