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Kingbirds in the Oak Grove Forest Buffer

By Kirk Mantay

Recently, we had the treat of seeing the first significant bird use of our Oak Grove Forest Buffer project, which was planted in 2013 on an eroding slope covered in invasive vines. The bird was an Eastern Kingbird, common in area farms and meadows surrounded by trees, but not terribly common (as far as we can recall) to the Oak Grove boatyard and parking lots. Forest buffer plantings are a great management practice for eroding shorelines, slopes, and field-edges, however their benefits to wildlife, water quality and soil are often not noticeable for years or even decades.

So what were these birds doing? Kingbirds are collectively known as “tyrant flycatchers” which tells us a lot about what habitat needs they might have. Theastern kingbird howardpowelle Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus) in particular likes to seek out tall perches where large insects (junebugs, dragonflies, and moths, for example) are flying just below them. The birds swoop down, catch a snack, and fly back to the same exact perch, where they wait for more food to come fluttering by.   Federation staff observed the birds moving from perch to perch, preferring our now 12’ tall pitch pines and 10’ tall redbuds over other trees. They returned, twice to a nearby mature oak, but it’s late in the year for an active nest. Whether they return next year to establish hunting perches will tell us a bit about how the large-insect population is growing.