Box Information to North American Flycatchers: Kingbirds and Myiarchus: A Box Information Overview

Now that we’ve all mastered the artwork of figuring out Empidonax flycatchers because of a undeniable box information revealed a yr in the past, it’s time to start out operating on Kingbirds and Myiarchus flycatchers! I jest a bit of, after all, birders won’t ever prevent puzzling over Empids. However Box Information to North American Flycatchers: Empidonax and Pewees unquestionably gave us a framework for id that upped our degree of discourse and research. The following quantity on this three-book sequence is now out: Box Information to North American Flycatchers: Kingbirds and Myiarchus by way of Cin-Ty Lee, illustrated by way of Andrew Birch, and it’s as informative and well-organized and wonderful to have a look at because the Empid/Pewee quantity.

16 species which were recorded in the US are coated: six Myiarchus flycatchers and ten Kingbird (Tyrannus) flycatchers. There could also be a bit on Hybrids. It’s an intriguing mixture of frequently observed species like Nice Crested Flycatcher and Western Kingbird; species with geographic niches like Brown-crested Flycatcher and Thick-billed Kingbird; and authentic rarities, like Loggerhead Kingbird. As with the primary quantity, I used to be stunned to peer the inclusion of a species that has handiest been observed within the U.S. a handful of occasions, handiest to appreciate how principal it’s to have a useful resource that may assist birders differentiate among those very an identical taking a look birds.

Introductory Subject matter

16 species, 190 pages. The information might be described as 16 species accounts wrapped up in introductory textual content. Along with the overall creation to the e-book’s subject material, there are introductions to each and every genus: Myiarchus and Kingbirds (Tyrannus). Those are very important studying, possibly much more principal than the Species Accounts. As a result of, even if those flycatcher teams don’t have the attractive, difficult popularity of Empidonax flycatchers, they are able to be complicated–ask any East coast birder attempting to determine if a vagrant chook with worn tail feathers is a Western Kingbird or a Cassin’s Kingbird. Or a birder attempting to determine if a medium-sized Myiarchus in Arizona is a Nuttings’s, Ash-throated, or Dusky-capped Flycatcher. Lee and Birch strongly imagine that even look-alike flycatcher species can also be recognized the usage of a holistic means. This implies looking at and noting “a mix of plumage and structural box marks, vocalizations, habits, habitat desire, and seasonal timing” (p. 11). The 3 introductions provide a textbook on how to do this.

The introductions communicate first about the way to know if the flycatcher you’re looking at is a Myiarchus or Kingbird, after which what box marks to be aware of–whether or not to have a look at form or shade or trend or measurement, and the way to resolve the all-important number one projection. They speak about the results of age and molt on feathers (that Kingbird query above); what sorts of habits to watch (variations in the place they perch, territorial habits, flocking); the way to pay attention to vocalizations and skim spectograms; the way to practice and resolve habitat; and the way to learn and use distribution maps.

If you happen to learn the primary e-book, you might imagine you recognize all this already and will skip the fabric. That will be a mistake, those are utterly other flycatcher teams with virtually utterly other options to be told. Long past are the plates on eye-ring form, and decrease mandible shade, in are plates on undertail trend (a characteristic I knew used to be principal for warbler id however had no thought used to be additionally important for Myiarchus id), nonetheless principal are plates on number one projection and wing panel distinction. The Habitat segment has been very much higher from the primary quantity, from a half-page of textual content and two artwork to 2 pages of textual content and twelve transparent, pretty, helpfully captioned pictures. It’s certainly one of a number of adjustments made by way of the authors in accordance with readers’ and reviewers’ feedback, and I to find it attention-grabbing that there’s a call for for more info about birds’ environments.*

I specifically just like the comparative plates within the genus introductions. Birch’s brilliantly actual illustrations of each and every species are specified by comparative plates, with Lee’s textual content describing the incessantly delicate variations among them. For Myiarchus, we will learn about comparative invoice measurement and form, crown shapes, frame shade, chest distinction, face distinction, and, after all, undertail trend and shade. Two side-by-side plates painting the numerous figuring out options of the 4 maximum frequently happening Myiarchus flycatchers in the US and Canada–Brown-crested, Nice Crested, Ash-throated and Dusky-capped–in a design that masterfully combines complete frame photographs with close-ups of expenses and tail feathers and undersides of expenses and wings, all with actual explanatory notes. It’s a masterful instance of the way clinical representation can tell and be relaxing to have a look at, and I’d like to have those plates in mini card shape to hold round with me after I seek advice from California.

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The Kingbird introductory bankruptcy is shorter, in part as a result of there are much less important options to review, in part since the comparative plates are inserted during the Species Accounts sections. There are two portions to Kingbirds, a bit on “yellow-bellied Kingbirds” and a bit on “white-bellied Kingbirds.” Organizationally that is smart. And I believe it additionally would make sense to put the 2 plates evaluating 4 yellow-bellied Kingbirds–Sofa’s, Tropical, Western, Cassin’s–originally of that segment, and the plates evaluating Tropical and Sofa’s Kingbird and Western and Cassin’s Kingbirds after their respective species accounts (deficient Thick-billed Kingbird stands on my own). I do want there used to be a observe someplace indicating the place they are able to be discovered, possibly within the desk of contents or a separate checklist of comparative plates and even the Index. Other people seldom use box guides in a sequential means, they search for the tips they would like after which transfer on. So, should you didn’t know those comparative plates existed, you may omit them altogether. I do just like the nifty desk of vocalizations within the Kingbird creation, which presentations which species give top pitched buzzes, brrrs, chEEs, squeaky notes, twitters, and pips. It’s a good way to keep in touch the complicated variety of vocalizations among those species.

Species Accounts

Species accounts range in period from 5 to 8 pages, and the period unusually isn’t associated with the commonality of the species. Fork-tailed Flycatcher is a seven-page chook, in part since the account features a vagrancy chart (every other new characteristic). Each and every account starts with conventional knowledge: not unusual identify, clinical identify, and measurements. A Normal Id segment provides a thumbnail description of the species, together with when it is living in North The united states, common geographic house, habitats, important behaviors, an outline of its bodily look (that could be fairly detailed), and knowledge on subspecies in North The united states. The Vocalizations segment describes the species’ diagnostic and no more diagnostic calls, twitters, chatters, and songs the usage of transliteration and comparisons, additionally describing the tempo and acoustic high quality of the sounds. (Within the Creation, birders are directed to the Macauley Library of Sounds from Cornell College and the Xeno-canto site for exact recordings and are cautioned in opposition to extra use of playback.) The Habitat, Distribution, and Seasonal Standing segment provides very important knowledge on habitat personal tastes, nest description (for species that breed in North The united states), breeding vary, migration patterns and when migration takes position, tendency for vagrancy and the place vagrancy normally happens. The An identical Species segment is going into element about the way to differentiate the species from an identical taking a look species, discussing variations in construction, plumage, and the entire options described within the introductory subject material (which is why it’s so principal to learn it!). The intensity of element can also be spectacular: “The liner of Nutting’s mouth is orange as a substitute of the flesh-color or yellow of Ash-throated” (p. 79).  (There also are very detailed instructions on differentiating Nutting’s tail hooks from Ash-throated tail hooks sophisticated by way of the loss of tail hooks on juvenile Ash-throateds, however frankly I didn’t wish to do this a lot typing.)

Complementing the textual content are spectograms of unique vocalizations, distribution/seasonality map and graphs, and the web page each birder will search for first, the plate of illustrations of the species. The spectrograms are a lot more uncomplicated to learn on this quantity, greater and darker. The variety maps comprise a great quantity of knowledge: breeding, non-breeding, and year-round vary in North, Central, and South The united states; migration routes for many species (together with subspecies migration routes), and vagrancy vary. Just like the vagrancy desk cited above, this can be a new, precious addition to the sequence, particularly to Jap birders like me who would possibly come across many of the species on this information as vagrants. The season abundance charts and vagrancy charts, introduced as bar graphs, give a visualization for when birders can be expecting to peer each and every species; many species have a couple of seasonal charts depicting other geographic spaces–11 for Nice Crested Flycatcher! I do want that the important thing for studying the maps’ colours and features used to be at the inside of entrance or again quilt relatively than web page 43. It’s a moderately easy key, six colours and 3 sorts of strains, however I’ve a porous reminiscence and I stopped up tabbing the web page.

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The Species Accounts plates are instructional and wonderful. Birch has a deft, sleek manner with strains and shapes, so each and every symbol conveys the romance of the chook in addition to id options. I’m specifically inspired by way of his manner with shade. Those flycatchers aren’t probably the most visible putting species within the avian global (with the conceivable exception of the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher), however they do have their very own delicate good looks of their sunglasses of brown, grey, black and yellow and Birch conveys that really well. Species are depicted in aspect profile, three-quarter profile, every so often face-front, every so often in flight. There are close-ups of principal options: for Myiarchus, undertails and undersides of expenses and for some tertial feathers and, sure, mouth lining; for Kingbirds, sketches of number one projection and wings in flight. The explanatory captions are in smaller fonts than within the first quantity, however nonetheless very legible.

As discussed above, there’s a bankruptcy on Hybrids. I used to be stunned, I didn’t know this used to be conceivable, and the authors write that it’s certainly an extraordinary incidence (even though I did to find an editorial a couple of hybridization zone of Western Kingbirds and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers). The textual content discusses the sorts of hybrids which were reported and a chart presentations the combos visually, shade coded for in all probability, very uncommon, and extremely not going (many of the squares). The plate presentations the 3 maximum reported hybrids: Western x Jap Kingbird, Tropical x Grey Kingbird, Western Kingbird x Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. I don’t understand how incessantly this bankruptcy might be used, however I love its inclusion within the spirit of complete-ism.

Group and Again-of-the E-book

Like Box Information to North American Flycatchers: Empidonax and Pewees, Box Information to North American Flycatchers: Kingbirds and Myiarchus is well-organized and designed. There’s a luxurious in devoting an entire e-book to 2 genera, there’s room for clean area if a map or textual content doesn’t fill the entire web page, readable fonts, and full-page separations of sections. Those web page dividers come with artwork by way of Birch, every other new characteristic of this quantity. Extra impressionistic than his clinical illustrations, the artwork are an interesting addition, one thing we don’t ordinarily to find in a box information and maximum welcome.

Customers would possibly use the Desk of Contents or the Index to find introductory chapters and Species Accounts. The Desk of Contents checklist Species Accounts by way of textual content and chook symbol, a layout that might be useful to birders who aren’t certain of the identify of the chook they’ve observed and wish to establish. The Index helpfully lists id options like “shade” and “primaries” in addition to chook names (not unusual names handiest). The 3-page Bibliography lists books and articles on chook id and distribution standing, together with chapters from Birds of the Global, all in impeccable quotation taste. It’s lacking one merchandise, the bankruptcy on “Yellow-bellied Kingbirds” in Higher Birding: Guidelines, Gear & Ideas castle the Box by way of George L. Armistead and Brian L. Sullivan (PUP, 2016), a twelve-page article with comparative pictures.

The checklist of Helpful Internet sites remains to be brief however has one noteworthy addition–Surfbirds. This site, one of the crucial oldest birding presences at the Web, is now the archive for “updates to all volumes of the present Box Information to Flycatchers of North The united states.” An improbable thought! will not be probably the most refined site at the Web, however it’s unfastened and possibly will proceed to provide its mixture of shuttle stories and id articles (together with a few of Lee and Birch’s earlier articles).


Authors Cin-Ty Lee and Andrew Birch are birders and birding writers and artists with day jobs, which makes the newsletter in their two (and the coming near near 3rd) books on North American flycatchers an astounding fulfillment. Cin-Ty Lee is Harry Carothers Wiess Professor of Geology, Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences within the Division of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences at Rice College, Houston, the place he “investigates how our planet has advanced with time, from the private portions of the Earth’s mantle to the continental crust and to the ambience” in addition to birding on campus and writing cool birding notes that he every so often presentations at the social media web page previously referred to as Twitter. Andrew Birch is well known within the Los Angeles birding neighborhood (I had the excitement of assembly him a number of years in the past at Silver Lake Reservoir, the place he confirmed me the place to search for the long-staying Lucy’s Warbler), the place he is likely one of the leaders of the Los Angeles Birders crew. He’s a co-illustrator of Box Information to the Birds of the Center East (1996) and has illustrated many different magazines and articles. Lee and Birch have co-authored box id articles on birds that aren’t flycatchers, together with dowitchers, loons, pipits, and orioles, for Birding and Texas Birds Annual.


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Box Information to North American Flycatchers: Kingbirds and Myiarchus by way of Cin-Ty Lee and Andrew Birch is an outstanding id information, leading edge in its focal point on holistic id introduced thru detailed, readable textual content; clinical illustrations; diagrammatic displays of vocalizations and geographic distribution, and explanations of the way to put all of it in combination to get a hold of an id. The authors have advanced at the first quantity on this sequence, Box Information to North American Flycatchers: Empidonax and Pewees, in plenty of techniques, together with increasing knowledge on habitat and vagrancy, making improvements to the clarity of the spectograms, and growing abstract comparability plates. Many of the birds on this quantity are discovered within the west, however I believe Jap birders will to find it helpful too. Possibly extra helpful since Kingbird vagrants incessantly gifts knotty id questions and we Jap birders incessantly don’t even know the place to start out, what options to have a look at as opposed to outer tail feathers. Narrow, transportable and attractively priced, they are able to be used within the box or subsequent on your pc as you read about pictures, they’re additionally amusing to flick through.

Those two books are the one id box guides that focal point solely on flycatchers. There might be a 3rd e-book within the sequence. Cin-Ty Lee tells me that they don’t have a reputation but, however the e-book might be extra technical, have a big layout, and can come with the entire plates of the primary two quantity in addition to pictures. It is going to quilt the entire species of the primary two books plus Phoebes, Kiskadees, Elaenias, our one Tyrannulet and some other North American flycatchers in the market. It’s one thing to stay up for. In the meantime, we have now those two volumes. I noticed an Jap Kingbird lately in an area park, simply identifiable by way of its patterned black, grey, and white frame and brief flights on the tippy tops of the bushes. Quickly the Empids will arrive–Least, Willow, Acadian, every so often Alder and Yellow-bellied Flycatchers. And the Jap Picket-pewees. I wish to reread the information to Empidonax and Pewees, brush up on my Empid id. After which in September I’ll reread e-book two’s segment on yellow-bellied Kingbirds and Myiarchus flycatchers ahead of my shuttle to California. I wish to be ready, I wish to know my Western from my Tropical from my Cassin’s from my Sofa’s, my Ash-throated from my Dusky-capped. There’s no magic wand for flycatcher id, nevertheless it’s excellent to understand that there’s a well-thought out, fantastically illustrated technique.


*Cin-Ty Lee kindly replied my questions in regards to the 3rd quantity and adjustments from the primary quantity on the ultimate minute. Thanks!


Box Information to North American Flycatchers: Kingbirds and Myiarchus
by way of Cin-Ty Lee; illustrated by way of Andrew Birch
Princeton Univ. Press, April 2024 (U.Ok. June 2024)
flexibound, 200pp. measurement: 5 x 8 in., illus:  56 shade + 18 b/w illus. 17 maps. 51
ISBN: 9780691240640


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