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Recently, I made some images of a Western Kingbird sitting on a wire fence in Sonoita’s grasslands. I was pleased with the images: the lighting is nice and the bird posed prettily for me.
It was only when I looked at the second image that I realized that I’d captured something a bit out of the ordinary. Part of the kingbird’s red crest is visible in the image.
Look closely at the second image and you’ll see what I’m talking about. There are a few strands of crimson plumage visible on top of the bird’s head.
The full crest on a Western Kingbird is larger than what is visible in this image. That said, I’m pleased that I captured what I did, because Western Kingbirds almost never display their crests. The crests remain hidden under outer gray plumage nearly all the time. In fact, the kingbirds’ red crests are so rarely visible that the field guides do not show them as identifying markings nor does the most popular guide, “The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America” even mention a crest. I do not mean to slight the guides, by the way. They’re not intended to discuss every bit of a bird’s plumage, but rather, to provide birders with easy to identify field marks.
So, if you spot a Western Kingbird, don’t look for the crest as an identifying field mark, but rejoice if you see it!
Images made with a Canon 5Div, 400mm f4 DO II lens+1.4x telextender, M setting (auto ISO), ISO 1250, f6.3 @ 1/2000.