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We were driving through Sonoita’s grasslands a couple of weeks ago when I encountered a familiar-looking bird perched on a fence rail. One glance through my camera’s viewfinder confirmed my initial impression. The bird was a Cassin’s Kingbird.
Cassin’s Kingbirds are relatively common in southeastern Arizona’s grasslands during the summer months. They coexist there with the much more common Western Kingbird, with the Cassin’s distinguishable by their relatively dark gray heads and the bold white areas on their chins.
However, summer had long since ended when I photographed this individual. The field guides do not suggest that Cassin’s Kingbirds reside year-round in southeastern Arizona. They are definitely seasonal residents.
Typically, Cassin’s Kingbirds head south to their winter residences by mid-October but it was in late November when I encountered this individual.
So, what was it doing in Sonoita, at least a month after its brethren had traveled south?
The short answer is that I don’t know. The bird’s plumage looked a bit ragged to me. Perhaps it had a health issue that precluded migration. Or, perhaps it was a very young bird that was molting into adult plumage and hadn’t quite gotten the message that it was supposed to head south.
One thing I do know: in nature and with wildlife, there are no absolutes. From time to time I encounter birds that are in places where they aren’t supposed to be. The bottom line is that we make up the rules but the birds aren’t necessarily aware of them. And, they might not care, even if they knew.
Images made with a Canon R5, Canon EF 400 mm DO II lens+EF 1.4x telextender, M setting (auto ISO), ISO 320, f5.6 @ 1/2000, +1/3 stop exposure compensation.