I think vagrant birds – birds a long way from their normal seasonal range – are very interesting.
In the case of this Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, its normal, summer home range is Texas & Oklahoma with a little spill over in other parts of south central US. But, here this bird is in the Piedmont area of Georgia, USA, just east and a little south of metro-Atlanta.
Vagrants are very interesting to many birders. Me included.
First, they offer the chance to get a Lifer checked off on eBird without traveling far, for example not having to travel to the Hill Country of Texas (although I do recommend going there) for a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.
They are also opportunities for the curious – Why is this bird in Newton County, GA? During migration, did he get pushed off course by a storm or is there something faulty in his inherited migration abilities and map (has a mental disability)?
Storms lead to lots of one-time vagrants. They get blown to a place and fly back to their normal haunts or its a one-way trip because they can’t survive in the new habitat. In the southeast every tropical storm or full-fledged hurricane brings out the twitchers (a birdwatcher whose main aim is to collect sightings of rare birds) on inland lakes.
But, in some cases, perhaps like this case, an individual simply flies to to a wrong place, or maybe better described as perhaps just a different place. It could be faulty orientation wiring. The complex magnetic, quantum physics entanglement (https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/birds-quantum-entanglement/) could be wacky. Or, their inherited map is faulty. Or, they have a bad case of wanderlust (Cattle Egrets). Or, some combination and as a result some birds simply windup in out-of-range locations. (Personally, I like the idea that some are just born wanderers and explorers, but that is getting real close to anthropomorphism transference 🙂 ).
They are vagrants. Certainly the first year. But what happens when the same mental faults keep bringing them back to a hospitable place?
It is appearing this is the case for this Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. He, or another individual, has spent the summer in the same area for the last couplathree years. Which just so happens to be prime habitat for other flycatchers and insectivores. There are many Eastern Kingbirds in the same area and they are in the same family as Scissor-taileds, Tyrannidae This patch of old pasture, now overgrown grasslands, is very hospitable for insectivores.
This leads to an interesting line of thinking: Maybe the ‘weird ones’ in a species population are actually scouts for range expansion. Range expansion that could help the ‘normal ones’ that follow these pioneers survive a catastrophic shock to the old home range. Maybe like climate change.
Maybe the weird ones lead the way