The Elusive Knautta Bird

So, how does the old Samuel Clemens quip go – “reports of my death are greatly exaggerated”.  Although, I will admit, I had always remembered it as “rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated”.  I prefer my version, apparently it was just a derivation.  Hell, even the original quote seems mistaken as Mr. Twain scribed it as “the report of my death was an exaggeration”.   Apparently watching the Jeopardy GOAT competition is starting to impact my post research ha!  Way off base here, yet the theme still applies – I’m still breathing, yet admittedly woefully behind on my posting.  I distinctly get the feeling from the look on today’s featured feathered friend that I have been judged and found lacking.

Likely a Tropical Kingbird found at Estero Llano Grande State Park January 2018

Truth is I decided to start the New Year on a mission we’ll simply call “Ron owes me bigly”.  An endeavor that benefited him almost as equally as it negatively impacted me.  Say it with me everyone, B I G L Y!  Unfortunately, the details of said undertaking will remain a secret for sometime longer in order to give Ron time to reveal the fruits of our labor.  It was the theme of a secret that led to the decision to go with Mr. Yellowbelly for my post.

Likely a Tropical Kingbird found at Estero Llano Grande State Park January 2018

Hit the jump to read more about this mysterious bird!

This series of shots comes to you from a trip to Estero Llano Grande State Park back in January 2018.  A few days ago that didn’t sound so bad – thanks to the turning of the yearly digit that went from only one year ago to two years ago – sigh.  If it is any consolation, one of my New Year’s resolutions will likely be to try harder to get this year’s tinning featured sooner.

Likely a Tropical Kingbird found at Estero Llano Grande State Park January 2018

Back in 2018 was our first visit to Estero.  Having explored the Texas Gulf Coast on previous birding trips, Linda and I decided to check out the birding opportunities along the southern border.  “Famous rivers for 600, Alex.  Defines the southern border of the Lone Star state,  What is the Rio Grande River?  Right you are sir!”  Not one of the safest places to bird for sure, however, if you are into birding you MUST forget about the border concerns and experience some of the most fantastic birding locations you will find in the US.  Estero is one of those numerous locations available in the Weslaco area.

Likely a Tropical Kingbird found at Estero Llano Grande State Park January 2018

Wear your hiking shoes as this place will take you at least a day to really explore all it has to offer.  From the pond at the visitor center, to the dry areas in the outer sections and everywhere in between you will be getting some serious exercise and not just in the legs – include the shutter finger and especially your arms if you carry big glass around as there are wings everywhere.  The specimen here was hanging out on the right side of that pond by the visitor center.  Quite the character as it performed for us as we walked the bank.

Likely a Tropical Kingbird found at Estero Llano Grande State Park January 2018

With alert ears I snapped away enjoying the time with a bird we do not get to experience in the heart of (bankrupt) Illinois.  Snap, listen, snap, listen, snap, snap, snap, listen, snap, listen, listen some more, oooh, cute pose, snap, snap snap, listen, listen, ignore Linda’s snide comments about saving some shutter oil for the rest of the park, snap, snap, listen all with a smile like a kid on Christmas morning.  Eventually the arms gave out and decided it was time to move on.  One last listen before deciding this was the elusive Knautta bird.

Likely a Tropical Kingbird found at Estero Llano Grande State Park January 2018

Maybe you are not familiar with the Knautta.  In fact, unless you’ve had the chance to bird the southern border of Texas you probably haven’t even heard of the Knautta.  However, if you have spent some time here at Intrigued, you might remember the Western Kingbird (link here and here).  Similarly colored to the Knautta – grey head, yellow belly, thick bill and both are Flycatchers so they are erratic in flight, yet predictable in perch locations.  The Western sports a whitish throat where the Knautta has the yellow of the belly extending further towards the head where it meets the grey.

Truth is the Knautta isn’t the official name for our yellow-bellied specimen – rather it stands for Knautta Western Kingbird.  Specifically, Not-A-Western-Kingbird.  This bird is really either a Couch’s Kingbird or a Tropical Kingbird.  Did remember all those “listens” earlier?  The only way to really tell these two birds apart is by their call.  Their coloring is the same, their behavior is the same and their beer preferences are the same – hell, they even root for the same baseball team.  Fortunately, you can tell them apart as they cheer for their favorite player.  Tropicals have a melodic song consisting of “syncopated series of high trills and twittering” as described by Cornell.  The Couch’s has a nasal “pik” call referred to by a volunteer there as calls to get them a beer while they sit on the “Couch”.  Our Flycatcher specimen refused to reveal itself by giving us a call.  As a result, the true name will remain a mystery.  Note, if the ABA adopts my name I want credit ha!

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