Couch’s Kingbird — Alleghany County, MD

This past week, a Couch’s kingbird was found in Alleghany County, Maryland. It represented the first state record for Maryland. This was one of the species I missed when I visited the Rio Grande Valley a few years ago and as such I was very eager to see it. It was being seen just over the border with Pennsylvania about two and a half hours southeast of Pittsburgh. When the bird first arrived, I doubted that it would remain present long enough for me to see it. However, come Saturday evening, the bird was still being seen and so I resolved to chase it in the morning.

On Sunday morning we left Pittsburgh at 6:00 A.M. to head don to Mason Rd. in Maryland where the bird was being seen. A pair of flyover ravens and some snow showers were the highlights of an otherwise uneventful ride and it wasn’t long until we pulled into Mason Rd.

We quickly gathered from other birders present that the bird had been previously present but had not been seen for about an hour. We were also told that our best bet was probably to drive down the road and search for it that way.

Following their directions, we drove down the road a ways until I decided to get out and walk to make my birding easier. I got extremely lucky however for almost as soon as I got out of the car, I saw a kingbird sized bird with a very yellow underbelly fly into a sycamore tree. Before I could get my binoculars on it however, it began to call, giving off the distinctive multiple calls of a Couch’s kingbird.

My first view of the Couch's kingbird (the thick, short bill shows nicely in this shot).

My first view of the Couch’s kingbird (the thick, short bill shows nicely in this shot).

I alerted the other nearby birders to its presence and we all soaked up great views of it (as well as getting to see a flyover flock of pine siskins which seem to be irrupting in good numbers this year). It didn’t stay put for all that long however before it flew off a little ways down the road. There it provided even better looks as it remained perched for about 15 minutes for all to see.

Couch's kingbird (showing the very green back).

Couch’s kingbird (showing the very green back).

The show did not however last forever and the bird eventually moved on, flying over the hill and out of sight. Despite searching, we were not able to locate the bird for maybe another half an hour before it returned to the same general area it had been in before where it gave some more great views for even more birders to see.

Couch's Kingbird

Couch’s Kingbird

This bird was a lifer for me and was my 497th ABA Area life bird. This was important because it means that it is possible for me to reach 500 for the ABA Area before this years end. That would be remarkable and would make me a very happy birder indeed!

After a little while longer, the bird flew off again and we decided to head back to Pittsburgh. I am very glad that I put the time and effort into chasing this bird as it really was a fantastic life bird to see.

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