What makes the find so unique is that the bird is about 200 miles from home. They are indigenous to mountainous areas of Mexico and Southwest Guatemala and have never been seen in the United States. The little bird is about five inches long with a yellow chest. Researchers said the bird appears to be alone, however, that is not unusual, as they tend to be solitary.
According to Veronica Roberts, a Choke Canyon Park official, on Dec. 13 a birder named Willie Sekula reported he had seen a bird he believed to be a western-type Empidonax flycatcher. On Jan. 1, Sekula as well as other Texas birders returned to Choke Canyon to take a another look at the bird. The birders photographed and recorded the bird’s chirping and Texas birder Martin Reid concluded the bird was a Empidonax affinis, more commonly known as a Pine Flycatcher.
Reid and other birders returned to the park for additional sighting, photographs and recordings of the bird’s chirping. On Jan. 6, Carlton Collier, an wildlife photographer from Houston, photographed the bird and shared the images with The Progress. While there he saw Reid and other birders.
Despite the varied sightings the bird cannot make the “official checklist” as that of the first Pine Flycatcher to be sighted in the United States until the bird sightings are accepted by the Texas Bird Records Committee (TBRC) and the American Birding Association.
Mark Lockwood, with the Natural Resource Program of the TPWD, said, “The process of collecting documentation and having those data reviewed prior to circulation through the TBRC will likely take three to four months. This process will not start until the bird departs, so we are looking at sometime this summer at the earliest. I suspect it is more likely that it will be in the fall before it completes its first circulation. If the record is not decided (accepted or rejected) on the first circulation it can be circulated two more times before it is dealt with at an annual meeting. In a worst case scenario (undecided after three circulations) this record would not be decided until the summer of 2010”.
Chip Clouse, field events coordinator with the American Birding Association, concurred, “While we maintain the ‘official checklist’ for North America, north of the Mexican border, we would only add Pine Flycatcher to the checklist if it is accepted by the Texas Bird Records Committee and then the American Ornithologists’ Union. This could take some time — even a year or two.”