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What Is the State Bird of Oklahoma?

By Lauren Romano
Updated May 17, 2024
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The scissor-tailed flycatcher, also known as the swallow-tailed flycatcher, is the state bird of Oklahoma. It lives near towns, and is often found in rural areas perched near the side of the road. Although males and females are identifiable according to their coloring, both sexes have similar looking tails for which they get their name. They eat insects, but have a rather stealth and aggressive way of doing so. Males and females do their individual parts in the nesting process, but also have a point where they work together.

On 5 May 1951, the scissor-tailed flycatcher became the state bird of Oklahoma. The birds primarily live in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, the western parts of Missouri and Louisiana and in the eastern part of New Mexico. During the winter, they migrate south and are found from Mexico to Central America as well as the very southern part of Florida. They typically live in rural areas and near towns with with spread out areas.

The males and females are identifiable from each other. The male scissor-tailed flycatcher has a light gray body, but the head and underside are so pale they're almost white. The wings are a very dark shade of brown, and underneath is bright red in what would be the underarm area. The bottom half of the underside of the bird is light pink. The female looks very much like the male, except it has lighter coloring.

They also differ in regards to the length of their tail. As their name suggests, the scissor-tailed flycatcher has a tail that's shaped like an open pair of scissors. The male has a black and white tail that is 6 to 10 inches (15 cm to 25 cm). The female has the same colored tail, but it's only 4 to 8 inches (10 cm to 20 cm).

The the state bird of Oklahoma primarily eats crickets, beetles and grasshoppers. The birds eye their prey from a flying or high-seated position, then swoop down to snatch the insect off the ground or plants. They bring it back to a perch, then crush it before eating it.

Male scissor-tailed flycatchers pick out a breeding ground, where they wait for the arrival of the females. When they pair up, they go together to pick out a site for the nest. The female is the nest-builder; she builds it in shrubs and trees, and constructs it out of twigs and vegetation along with string, paper and other small pieces of soft garbage. The pair will have approximately five cream-colored eggs.

One of the reasons the scissor-tailed flycatcher is valued as the state bird of Oklahoma is because it eats insects that are a nuisance and damage crops. Therefore, it is unfortunate that the birds' population in Oklahoma is declining. They're also favored because of their unique long and split tail, which is not only beautiful, but makes them stand out from other birds. Their coloring also sets them apart, especially when they're flying overhead as the red and light pink is visible from below.

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Discussion Comments

By Ocelot60 — On Oct 24, 2014

@rundocuri- I can certainly understand why you would want to attract scissor-tailed flycatchers to your garden, because they are really fun to watch. They are determined to catch insects, and will patiently wait for them to come within hunting distance.

Attracting these birds to a garden is not difficult. First, it is important that you plant flowers so that blooms will attract flying insects. Marigolds, zinnias, and daisies are all good choices.

Next you will want to make sure that you have perches for the scissor-tailed flycatchers to land on and hunt. You can use a combination of garden trellises, small trees, and bird feeders strategically placed among your flowers.

Finally, make sure that your garden area is quiet and free of other animals. These birds can be timid, and enjoy a garden that they don't have to share.

By Rundocuri — On Oct 23, 2014

Does anyone have some advice for attracting scissor-tailed flycatchers to a backyard garden? I live in a state where this unique bird lives, and I enjoy birdwatching. I would love to have these birds visit my garden for their beauty and hunting abilities.

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