January’s Bird of the Month

Written By OutdoorAfro

Published on Jan 2, 2011

By Douglas “Birdman” Gray, Outdoor Afro Contributor
While I love birds and birding, if I’m honest with myself, I find that I’m a bit jealous of birds sometimes. The reason for my jealousy is the fact that, “Birds have wings…and tend to use them.”
On occasion, I have wished for the ability to spread my wings and fly away somewhere. Somewhere warm, cozy, and with beautiful scenery. During this time of the year, I’d like to take flight from Indiana and its Midwestern winters and fly south. Southern Texas and other parts of the American Southwest are very appealing right now. Central and South America would also be on my short list of places to take flight about now.
All this brings me to the Bird of the Month, the Vermillion Flycatcher.

I’ve seen more Vermillion Flycatchers this year than I ever have before, but I’ve never seen one in Indiana. That’s why I watched with excitement as folks were reporting seeing this flycatcher in Marshall County, Indiana. I’m sure I would have “chased” this bird myself, like so many others, if I hadn’t seen plenty of these birds earlier in the year. (So this is actually my first BOTM in which I didn’t actually see the bird with my own eyes. But the bird in the accompanying photo is the actual bird seen. Thanks Rob Ripma!)
Flycatchers are an interesting group of birds. What I find most interesting about them is just how uninteresting they can appear. They are usually drab, dull, and dry. Well that’s usually the state of “most” flycatchers. There are many flycatchers that show up in Indiana, and “most” are so drab, so dull, and so dry that it’s very challenging telling them all apart. Giving them all separate names may seem to be a bit of a waste to some. Flycatchers can be almost impossible to differentiate, even amongst the most expert of birders. (The most reliable way to tell them apart is by their singing.)
OK, let me make a full circle and get back to the Bird of the Month. The male Vermillion Flycatcher is one of the few striking flycatchers. It’s one of the dazzling exceptions in the world of flycatchers. Out of the typical drab, dull, and dry world of most flycatchers comes this strikingly brilliant, scarlet red bird. While this bird is a very rare visitor to Indiana, reading the stirring and exciting words of folks seeing this bird for the first time made me glad that “Birds have wings…and tend to use them.”
I don’t know why this bird ended up in Indiana. I hope the bird was able to use the same wings that got it here, to safely return to where it came from. Maybe it was from Southern Texas or some other part of the American Southwest. Maybe it was from Central America or even South America. Places I’d rather be right now. I just wish I had wings to do what it did. (Strange enough, I’ll be birding in Duluth in a few weeks. Maybe this bird and I have more in common than I suspect.)

Douglas “Birdman” Gray has been birding almost all of his life. He grew up on a family farm near Clarksville, Tennessee, where they grew crops ranging from apricots to wheat, and most things in between. They also raised chickens, guineas, pigs, horses, and a cow named…….Apples. Doug’s grandfather identified the birds they would see daily on the farm.
Doug now resides in Indianapolis and works in Parenteral Engineering with Eli Lilly and Company. Most of his current birding takes place in Indiana, with a concentration on Central Indiana, where he leads bird walks for “Backyard Birds”. Doug can be reached at 317-255-7333.