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Oklahoma state bird in Erie County

Tom Jackson • Apr 12, 2014 at 4:30 PM

The parking lot at Sheldon Marsh was jammed with vehicles Friday afternoon.

The weather was beautiful, but that wasn’t the only reason. Birders rushed to the state nature preserve, on Cleveland Road near Rye Beach Road, anxious to get a glimpse of a bird rarely seen in Ohio: the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.

The bird can be identified by its spectacularly long tail, typically more than half of the bird’s length. And as its name implies, it likes to munch on insects.

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Word of the sighting of Oklahoma’s state bird spread quickly on Facebook, on websites and by email.

Melissa Malek, 21, of Amherst, hadn’t even heard about the bird. She came to Sheldon Marsh with her mother, Chris Malek.

When she arrived she learned about the flycatcher and spotted it sitting in a tree at the Sawmill Creek Golf Course next door.

Pointing to a picture of the bird in her Sibley Field Guide to Birds, Melissa said she’ll record it at home on her life list.

Bill Osborne, of Cuyahoga Falls, was there with friends Gene and Linda Kovach. He said they learned about the bird on the Internet and rushed to Erie County.

According to postings on Facebook, the flycatcher obliged Ohio birders by hanging around Sheldon Marsh for at least a few days. One photo of the bird, standing on the grass at the golf course, was posted at about noon Thursday.

Other Facebook members of the Birding Ohio group also posted photos of the bird. Some were posted Friday afternoon.

The bird may be rare in Ohio, but it’s not rare in its natural range, said Mia Revels, a biology professor at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Okla. The birds are found in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and other states in the Southwestern U.S.

Revels, the president-elect of the Oklahoma Ornithological Society, was driving to her group’s meeting when the Register reached her by phone.

The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher is a migratory bird, but it’s a common sight in the spring and summer in Oklahoma, Revels said.

“They just recently got back. If you’re in open spaces, driving along fields and walking along fields, it’s very likely you’ll see them,” she said. “You won’t see them in the forests.

“Many birds get lost during migration,” she said. “Birds get off course. Sometimes it’s storms, or sometimes it’s just a particular bird”

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