Thick-billed Kingbird
Half Moon Bay
San Mateo County, California
20 March 2001

Today Robbie Fischer and I decided to try for the Thick-billed Kingbird which had been present at the Ocean Colony Golf Course for its third consecuative winter. I saw it in January 1999 and March 2000. Special thanks go to Gary Deghi who made arrangements for birders to visit this private gated community in conjunction with the president of the local homeowners association.

We arrived at the end of Bay Hill Road, parked and walked into the maintenance yard along the south side of Redondo Beach Road. Eventually Robbie located the kingbird in a grove of eucalyptus adjacent to the maintenance yard. There we watched foraging at fairly close range and in perfect light for about 10 minutes. Optics were KOWA TSN4 spotting scope and Bausch & Lomb Elite 8x42 binoculars.

The following description is based on notes made while watching the bird:

Obvious kingbird, approximately the size of adjacent European Starling.

Upperparts - back brown blending with a grayer nape. The wings had narrow gray fringes to the greater and median coverts and broader paler fringes to the tertials, especially the innermost tertials. No rusty edges were noted. The primary projection was long with at least three blackish primaries visible beyond the folded tertials. These visible primaries were staggered with the outer two closer together than the third which was about midway between the longest tertial and the longest primary.

Tail - gray below, brown above with faint gray edges, slightly cinnamon-brown along bases of the rectrices.

Head - forehead and crown dark brown, with a broad black mask through the eye. A white chin and throat projected under the dark ear coverts to the side of the neck. The black bill was very thick and broad, with a hook at the tip and an arrow shaped nostril near the base. The rictal bristles were dark.

Underparts - pale chest blending to bright yellow on the rest of the underparts including long undertail coverts.

Legs and feet - dark gray.

Voice - a harsh "screeeeep" rising abruptly given occasionally.

Joseph Morlan