A male Pin-tailed Whydah in search of seed / food on the Barano Trail. Photo taken on September 21, 2014 around 10:50 a.m.
A male Pin-tailed Whydah overlooks a section of the Barano Trail in Mission Viejo, CA on September 21, 2014
At around 10 a.m., after being on this local trail for about an hour, my peripheral vision was able to briefly catch a very narrow and lengthy tailed species in flight. I had hoped for its return as from experience I knew this was either a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher or a male Pin-tailed Whydah. The Scissor-tailed would be an uncommon, non exotic and a domestic find while the Whydah would be a bit more common and an exotic (caged release and originally from Africa – it did not fly here – i.e. migrate). However, either would be fascinating to watch after this brief encounter.
A 20 minute wait proved beneficial (not exceptional as with a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher) as the earlier sighting was in fact the male Pin-tailed Whydah. The flying pattern of this male Whydah was rather cumbersome and clunky to say the least. It was neither swift nor agile. As it landed atop of a sycamore tree waiting for insects, a unique dodging pattern occurred moments later as it was thrust itself back and forth against a barren branch plucking insects (see in flight photograph below) one by one.
I tracked the bird for about an hour and overtime the male eventually came within close proximity. He landed on the asphalt trail as I stood nearby in the shadows firing off a series of photographs with the 5D Mark III in Silent shutter mode and the Canon 400mm L 5.6 with a 1.4 extender.
I have been on this trail numerous times weekly over the past 3 years and this is the first Pin-tailed Whydah. It’s presence apparently agitated a nearby Black Phoebe that I witnessed flying back and forth under a nearby rooftop. Three Northern Mockingbirds and several Western-scrub Jays also appeared to be bothered by its appearance.