|Photos by Bob Wenrick 3/7/2015|
Text by Mark Hengesbaugh:
This 4-inch fowl's name is a riddle. Why is a flycatcher species that travels no farther north than southeastern Arizona "northern"? For that matter, what bird isn't "beardless"? And how tyrannical can a quarter-ounce critter get?
Research enlightened me. It’s a tyrannulet because it is a small member of the Tyrant Flycatcher family, which includes cheeky flycatchers like the kingbird. "Beardless" because it lacks rictal bristles, those stiff hair-like feathers projecting from the base of a bill. Rictal bristles help protect delicate facial parts like nostrils and may play a sensory function, like antennas. Northern? It is the northern-most representative of a large subfamily of tyrannid flycatchers mostly native to South America.
Only five percent of Northern Beardless-Tyrannulets venture into our southeastern Arizona backyards, most live in central Mexico. They are found in riparian woods and mesquite groves eating insects, spiders and berries. We saw two at the dam, which may be a nesting pair.
So, if a group of crows is called a "murder," what’s a group of beardless tyrannulets? A "shaving."
You can look it up.