Family Tyrant-flycatchers (Tyrannidae)

Least Concern

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (Tyrannus forficatus)


French: Tyran à longue queue German: Scherenschwanz-Königstyrann Spanish: Tijereta rosada

M[uscicapa]. forficata

J. F. Gmelin

, 1789,



Traditionally considered closest to T. savana, mainly because of tail-streamers, and in past these two often separated in Muscivora (or its junior synonym Milvulus); relationship not supported by molecular data. Phylogenetic analyses place this species in “E & W species group” (see T. vociferans); further work needed. Monotypic.


SC USA (SE Colorado, S Nebraska and SW Missouri S to E New Mexico and W Louisiana) S to NE Mexico (N Coahuila, C Nuevo León, N Tamaulipas). Winters S Mexico (Atlantic slope from S Veracruz to W Campeche, Pacific slope from Guerrero, and interior Chiapas), El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua S to C Costa Rica and, rarely, W Panama; also S Florida, in extreme SE USA.

Descriptive notes

19–38 cm including rectrices (c. 11 cm without); 39–40 g. Male has pale grey head, semi-concealed red coronal patch; upper­parts mostly pale silvery or... read more


Common calls a sharp, dry and harsh “pik”, “kip”, bik” or “kek... read more


Open to semi-open and arid to semi-arid brushy scrub and grassland or savanna with scattered trees... read more

Food and feeding

Major food items include grasshoppers and crickets (Orthoptera), beetles (Coleoptera), hymenopterans, bugs (Hemiptera) and lepidopterans;... read more


Mainly Apr–Aug, occasionally from Mar. Zigzag flight display; strong evidence of assortative mating by tail length reported. Nest a... read more


Migratory. Winters from SE USA (often small numbers in S Florida), NE, E & S Mexico (Sept... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Uncommon to common. Estimated global population 7,900,000 individuals. No apparent overall trend for USA 1966–1994, but... read more

Recommended citation

Mobley, J. (2019). Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (Tyrannus forficatus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 11 December 2019).