While each of these species is deserving of an individual posting, I’m lumping my tyrant flycatcher trio together for the purpose of comparison. Though agile insect catchers, they are not the least bit limited in their diets. Interestingly enough, they all enjoy feeding on the little chili peppers growing in my yard. In descending order by size:
The Boat-billed Flycatcher (Megarynchus pitangua) measures in at a solid 9 inches but the most distinguishing characteristic is its stout bill. Hence the first part of the binomial, which is Latin for big nose. Large and powerful, this bird yanks peppers off the plant in mid-flight, returning to a nearby perch before quickly gulping it whole.
I first became an admirer of the noisy and gregarious Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus) during a visit to Port Isabel, Texas a dozen years ago. So I was happy to see (and hear) these characters down here. A bit smaller and less powerful, this bird lands in the plant, tugs the bright red pepper loose, and ingests it.
The Social Flycatcher (Myiozetetes similis) is the smallest of my three species, measuring in at just under 7 inches. As the name implies, they usually appear in my yard in groups of 3-5. I know when they’ve arrived by their noisy chatter. Their pepper picking strategy takes considerably more effort, requiring multiple attempts for each chili, wiggling the fruit back and forth until it comes free.
I believe I owe these birds thanks for the proliferation of pepper plants in my yard, as their bright red, seed-filled scat dots the ground. In case you’re wondering, I haven’t been eating the little peppers, preferring instead to save them for my colorful and entertaining avian friends.