The Great Kiskadee is the largest of the Flycatchers, and it’s a striking bird upon first sight. At nearly 10 inches in height and blessed with bright yellow under parts, the Kiskadee Flycatcher, is easy to observe against green jungle backgrounds. However, it is also very easy to confuse with its close Flycatcher family members the Social Flycatcher and, even more so, the Boat-billed Flycatcher. These birds even share the same habitat, along the forest edge, here at Lower Dover Jungle Lodge, and make identification much more challenging.
The Social Flycatcher is distinctly smaller than the Great Kiskadee, so consulting with Birds of Belize, by H. Lee Jones would be a first stop to identifying which bird sighting happened. The real challenge is visually differentiating Boat-billed Flycatchers from Great Kiskadees, because they are nearly identical in size and color. The only difference is the Kiskadee has rufous on its primary wing feathers and a smaller, narrower beak.
The best way for bird watchers in Belize to tell the difference between the Boat-billed Flycatcher and the Great Kiskadee is to listen to the each bird’s call. The Kiskadee gets its name from its call. Listen close and he will identify himself. According to Jones, the Kiskadee voice has 1. Horse, slightly shrill deeee, 2. nasal kis-ka-dee!, often shortened to simply kis-ka!
Meanwhile, the Boat-billed Flycatcher’s voice is more varied. According to Jones, it has four calls: 1. rolling, squeaky cheeeurr; 2. clear, liquid rrrr; 3. squeaky, but rough ch-choit ch-choit, with 2nd part rolled. Song: very scratchy but liquid ch-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-it. Dawn song: rolling, burry churrr, sometimes followed by cheowit! If you aren’t excited by birding by now, will you ever be?
At Lower Dover Jungle Lodge the Great Kiskadee is so common that we decided to use it for our logo! They are almost Blue Jay like in their attitude; very aggressive towards nearby birds and never shy about getting close to people. It is not uncommon to see them perched throughout the lodge area looking to feed on insects and lizards.
Photographers should have an easy time getting a great photo opportunity with the Great Kiskadee at Lower Dover no matter how good your camera is! After all, we are just amateurs and are learning about wildlife photography as we go!