Birders flock to Mack to catch a glimpse of rare bird

The Thick-billed kingbird perches on a snag in a dry field, bright colors vivid in comparison.
The Thick-billed kingbird perches on a snag in a dry field, bright colors vivid in comparison.(Kacie Sinton)
Published: Sep. 23, 2022 at 1:03 PM MDT
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT) - A bird originally native to Mexico has been spotted in Colorado for the fourth time in recorded history.

Cropping up in a nondescript horse pasture in the arid farmland north of Mack, Colorado, the bright plumage of the Thick-billed Kingbird seems out of place next to many of the native species.

A native to Mexico and an infrequent visitor to the border, the Audubon Society’s first recorded sighting of the bird within US borders was in 1958, appearing in Guadalupe Canyon on the Arizona-New Mexico border. Their range has slowly grown, with consistent sightings reported in parts of Arizona.

Despite stretching their wings outside of their home range of Mexico since their introduction, birders in the area said that the Thick-billed Kingbird has only appeared in Colorado three other times. Cole Sage is a 19-year-old birder who came all the way from Denver just for a chance to see it in person. Sage has seen a total of 438 species in his life. But he’s only seen the Thick-billed Kingbird once before, in Arizona.

“I mean, this is a crazy rare bird,” Sage said. “This is only the fourth time it’s ever been seen in Colorado, and the closest place you can regularly get them is in south-east Arizona. So, to see this bird here is pretty amazing.”

Sage is an avid birder, starting a website and Instagram to chronicle his adventures. He says that he was inspired by the movie The Big Year (2011), a loosely-true retelling of three birders competing to see who can spot the most species in a single year. “It got me interested in counting birds and seeing how many I could get, so now I’m trying to see as many species as I can in Colorado,” said Sage.

The bird was spotted north of Mack on Q 3/4 Road, at coordinates 39.262924, -108.861265.