A rare bird sighting at McPherson State Lake had local bird enthusiasts in a flutter last week.
Allen Jahn, 76, a retired McPherson resident and his brother, Wayne, reported a rare sighting of a great kiskadee at the lake, which is adjacent to Maxwell Wildlife Refuge north of Canton.
Great kiskadees are 8.3 to 11 inches tall and are members of the flycatcher family. The bird prefers woodland areas near water and eats insects, some fruit, rodents and other small vertebrates. It is similar to a kingfisher, Jahn said.
Great kiskadees have bright yellow breasts, light brown backs, a white head with a black skull cap and a black strip across the eye.
The great kiskadee is not a rare or endangered species, but this bird was well outside of its normal range of coastal Mexico and Texas.
Jahn’s research indicated the great kiskadee has only been documented in Kansas three other times, all in southern Kansas. This was the first time, the bird has been recorded in McPherson County.
“We had heard people had been seeing it about 6, so we sat and waited — 15 till 6, 10 till 6, five till 6. I was wondering if this bird was ever going to show up,” he said.
“I said, ‘Lord, please let me see this bird. Then we saw it, and I said, ‘Thank, you Lord,’” Jahn said throwing his hands up with delight. “I don’t know how long I would have sat there.”
Jahn’s wife, Barbara said she could here him holler all the way from the car.
“He is with his binoculars and bird book, like a preacher is with a Bible,” she said.
Allen has been bird watching since 1967. He has 615 birds on his life list. He’s seen 345 of those in Kansas and documented 188 species at Maxwell and the McPherson State Lake.
Allen and Barbara have traveled to every state except Hawaii. Barbara will go with Allen on his early-morning jaunts, but prefers to be dropped off to do some antiquing.
Allen said his most thrilling bird moment was seeing three California condors at the Grand Canyon. The birds almost became extinct, but conservationists have started reintroducing young birds into the wild through a breeding program.
Allen and his brother monitor the bluebird boxes at Maxwell, and Allen regularly participates in bird counts and surveys.
Although Jahn first saw the great kiskadee in 1995 in Texas, he said it was a great thrill to experience this rare sighting in his own backyard.
The word got around about McPherson rare visitor, and Jahn said bird watchers came from as far away as Kansas City to catch a glimpse.
Page 2 of 2 - The bird has not been spotted at the lake since last weekend. Jahn said he thought the cool weather that moved in during the weekend may have prompted the bird to move on.
These rare finds are what keeps Jahn excited about his hobby. He continues to search for new species for his life list, including the great gray owl, which has thus far eluded him.
“I enjoy it so much,” he said. “It teaches you patience. You have to notice what is around you.”