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Lost Tropical Bird Eats Cat Food To Survive SD Winter

A tropical bird that doesn’t often make it farther north than Texas is toughing out the winter in South Dakota.   

The Great Kiskadee normally calls Mexico home, but birdwatchers confirmed one living in South Dakota this fall, and they’ve even photographed it in the snow.  The bird is finding some creative solutions to survive a South Dakota winter.

Finding a Great Kiskadee in South Dakota is a little bit like having a penguin pop up on a beach in Jamaica.

“Yeah, I mean it would be something akin to that,” says Dr. K.C Jensen a professor of wildlife management at South Dakota State University.   “This is by far and away the rarest bird we’ve picked up in South Dakota for Brookings.  How it ended up in South Dakota is anybody’s guess,” says Jensen.

Jensen says the Great Kiskadee is not migratory, but it could have blown north from Mexico if it got caught-up in a strong weather front.

It has also been coming down and eating canned cat food of all things.

The tropical bird was first sighted this summer and confirmed by experts in November, it was documented again in the Brookings Christmas Bird Count this month. There are over a dozen similar bird counts happening in communities around the state where bird watchers try to log as many species as they can. The data from Christmas Bird Counts over the last century shows bird populations are responding to climate change.   However, experts say it’s not likely we will see an increase in tropical birds like the Great Kiskadee anytime soon.  They say this bird is a fluke, far from its home range.  

Jensen says back home this bird eats insects.

“And of course insects here in the wintertime are non-existent. So, the homeowners out there have been feeding it suet blocks that have meal worms imbedded in it, and it has also been coming down and eating canned cat food of all things,” says Jensen.

While eating cat food, the Kiskadee has to keep from becoming cat food.  So Jensen says the homeowners have placed some cat food up near the bird feeder–out of reach of the cat.