Great Kiskadee Loses Fight With SD Winter

Jan 8, 2016

A Great Kiskadee that called a farm near Brookings, SD home for a few months during the 2015-2016 winter has died.
Credit K.C. Jensen / SDSU

A tropical bird living outside Brookings has lost his struggle to survive an eastern South Dakota winter.
 
The appearance of a Great Kiskadee in 2015 captured the attention of bird watchers around the region.  Many were rooting for the underdog to make it through the cold and snowy season.

The Great Kiskadee is a species of bird rarely seen north of Texas.  Dr. K.C. Jensen a professor of wildlife management at South Dakota State University speculates the bird could have blown into South Dakota in a large weather front.    
 
“It’s a tropical bird and it was trying to make a living here in the wintertime in South Dakota which is tough for even the birds that are accustomed to it,” says Jensen.
 
Jensen says Great Kiskadees are non-migratory, so once this bird became stranded in South Dakota he was here to stay.  He says this Kiskadee attracted bird watchers from hundreds of miles away.
 
“We had people visiting this farm from Wyoming and Nebraska and Kansas and Minnesota and North Dakota and probably others I’m not aware of.  But, people came a long ways to see this bird,” says Jensen.
 

It's a tropical bird and it was trying to make a living here in the wintertime in South Dakota which is tough for even the birds that are accustomed to it.

Jensen gives praise to two landowners who he says were gracious in allowing so many bird watchers on their property and who provided food and water for the bird.  Kiskadees normally eat insects, but the homeowners provided suet and even cat food for this bird. 
 
“And the bird really had a lot of personality, it would call, and several times I went out to see it. I usually heard it before I saw it. It was kind of boisterous, and the landowners there told me they really enjoyed having it around,” says Jensen
 
Jensen says the landowners found the Kiskadee dead near a barn where they had provided a heated water source.  He says it’s sad the bird didn’t make it but adds that Kiskadee would never have survived as long as it did without the extra help from local homeowners.