Scissor-tailed Flycatchers breed in savannas with scattered trees, shrubs, and patches of brush in the south-central U.S. and just over the border into northern Mexico. They also breed in towns, farm fields, pastures, and landscaped areas like golf courses or parks—areas with a mixture of feeding perches, open space, and trees for nesting. Scissor-tailed Flycatchers spend the winter in southern Mexico and Central America, in humid savannas, pastures, agricultural lands, scrublands, villages, towns, and the edges of tropical deciduous forests. They commonly stay below 5,000 feet elevation but occasionally winter at up to 7,500 feet. Sometimes they roost in towns and disperse to the countryside to forage.
The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher flies in straight lines with fast wingbeats, its tail folded. It also often hovers with its tail spread or makes abrupt turns in midair. Scissor-tailed Flycatchers form large roosts during spring and fall migration, and they flock in winter as well. In some populations, the males continue roosting in groups throughout the breeding season, but breeding birds tend to forage alone or in pairs. Males arrive before females in the early spring to establish and defend territories. After pairing up, both males and females chase and attack other individuals that intrude onto their territory. Trespassing happens frequently, especially in the early morning, so keep an eye out if you see these birds as you may be treated to an amazing aerial chase. Pairs are monogamous within a breeding season but don’t always reunite in later years. Scissor-tailed Flycatchers attack intruding Red-tailed Hawks, Swainson’s Hawks, Turkey Vultures, Mourning Doves, Great-tailed Grackles, Common Grackles, Northern Mockingbirds, Western Kingbirds, Loggerhead Shrikes, House Sparrows, American Crows, Blue Jays, and Lark Sparrows.