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Eastern Kingbird

Tyrannus tyrannus


The Eastern Kingbird, Tyrannus tyrannus, is a large Tyrant flycatcher. Adults are grey-black on the upperparts with light underparts; they have a long black tail with a white end and long pointed wings. They have a red patch on their crown, seldom seen. They are of average size for a kingbird, at 19–23 cm (7.5–9 in), 33–38 cm (13–15 in) across the wings and weighing 33-55 g (1.2-1.9 oz).[1] The call is a high-pitched, buzzing and unmusical chirp, frequently compared to an electric fence.[2] Their breeding habitat is open areas across North America. They make a sturdy cup nest in a tree or shrub, sometimes on top of a stump or pole. These birds aggressively defend their territory, even against much larger birds.[3] These birds migrate in flocks to South America. They wait on an open perch and fly out to catch insects in flight, sometimes hovering to pick food off vegetation. They also eat berries and fruit, mainly in their wintering areas.[4] Some Eastern Kingbirds place their nests in the open while others hide nests very well. Eastern Kingbirds in Southern British Columbia can nest in open fields; in shrubs over open water; high in tall trees and even in the tops of small stumps Eastern kingbirds use a variety of vocalizations to communicate, especially during the breeding season. In their winter range eastern kingbirds vocalize very little. Males sing a complex song in the pre-dawn hours, especially males in more dense populations. Calls are harsh and buzzing, often repeated "zeers." Males vocalize extensively when patrolling their nesting territory. Females vocalize as well, but males use vocalizations more frequently. Adults and juveniles will snap their bills at threats as well and they make whirring sounds with their wings occasionally. Courtship involves aerial displays between mates. (Murphy, 1996)


Eastern kingbirds are found in open, savanna-like habitats, often near water. They occur in fields and grasslands with scattered tall trees for nesting and perching. Suitable habitats include parks, riparian forests, large burned areas or blowouts in forests, golf courses, and suburban and urban areas. Little is know about their migratory habits, but they are found in a wide variety of habitats while migrating. In winter they are found in forest-edge, riparian forest, and near wetlands. (Murphy, 1996) Habitat Regions: Temperate; Tropical; Terrestrial Terrestrial Biomes: Savanna or grassland Other Habitat Features: Urban; Suburban; Agricultural; Riparian Eastern kingbirds are the most widespread species in the genus Tyrranus. They breed throughout most of eastern North America, from the Gulf of Mexico north throughout much of southern and central Canada, as far east at the Atlantic seaboard to the Canadian maritime provinces, and as far west as central Texas, Colorado, northeastern Utah, eastern Oregon and Washington, and eastern British Columbia to the Yukon territories. They winter in South America, where their distribution is poorly understood but seems to be mainly in the western Amazon basin. (Murphy, 1996)


Positive Impacts: controls pest population The aggressive behavior of Eastern Kingbirds has been shown to keep ravens and crows from finding experimental nests placed near kingbird nests. Similar experimental nests placed far from the kingbird nests were found far more often by crows and ravens. They can also recognize and remove cowbird eggs from their nests. Still, blue jays, american crows, squirrels and tree-climbing snakes are occasion nest predators. American kestrel are probable predators of adults.[5]

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1 Comment

MitchRay 11 years ago

It's an Eastern Kingbird, Tyrannus tyrannus

Spotted by

Virginia, USA

Spotted on May 29, 2011
Submitted on May 29, 2011

Spotted for Mission

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