Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird
Photo by: 
Paul Ruehle

From the family of Tyrant flycatchers comes one of our most common and easily observed songbirds of suburban and rural settings. Aptly classified Tyrannus tyrannus, the aggressive and pugnacious Eastern Kingbird vigorously defends its nest and territory and regularly confronts other birds or intruders regardless of their size.

With a dark head and back, white underside and throat as well as a distinct and unique white band across the tip of the tail, the Eastern Kingbird is readily identifiable. Males and females are very similar in appearance. Its call is a series of sharp or trilled buzzing or rasping notes.

Preferring open fields with nearby small stands of trees or shrubs the Eastern Kingbird is commonly seen on wires, dead limbs and fences watching for and pursuing flying insects which it often catches in midair before returning to its favored perch.

The Eastern Kingbird is common throughout the country except for California and the Southwest. Its cousin, the Western Kingbird, is gray above with a yellow belly.

Eastern Kingbirds build a cup-shaped nest and usually have two to five eggs. Fortunately for them, they possess a keen ability to destroy eggs deposited by the brood parasite Brown-headed Cowbird. They feed almost exclusively on insects in the summer but consume fruit while wintering in South America.

The Eastern Kingbird is recorded on most of my outing lists and I enjoy watching them make their rounds as they deftly catch flying insects or harass other birds, and do whatever is necessary to “clear the area”!

By Rick Jordahl