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Species Description

Eastern Kingbird

Tyrannus tyrannus


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Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Tyrannidae

Description

Black head; white throat and lower neck; charcoal-gray back; black wings and tail; tail also has white tips; white breast with some gray; white belly and undertail coverts. 22 cm (8.5 in) in length. The Eastern Kingbird has a small red-orange crown patch, but this is usually not visible. No other U.S. songbird has a broad white band at the tip of a fanlike tail.

Life Cycle

The breeding season begins in early May, peaks from late May to mid-June, and extends into mid-July. The breeding habitat of this species includes open areas such as farmland with scattered trees. The nest is commonly placed in a tree or shrub about 8-25 feet (about 2.5 - 8 m) above the ground. Both adults work together to build a cup-shaped nest near the end of a branch, using weeds, grass, and other plant material. The nest is lined with finer plant material, hair, and feathers. The female lays 2-5 (usually 3-4) eggs and incubates them for 16-18 days. The young are altricial and fledge 16-18 days after hatching. The young are cared for by both adults while in the nest and for about a month after they leave the nest.

Natural History

The non-breeding habitat is similar to the breeding habitat. The diet of the Eastern Kingbird is mostly insects, but also includes some fruit. It finds insects by sitting on a perch and searching. When prey is found, this flycatcher will fly out from the perch and catch the insect in mid-air. This species is a long-distance migrant.

Range

Eastern Kingbird Region Map During the breeding season, the Eastern Kingbird occurs in most of the United States except the western coastal states and the Southwest. It winters in northern South America. During the breeding season, this species occurs throughout Georgia.

Conservation Status

This species is not listed as requiring any special conservation attention in any part of its southeastern range. The Eastern Kingbird is a common Brown-headed Cowbird host. However, while birds of many other species raise the cowbird young instead of or in addition to their own young, the Eastern Kingbird almost always recognizes the Cowbird egg as an intruder, and rejects or damages it.

Similar Species

The distinctive appearance of the Eastern Kingbird makes it difficult to mistake for any other species. In Florida, the Gray Kingbird looks similar to the Eastern Kingbird, but it is mostly gray above and has a black or dark gray mask.