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Eastern Kingbird

Identification - Pictures and Video

Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus)

Kingbirds are about 8 to 9 inches.  They got their name because of they are very aggressive in protecting their territory.  This member of the flycatcher family will attack any bird that dares get near the nest, swooping down with screaming cries.  Even large birds like hawks, and crows will be attacked if they get near the nest.  In these attracts they will even ride on the back of a larger bird, and peck at its head.
Eastern Kingbird
The attractive Eastern Kingbird is gray-black above and white below, with a white band at the tip of its tail.  Its crown has a small patch of red feathers that is not often seen.

The two sexes look much the same, juveniles are similar but a bit paler, and the winds have a buff edge.  The male crown feathers will more often show a crest.  Like other birds in the flycatcher family, he sits with an upright posture. The female does not usually show her crest, and tends sit more horizontally on a perch.

Photos by Keith Lee.  The camera I use is the Canon EOS 40D.Western Kingbird

Western Kingbirds (Regulus satrapa) look much the same but have yellow below.

Below is a video of Eastern kingbirds at lake edge. For other bird videos please visit our Youtube channel and subscribe or like our videos.

Most videos on my site were taken with the Canon HG10 camcorder.


Sound of Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbirds make sharp dzee-dzee or tzeet, and a rapid kit-kit kitter-kitter calls.Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird song:
  Click for Sound

Preferred Habitat

Found from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.  Eastern Kingbirds like to forage in agricultural areas with shrubs, lightly wooded areas, river edges, and meadows.  

They will often perch on a treetop, cattail, or fence post where they can get a clear view of the surrounding area.

Breeding and Nesting

They prefer to breed in wooded areas near rivers, streams, or wetlands.  As in many birds, during courtship the males does elaborate displays including backward somersaults and zigzags in the air.  A pair of Kingbirds will flutter their wings and call noisily in a greeting display whenever they meet.  The female builds a large nest of weeds, twigs, and bark lined with feathers, and plant down.  The nest can be in a shrub, low tree near water, or even on a manmade structure such as a fence post or telephone pole.

The female  lays 2 to 5 creamy white or pale pink eggs, with dark blotches.  She incubates the eggs for 14 to 17 days.

Brown-headed Cowbirds will often lay their eggs in the nests of Kingbirds. Kingbirds will often destroy these eggs if they are put in the nest before their own are laid but, are more likely to leave them after theirs are laid.

The young birds will be fed by both parents until they start to fly inkingbird young around 17 days, and the adults will continue to feed them for up to five weeks after this.  The young tend to remain with the parents until the birds gathers in flocks for migration.


Eastern Kingbird's will gather in large flocks much like waxwings do during migration, wintering mostly in South America.


Kingbirds feed on insects in spring, and summer, and like fruit and berries when they become available. They will sit on a perch and fly out to grab insects out of the air.  The birds also feed on the ground, especially in winter.

For more on food and feeding click here.
For more on feeders click here.
To learn about other favorite birds click here.

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