Eastern Kingbird

(Tyrannus tyrannus)

The Eastern Kingbird is a large flycatcher of fields and open ares.

Gray-black above and white below.

Its most distinctive field mark is the white band at the tip of its black tail. Like other flycatchers it maintains an upright posture. It has a small patch of red feathers in its crown that can only be seen when it displays.

Despite its name, its range extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast.

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 attacks, they will even ride on the back of a larger bird and peck at its head.

Eastern Kingbird

This attractive 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.


Eastern Kingbirds forage in habitat similar to that of Western Kingbirds, open shrub-steppe and agricultural areas.

Their breeding habitat, however, is quite different. They nest in hardwood stands, almost always on or near rivers, streams, or other wetlands.

Because of their different foraging and breeding habitats, they are commonly found at edges where these habitats meet.


During the breeding season, Eastern Kingbirds typically do not flock, but during migration and on the wintering grounds, they gather in large groups.

They generally forage in short bursts, flying out from the perch to grab prey in mid-air, and then returning to the same spot. They also glean prey from foliage or pick food items off the ground, especially in cooler weather when many insects don't fly.

These aggressive flycatchers can often be seen perched on a fence wire or treetop, or flying with wings fluttering downward.


In spring and summer Kingbirds eat mostly insects. As the summer progresses, they eat more and more fruit.

On the wintering grounds they eat primarily berries.

Eastern Kingbird

Courtship and Nesting:

During courtship the male kingbird performs elaborate display flights.

Monogamous pairs will often re-pair in successive years and reclaim the same territory.

The female builds the nest in a low deciduous tree or shrub, on a utility tower, or in a tree growing out of the water.

The nest is large and bulky, made of weeds, bark, and twigs, and lined with plant down, hair, and feathers.

The female kingbird incubates the two to five eggs for 14 to 17 days. Both parents feed the young, which leave the nest and take their first flights at 16 to 18 days.

The parents continue to feed the young for another three to five weeks after they fledge.

Migration Status:

As their name implies, Eastern Kingbirds are historically a bird of the eastern part of the United States, and their migration patterns trace their westward expansion. These kingbirds arrive

in the western regions by late May from the east, making them one of the latest spring migrants.

They begin to leave in August, with the last few remaining until September. They head east over the Rocky Mountains and travel south to South America from there.

They travel in flocks and migrate by day as far south as Argentina.


The Eastern Kingbird is highly aggressive toward nest predators and larger birds. Hawks and crows are attacked regularly.

During the summer the kingbird eats mostly flying insects and maintains a breeding territory that it defends vigorously against all other kingbirds. In the winter along the Amazon, however, it has a completely different lifestyle: it travels in flocks and eats fruit.

Parent Eastern Kingbirds feed their young for about seven weeks. This is a relatively long period of dependence, so a pair generally raises only one brood of young per nesting season.

Eastern Kingbirds and other Bird Profiles

Western Kingbirds

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