Western Kingbird

Tyrannus verticalis

The Western Kingbird is the largest flycatcher in the west at 8 to 9.5 inches long. It is light gray-green above with darker wings and a black tail with white outer edges.

The name 'Kingbird' is derived from their "take-charge" behaviour. These birds aggressively defend their territory, even against much larger birds such as hawks.

Its breast is light gray, and its belly and underwings are bright yellow. It has red feathers in its crown that can be seen only when it displays.

Common throughout the western United States and southern Canada and slowly expanding East through the Great Plains.

Western Kingbird

Regularly noted in the fall along the East Coast, from Newfoundland to Florida. Individuals are seen in some coastal spots every year.

It is often found around human habitation.


Western Kingbirds inhabit open areas with scattered trees or utility poles for nesting. Habitats include grassland, desert shrub, pasture, savanna, and urban areas.

They are especially common around ranch buildings and corrals where perches are plentiful.


Aggressive and conspicuous, this Kingbird can easily be found perching on fence wires all over its territory.

They wait on these perches and then make quick flights out to grab prey from the air or off the ground. They commonly hover over a field and then drop to the ground after prey.


Insects, both flying and crawling, make up the majority of the Kingbird's diet. The birds also eat small berries and other fruit.

Courtship and Nesting:

Western Kingbirds usually nest in a Ponderosa pine or other pine and spruce trees. They also nest on utility poles next to a transformer. They also utilize on building ledges, in sheds, or in other birds' nests.

Unlike Eastern Kingbirds, they do not need water nearby to nest.

Monogamous pairs are formed after the male performs an elaborate display flight, twisting and flipping through the air.

The female builds a cup of grass, weeds, twigs, and plant fibers, and lines it with feathers, plant down, and hair.

She incubates three to four eggs for about two weeks.

Both parents feed the young, which leave the nest at 16 to 17 days. The parents continue to feed the young for another two to three weeks.

It's not common, but they will hybridize with Eastern kingbirds.

Migration Status:

This Kingbird usually arrive in early April, late April or early May in the northern regions.

They leave for southern Mexico and Central America in August, traveling alone or in small flocks.

Conservation Status:

Western Kingbirds are more widespread across eastern Washington than Eastern Kingbirds because, unlike Eastern Kingbirds, they are not restricted to areas near water, and have adapted to people and surroundings.

Pesticides are a concern across much of their range and have been detected in the blood of many Kingbirds.

Surveys show a small, not statistically significant decline

Eastern Kingbirds

Western Kingbirds and Common Birds and Profiles

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