Vancouver Avian Research Centre

.....Research - Conservation - Education
Species: Eastern Kingbird Tyrannus tyrannis


Kingbirds are aerial hawking insectivores of open spaces found in most regions of North America and well known for their aggressive nature. Indeed, Tyrannus means “tyrant, despot or king,” in reference to their aggressive defense of nests and mates, and their domination of other birds. Pairs are monogamous, maintain territories while breeding, and if both survive to the following breeding season, usually remate and reuse former territories.


General: The Eastern Kingbird is a large Tyrant flycatcher and a bird of fields and other open areas. Despite its name, the Eastern Kingbird is a common and widespread species found across north America from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast.

Fairly large flycatcher but 1 of the 2 smallest members of genus Tyrannus occurring in North America. Total length 19.5–23.0 cm 8.5” long 40g. . Identified by contrasting black upperparts and white underparts. Upper chest marked by faint, dull grayish band. Dark black head often slightly crested, especially in males. Concealed patch of feathers on crown varies from orange to red, and sometimes yellow.
Plumage sexually monomorphic. However, 2 outer primaries (P9 and P10) of males notched and attenuated, whereas only P10 of female similarly notched and attenuated with extent of attenuation considerable (including females with no notching) and should be examined in relation to age. Sexual size dimorphism moderate; males larger than females in some linear measures of size.

Adult Male: The sexes can often be distinguished, however, by their characteristic postures and the shape of the head. Males tend to perch very upright and to maintain a slight “crest” by raising contour feathers of crown. Agitated females also raise their crown feathers, but normally perch in more horizontal plane and maintain round shape to the head.

Adult female: Same as adult male

Juvenile: Juvenile similar to adult, but shows buffy edges to wing feathers and a narrower white tip to tail. Also lacks the concealed crown patch.

Similar Species: Gary Kingbird Tyrannus dominicensis distinguished from Eastern by a much larger bill, heavier body, longer tail and shorter wings.

Behavior: The Eastern Kingbird overwinters in Amazonia and maintains different social and feeding behaviors there than are seen during the breeding season. Most individuals travel in flocks and forage on fruit, returning to North America to begin laying eggs by late May and early June.

Habitat: Open environments usually breeds in fields with scattered shrubs and trees, orchards, along shelterbelts, and especially along woodland edges in forested regions. A “savannah species” but given suitable nest sites and perches, will nest in many other habitats—e.g., desert riparian. Appears drawn to water; nesting densely in trees that overhang water or in dead, standing snags surrounded by water. In North America precolonial times may have been limited to swamps, marshes, edges of lakes and rivers, and open, disturbed environments (i.e., large forest blowdowns and forest fires).


Of the 8 species that breed north of Mexico, the Eastern Kingbird is the most widely distributed and is the only species to breed in eastern North America. Despite its common name, the Eastern Kingbird breeds abundantly west of the Mississippi River, and its range extends to the Pacific Ocean. In the Great Plains and Far West it may breed sympatrically with 1 or 2 other species of kingbirds. Clutch size varies geographically (mode of 3–4 eggs), but females raise only a single brood per season. This low productivity is likely related to the species’ foraging habits and reliance on flying insects for food. Fly-catching is an exacting mode of foraging, and individuals appear to have a difficult time feeding large broods adequately, especially when cool, wet weather reduces the availability of flying insects. The extended period of post-fledging parental care (3–5 weeks) appears to limit parents to a single brood per year.

Conservation Status:

Although widespread and common and currently listed as a species of least concern (LC) recent data suggest populations may be declining.
Capture Rates



Home | About UsEducationResearch| Volunteer | About Birds | Gallery

Copyright © 2008-2017 VARC - Designed by Derek Matthews. Administration by Mark Habdas