|Species: Western Kingbird
Perched with regal air on an old fence
post or hawking with graceful flight low over the fields, the
Western Kingbird is one of the most charismatic of Colony Farm’s
birds. The largest of British Columbia’s flycatchers, this iconic
bird of open country is characterized by a yellow “butter belly”,
grey back, long elegant tail and pugnacious attitude. The Western
Kingbird is found throughout the North American west, but is rare in
the lower mainland, with Colony Farm as one of the best places to
A large tyrant flycatcher, 8.75” long
with a 15.5” wingspan, usually conspicuously perched in open
grassland and meadows. Identifiable by a grey-green back, grey head
with a white chin and pale grey breast, bright yellow belly and long
black tail. This bird exhibits a leisurely robin-like flight,
usually hawking low over the fields. Though rarely seen, the Western
Kingbird sports a small red crown most visible during courtship,
which along with their imperious character is the source of their
Adult Male: Males and Females are identical.
Adult Female: Males and Females are identical.
Juvenile: Paler belly, breast, and head than the adult.
Similar Species: Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus, tryannus):
Similar habitat and appearance but with dark grey upper body, black
head, and all white breast and belly.
Behaviour: Perches on exposed stumps and fence posts, hawks
low over the fields. Famous for its territoriality and aggression,
even towards raptors and other potential predators. The male has a
spectacular courtship display in which he shows off his aerial
prowess in a dramatic array of twists and tumbles as he descends
(sometimes from over sixty feet) to an accompaniment of spirited
Habitat: Open country, dry rangeland, and riparian areas with
trees and perches in vicinity. Readily makes use of wire and fence
posts for nesting.
Feeds primarily on insects, but also
enjoys berries on occasion. A neo-tropical migrant, they spend their
winter from Mexico southward, returning to delight us in May and
June. Clutches vary in size according to insect populations, with
the parents laying earlier, laying more eggs, and with the young
growing more quickly when insects are abundant.
Fortunately the Western Kingbird has
done quite well for itself, benefiting from increased agricultural
clearing and is in fact expanding its range eastward.