Eastern Kingbird

Tyrannus tyrannus



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Photos from this Account

Eastern Kingbird in Alternate Plumage.

Broad-shouldered and big-headed tyrant flycatcher with contrasting matte black upperparts, shading to grayish slate on the back. Upper chest marked by faint grayish band, but underparts otherwise clean white. White terminal tail band is characteristic. Head often appears crested. Note the middle tertial (s8) was replaced during the prealternate molt; in most birds, First and Definitive Alternate Plumages are not distinguishable.

Eastern Kingbird in Alternate Plumage.

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. Image by Peter Riley.

Eastern Kingbird in Alternate Plumage.

Upperwing coverts slate grayish, the median and greater coverts with thin whitish edges to the outer webs. Remiges and primary coverts similar in color but slightly duller gray, the tertials and secondaries with white edgings to outer webs.

Eastern Kingbird in Alternate Plumage.

Chin, throat, and underparts white, the sides of upper breast with slight smoke gray shading, sometimes extending indistinctly to center and separating throat from remainder of breast.

Male Eastern Kingbird in Alternate Plumage.

Note, outer 2 primaries (p9-p10) conspicuously notched in males, whereas p10 is only moderately notched in females.

Eastern Kingbird in Alternate Plumage.

Crown, nape, and sides of head are a dull grayish black, with a concealed patch of red, orange, or yellow feathers often bordered with white at the center of the crown.

Juvenile Eastern Kingbird.

In juvenile plumage, nape and rump feathers are narrowly fringed with pale brown. The white tips to the tail are less distinct, narrower, and tinged with pale brown.

Juvenile Eastern Kingbirds.

Similar to later plumages, but edging to upperwing greater and median coverts more conspicuous and washed buff; outer edgings of secondaries cinnamon and primaries thinly edged pale buff to yellowish white. Juvenile body feathers filamentous due to lower barb density than feathers of later plumages.

Example of Eastern Kingbird habitat.

Favors open environments, but may use a wide variety of habitats opportunistically.

Eastern Kingbird with prey item.

Diet is primarily comprised of insects, but may include a variety of other items.

Eastern Kingbird performing Wing-Flutter display.

Mates often greet one another using the Wing-Flutter display.

Sunbathing Eastern Kingbird.

May sunbathe when perched at highly exposed sites.

Eastern Kingbirds interacting.

Most kingbird communication relies heavily on both auditory and visual signals.

Eastern Kingbirds interacting.

Note exposed red crown patches.

Eastern Kingbird attacking Osprey.

Known to aggressively pursue raptors and large birds.

Eastern Kingbird nest with eggs.

Nests often highly exposed because of position on canopy edge or on dead snag. Evidence suggests preference for use of very low nests placed on horizontal limbs well out over water.

Eastern Kingbird nest, Oregon.

Nest relatively large; often seems disheveled, but sturdy. Exterior composed principally of small twigs, coarse roots, dry weed stems, and sometimes strips of bark. Softer material (willow catkins, and cottonwood and cattail more common toward inside. Collected Harney Co., OR. 18 June. Ruler is in cm.; photographer Rene Corado.

Eastern Kingbird eggs in nest.

Egg color is whitish, and marked around blunt end with ring of brownish, irregular spots of varying size. Clutch size is variable; between 2-5 eggs.

Eastern Kingbird clutch, Pennsylvania.

Philadelphia Co. PA. 2 June. Ruler is in cm.; photographer Rene Corado.

Adult female Eastern Kingbird on nest.

Only females have brood patches and incubate.

Adult female Eastern Kingbird on nest.
Eastern Kingbird feeding nestlings.

Nestlings are fed by both sexes.

Eastern Kingbird feeding fledglings.

Young remain completely dependent on parents for food for at least 2 wk after fledging. Entire family unit normally remains together.

Adult Eastern Kingbird (cover image).

Recommended Citation

Murphy, M. T. and P. Pyle. 2018. Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.