Cassin's Kingbird

Tyrannus vociferans

A large, noisy, and conspicuous flycatcher of the southwestern United States and Mexico, the Cassin's Kingbird can be distinguished from the other yellow kingbirds by its dark gray head and chest, and the white tip to its black tail.

Cool Facts

Photo taken from:
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America by David Allen Sibley
  • The ranges of Cassin’s and Western kingbirds overlap geographically and partially in elevation. Competition between the two species appears to be minimal in nesting and foraging habitats with ample insect prey. Cassin's Kingbird nest success is higher, however, in the absence of Western Kingbirds than where both species are present.
  • The Cassin's Kingbird was named after John Cassin, who was a curator at the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences.
  • In early spring pairs begin a peculiar dance, hovering in unison with outstretched wings and high-pitched calls over a favorite perch. This dance occurs several times a day over several days, over separate sites in an area covering two or three acres. The sites chosen for the dance appear to be the same sites used as hunting perches during the spring and summer.
  • They are often found high on a tree, where they sit more quietly than a Western Kingbird.
  • A group of kingbirds are collectively known as a "coronation", "court", and "tyranny" of kingbirds.

Description

Adult Description

  • Medium-sized songbird.
  • Head and chest gray.
  • Belly and under tail yellow.
  • Black square-tipped tail with white tip.

Immature Description

Similar to adult except browner on back, red in crown is reduced or lacking, and wingtip feathers lack notches. 
Range Map
 
Taxonomic Hierarchy

Spotted_Sandpiper_AllAm

© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Tyrannidae
Genus: Tyrannus
Species: Tyrannus vociferans
     Subspecies:
  • Tyrannus vociferans vociferans
  • Tyrannus vociferans xenopterus
Sound
Does not sing. Calls buzzy; also sharp chips. Wings of adult male make a high, buzzy trill.

Identification and Information
See Anatomy of a Bird
Body
  • Length Range: 20-23 cm (8-9 in)
  • Weight: 45 g (1.6 oz)
  • Size: Small (5 - 9 in)
  • Color Primary: Gray, Yellow
  • Underparts: Yellow with white coverts and dark gray breast.
  • Upperparts: Olive-gray
  • Back Pattern: Solid
  • Belly Pattern: Solid
  • Breast Pattern: Solid
 
Head
  • Bill Shape: All-purpose
  • Eye Color: Dark brown.
  • Head Pattern: Plain
  • Crown Color: Dark Gray
  • Forehead Color: Dark Gray
  • Nape Color: Dark Gray
  • Throat Color: White
  • Cere color: No Data
Flight
  • Flight Pattern: Buoyant fluttering flight with shallow wing beats.
  • Wingspan Range: 38-42 cm (15-16.5 in)
  • Wing Shape: Rounded-Wings
  • Tail Shape: Fan-shaped Tail
  • Tail Pattern: Solid
  • Upper Tail: Dark gray-brown with buff tip.
  • Under Tail: Dark gray-brown with buff tip.
  • Leg Color: Black
Breeding
  • Breeding Location: Forest edge, Grassland with scattered trees, Mountains
  • Breeding Type: Monogamous, Solitary nester
  • Breeding Population: Fairly common
  • Egg Color: Creamy white with brown marks at large end
  • Number of Eggs: 3 - 5
  • Incubation Days: 18 - 19
  • Egg Incubator: Female
  • Nest Material: Twigs, weed stems, rootlets, leaves, feathers, and hair.
  • Migration: Migratory
  • Condition at Hatching: Naked and helpless.

Other Names

Similar Species

  • Tyran de Cassin (French)
  • Matrugador chilero, picacuervo, abejero, posera, chituri gritón, chilera, churio, tirano, tiamaría, chalangandina, Tirano gritón (Spanish)
  • Western Kingbird has lighter gray head, back and breast; less contrasting white chin, and white outer tail feathers.
  • Tropical and Couch's kingbirds have yellower chest, larger bill, and no white in tail.

Conservation Status

Populations appear stable.

Habitat

Sources used to Construct this Page:

Found in open country with scattered trees or open woodlands.
  • Tweit, R. C., and J. C. Tweit. 2000. Cassin’s Kingbird (Tyrannus vociferans). In The Birds of North America No. 534 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
Food
Flying insects, some fruit.
Behavior
Captures most prey by aerial hawking from an elevated perch. Also grabs insects on ground.

Adult Male

Additional Photos & Video

 

All photos © 2008 Rick Swartzentrover - Free for non-profit use.

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