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.

Interesting Information

  • 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.


Adult Description

  • Length Range: 20-23 cm (8-9 in)

  • Weight: 45 g (1.6 oz)

Medium-sized songbird.

Head and chest gray.

Belly and under tail yellow.

Black square-tipped tail with white tip.

Sex Differences

Sexes Similar


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


Photo taken from: The Sibley Field Guide by David Allen Sibley

© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology


Found in open country with scattered trees or open woodlands.


Captures most prey by aerial hawking from an elevated perch. Also grabs insects on ground.


Flying insects, some fruit.



Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Tyrannidae
Genus: Tyrannus
Species: Tyrannus vociferans
    Subspecies: Tyrannus vociferans vociferans
  Tyrannus vociferans xenopterus

Similar Species

  • 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.

Bird Sound

Does not sing. Calls buzzy; also sharp chips. Wings of adult male make a high, buzzy trill.

Eggs look like this

Photo taken from: ARCTOS Collaborative Collection Management Solution