Eastern Kingbird

Tyrannus tyrannus

A large dark flycatcher of fields and other open areas, the Eastern Kingbird is a common and widespread species. Despite its name, its range extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast.

Cool Facts

Photo taken from:
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America by David Allen Sibley
  • The Eastern Kingbird is highly aggressive toward nest predators and larger birds. Hawks and crows are attacked regularly. A kingbird was observed to knock a Blue Jay out of a tree and cause it to hide under bush to escape the attack.
  • During the summer the Eastern Kingbird eats mostly flying insects and maintains a breeding territory that it defends vigorously against all other kingbirds. In the winter along the Amazon, however, it has a completely different lifestyle: it travels in flocks and eats fruit.
  • Parent Eastern Kingbirds feed their young for about seven weeks. Because of this relatively long period of dependence, a pair generally raises only one brood of young per nesting season.


Adult Description

  • Medium-sized songbird.
  • Head and back dark.
  • Throat, chest, and belly white.
  • White tip to dark tail.

Immature Description

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


2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Tyrannidae
Genus: Tyrannus
Species: Tyrannus tyrannus
Song a series of high-pitched sputtering notes followed by a down slurred buzzy "zeer." "Ti-t-t-t-ti-zeer." Also utters the "zeer's alone.

Identification and Information
See Anatomy of a Bird
  • Length Range: 22 cm (8.5 in)
  • Weight: 43 g (1.5 oz)
  • Size: Small (5 - 9 in)
  • Color Primary: White, Gray
  • Underparts: White with gray wash on breast.
  • Upperparts: Dark Gray
  • Back Pattern: Solid
  • Belly Pattern: Solid
  • Breast Pattern: Solid
  • Bill Shape: All-purpose
  • Eye Color: Brown.
  • Head Pattern: Plain, Unique pattern
  • Crown Color: Black
  • Forehead Color: Black
  • Nape Color: Black
  • Throat Color: White
  • Cere color: No Data
  • Flight Pattern: Fluttering direct flight with shallow wing beats.
  • Wingspan Range: 36-38 cm (14-15 in)
  • Wing Shape: Pointed-Wings
  • Tail Shape: Squared Tail
  • Tail Pattern: Solid with white edging.
  • Upper Tail: Black with white terminal band.
  • Under Tail: Black with white terminal band.
  • Leg Color: Black
  • Breeding Location: Forest
  • Breeding Type: Monogamous, Solitary nester
  • Breeding Population: Fairly common to common
  • Egg Color: White to pink with brown, lavender and gray marks
  • Number of Eggs: 3 - 5
  • Incubation Days: 16 - 18
  • Egg Incubator: Female
  • Nest Material: Twigs, weeds, and grasses.
  • Migration: Migratory
  • Condition at Hatching: Helpless and with sparse down.

Other Names

Similar Species

  • Tyran tritri (French)
  • Pitirre americano, Tirano viajero (Spanish)
  • Gray Kingbird is similar, but shows a dark mask on its otherwise lighter head, is paler gray on the back, and lacks the white tail tip.
  • Thick-billed Kingbird is brownish gray on the back and lacks the white tail tip.
  • Eastern Phoebe is smaller, is paler gray on the back and dirtier white or yellowish underneath, has a proportionately longer tail that lacks a white tip, and constantly wags its tail.

Conservation Status

Widespread and common, but populations may be decreasing.


Sources used to Construct this Page:

  • Breeds in open environments with scattered perches, such as fields, orchards, shelterbelts, and forest edges. Uses urban parks and golf courses.
  • Winters in river- and lake-edge habitats and canopy of tropical forests.
  • Murphy, M. T. 1996. Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus). In The Birds of North America, No. 253 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
Flying insects, fruits especially in winter.
Captures most prey by aerial hawking from an elevated perch. Also grabs insects off vegetation with its bill.

Adult Sexes Similar

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Additional Photos & Video

Adult Sexes Similar

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

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