Tropical Kingbird

Tyrannus melancholicus

An extremely common and widespread bird of the American tropics, the Tropical Kingbird barely reaches the United States in south Texas and southern Arizona.

Interesting Information

  • Although a widespread bird and a seemingly typical kingbird, the Tropical Kingbird is among the most specialized of flycatchers. It forages almost exclusively by sallying after large flying insects.

  • The Tropical Kingbird has become a regular fall visitor to the Pacific Coast of the United States. Nearly every year a few wandering kingbirds are discovered there. Most of these are immature birds.

  • The Tropical Kingbird aggressively defends its territory against intruders, including much larger birds such as toucans, hawks and frigatebirds.

  • It sings a distinctive song, called the "Dawn Song," beginning before sunrise and ending when the sun appears.

  • During courtship displays, the male will perch and flaps his wings, sometimes lifting off from this position.

  • A group of kingbirds are collectively known as a "coronation", "court", and "tyranny" of kingbirds.


Adult Description

  • Length Range: 18-24 cm (7-9.5 in)

  • Weight: 37 g (1.3 oz)

Medium-sized songbird.

Back grayish green.

Underparts yellow.

Head gray.

Plain blackish brown tail.

Sex Differences

Sexes Similar


Similar to adult except red in crown is reduced and wingtip feathers lack notches.


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

© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology


Open country with scattered trees, urban areas, mangrove forests, cactus forests.


Aerial hawking from elevated perch.


Flying insects, some fruit.



Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Tyrannidae
Genus: Tyrannus
Species: Tyrannus melancholicus
    Subspecies: Tyrannus melancholicus despotes
  Tyrannus melancholicus melancholicus
  Tyrannus melancholicus satrapa

Similar Species

  • Very similar to Couch's Kingbird; best separated by voice.

  • Cassin's Kingbird has darker gray head, back and breast; more contrasting white chin, and white tip to tail.

  • Western Kingbird has white outer edges to its black tail, a grayer chest, and a smaller bill.

Bird Sound

Song a twittery "pip-pip-pip-pip."

Eggs look like this

Photo taken from: ARCTOS Collaborative Collection Management Solution