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.

Cool Facts

Photo taken from:
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America by David Allen Sibley
  • 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

  • Medium-sized songbird.
  • Back grayish green.
  • Underparts yellow.
  • Head gray.
  • Plain blackish brown tail.

Immature Description

Similar to adult except red in crown is reduced and wingtip feathers lack notches.
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 melancholicus
  • Tyrannus melancholicus despotes
  • Tyrannus melancholicus melancholicus
  • Tyrannus melancholicus satrapa
Song a twittery "pip-pip-pip-pip."

Identification and Information
See Anatomy of a Bird
  • Length Range: 18-24 cm (7-9.5 in)
  • Weight: 37 g (1.3 oz)
  • Size: Small (5 - 9 in)
  • Color Primary: Brown, Yellow, Olive
  • Underparts: Yellow with olive breast.
  • Upperparts: Olive-gray
  • Back Pattern: Solid
  • Belly Pattern: Solid
  • Breast Pattern: Solid
  • Eye Color: Dark brown.
  • Head Pattern: Unique pattern
  • Crown Color: Pale Gray
  • Forehead Color: Pale Gray
  • Nape Color: Pale Gray
  • Throat Color: White with gray wash.
  • Cere color: No Data
  • Flight Pattern: Weak fluttering flight with shallow wing beats.
  • Wingspan Range: 38-41 cm (15-16 in)
  • Wing Shape: Pointed-Wings
  • Tail Shape: Forked Tail
  • Tail Pattern: Solid
  • Upper Tail: Brown
  • Under Tail: Brown
  • Leg Color: Black
  • Breeding Location: Forest
  • Breeding Type: Monogamous, Solitary nester
  • Breeding Population: Casual to accidental
  • Egg Color: Buff or pink with brown and purple marks
  • Number of Eggs: 3 - 5
  • Incubation Days: 15 - 16
  • Egg Incubator: Female
  • Nest Material: Twigs, grasses, stems, bark, plant fibers., Lined with moss, horsehair, and other fine materials.
  • Migration: Migratory
  • Condition at Hatching: Helpless and with sparse gray down.

Other Names

Similar Species

  • Tyrannus mélancolique (French)
  • Tirano tropical (Spanish)
  • 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.

Conservation Status

Lives well with people. Range has expanded with human-induced changes in landscape.


Sources used to Construct this Page:

Open country with scattered trees, urban areas, mangrove forests, cactus forests.
  • Stouffer, P. C., and R. T. Chesser. 1998. Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus). In The Birds of North America, No. 358 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
Flying insects, some fruit.
Aerial hawking from elevated perch.

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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