Western Kingbird

Tyrannus verticalis

A conspicuous and aggressive bird of open country, the Western Kingbird is common throughout the western United States and southern Canada. It is often found around human habitation, and frequently uses telephone poles, fence posts, and other man-made structures for nesting.

Cool Facts

Photo taken from:
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America by David Allen Sibley
  • The breeding range of the Western Kingbird has been expanding eastward for the last 100 years. It has been associated with tree planting across the Great Plains. It was unknown in Florida until about 1915, but has become a regular winter visitor since then.
  • A Western Kingbird pair defends a rather loosely defined territory against other kingbirds. After pairing takes place they defend a smaller and smaller territory. By the middle of incubation the territory is quite small, concentrated primarily on the nest tree and nest.
  • The Western Kingbird is regularly noted in the fall along the East Coast, from Newfoundland to Florida. Individuals are seen in some coastal spots every year. Spring records, however, are rare.
  • A group of kingbirds are collectively known as a "coronation", "court", and "tyranny" of kingbirds.


Adult Description

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

Immature Description

Juvenile similar to adult, but paler, wings edged with buff, crown without orange feathers.
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 verticalis
Song a series of "kip" notes followed by series of high-pitched fussy chittering notes. Common call a sharp "kip" note.

Identification and Information
See Anatomy of a Bird
  • Length Range: 22 cm (8.75 in)
  • Weight: 40 g (1.4 oz)
  • Size: Small (5 - 9 in)
  • Color Primary: Brown, Gray, Yellow
  • Underparts: Bright yellow with pale gray breast.
  • Upperparts: Gray
  • Back Pattern: Solid
  • Belly Pattern: Solid
  • Breast Pattern: Solid
  • Bill Shape: All-purpose
  • Eye Color: Dark brown to hazel.
  • Head Pattern: Plain
  • Crown Color: Pale Gray
  • Forehead Color: Pale Gray
  • Nape Color: Pale Gray
  • Throat Color: Pale Gray
  • Cere color: No Data
  • Flight Pattern: Buoyant fluttering flight with shallow wing beats.
  • Wingspan Range: 38-41 cm (15-16 in)
  • Wing Shape: Broad-Wings
  • Tail Shape: Fan-shaped Tail
  • Tail Pattern: Solid
  • Upper Tail: Black
  • Under Tail: Black
  • Leg Color: Black
  • Breeding Location: Grassland with scattered trees, Desert
  • Breeding Type: Monogamous, Solitary nester
  • Breeding Population: Fairly common to common
  • Egg Color: White, marked with brown, lavender and black
  • Number of Eggs: 3 - 7
  • Incubation Days: 18 - 19
  • Egg Incubator: Female
  • Nest Material: Grass, weeds, twigs, plant fibers, lined with finer materials, including plant down and cotton.
  • Migration: Migratory
  • Condition at Hatching: Helpless and with sparse white down.

Other Names

Similar Species

  • Tyran de l'Ouest (French)
  • Madrugador avispero (Spanish)
  • Similar to Cassin's, Tropical, and Couch's kingbirds.
  • Cassin's has darker gray head, back and breast; more contrasting white chin, and white tip to tail.
  • Tropical and Couch's kingbirds have no white in tail, yellower chest, and larger bill.

Conservation Status

Widespread and common. No significant nationwide trend, but some local increases and decreases.


Sources used to Construct this Page:

Prefers open habitats with trees, shrubs, or tall man-made structures. Habitats include grassland, desert shrub, pasture, savanna, and urban areas.
  • Gamble, L. R., and T. M. Bergin. 1996. Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis). In The Birds of North America, No. 227 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
Flying insects and some fruit.
Captures most prey by aerial hawking from an elevated perch. Also grabs insects on ground and off vegetation.

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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