Couch's Kingbird Life History

Habitat

Habitat Open Woodlands

Couch’s Kingbirds tend to hunt from taller trees and so are less likely to be found in open agricultural areas or brushlands than most other kingbirds. Both during the breeding season and on the wintering grounds, they favor woodland edges or areas with at least scattered trees or groups of trees: taller thorn forest, riparian corridors, fruit groves, forest clearings, and well-treed suburban areas. Where its range overlaps with Tropical Kingbird, Couch’s uses areas of woody vegetation; Tropical uses the more open scrubby habitats, including maritime scrub, where Couch’s is normally absent.

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Food

Food Insects

Couch’s Kingbirds eat mostly flying insects, which they capture in flight, sallying from a tree perch to take prey, then usually returning to the perch to consume it. They also hover to glean insects from vegetation, and they pluck and consume small fruits, either while perched or hovering. Couch’s Kingbirds eat fruits of la coma, anacua, brasil, possum grape, magnolia, pyracantha, chinaberry, Chinese tallow, gumbo limbo, strangler fig, roble, and black poisonwood.

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Nesting

Nest Placement

Nest Tree

Nests are set about 20–40 feet above the ground in trees.

Nest Description

Nests are rough cups of twigs, bark, and roots, lined with finer roots, Spanish moss, and plant down, and built by the female. Nests average about 5.9 inches across and 2 inches tall, with interior cup 3 inches across and 1.2 inches deep.

Nesting Facts

Egg Description:

Cream or rich buff with dark spots.

Condition at Hatching:

Helpless and with sparse buff down.

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Behavior

Behavior Flycatching

Couch's Kingbird pairs maintain small territories around the nest site. Males raise the crown feathers, crouch down, and drive away other Couch’s Kingbirds (presumably males) that come too close to the nest site, chasing them in flight. Couch’s Kingbirds also drive cowbirds (brood parasites) and grackles (nest predators) away from their nest sites. As in other kingbirds, the male’s early-morning song probably serves to advertise to females and to mark the nesting territory. Males perform brief displays, quivering their wings, probably to suggest a nest site to the female. As in other kingbird species, members of a pair call and flutter their wings conspicuously when they meet back at the nest site, a greeting that probably helps maintain their pair bond. Both members of the pair gather nesting material and share incubation and chick-rearing duties. After the young have fledged, Couch’s Kingbirds eventually gather in small flocks (up to 50 birds) for migration. On the wintering grounds, they sometimes join groups of other birds such as Green Jays, Altamira and Hooded Orioles, Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, Clay-colored Robins, Great Kiskadees, and other flycatcher species.

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Conservation

Conservation Low Concern

Couch's Kingbirds have expanded their range in the United States in the last half-century, and according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey their U.S. numbers increased strongly from 1966 to 2015. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 1.1 million and rates the species a 10 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, indicating a species of relatively low conservation concern. This species’ use of residential areas may have contributed to population increases.

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Credits

Brush, Timothy. (1999). Couch's Kingbird (Tyrannus couchii), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Partners in Flight (2017). Avian Conservation Assessment Database. 2017.

Sauer, J. R., D. K. Niven, J. E. Hines, D. J. Ziolkowski Jr., K. L. Pardieck, J. E. Fallon, and W. A. Link (2017). The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966–2015. Version 2.07.2017. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.

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