- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Tyrannidae
Couch's Kingbird is a large, yellow-and-gray flycatcher that looks nearly identical to the more widespread Tropical Kingbird. Couch's Kingbirds have a slightly greener cast to the upperparts and on balance a shorter bill, but the best way to distinguish the two species is to listen to their calls—Couch's makes a distinctive, grating kip-kip-breeeer. Couch’s Kingbird uses lightly wooded areas such as thorn forest, wooded stream edges, and suburbs; whereas Tropical tends to occupy more open habitats.More ID Info
Find This Bird
The best place to find Couch’s Kingbirds in the United States is in South Texas (the species has also been expanding its range along the Gulf Coast). They are migratory, so they'll be easier to find in summertime. Bypass open country (inhabited by other kingbird species) and look instead in areas with scattered trees. Be sure to brush up on their call notes, both to home in on the birds and to tell them apart from the very similar-looking Tropical Kingbird.
- Tirano Silbador (Spanish)
- Tyran de Couch (French)
- Cool Facts
- The Couch’s Kingbird is named for Lieutenant Darius Nash Couch, a naturalist and soldier from the United States who collected the first scientific specimen near San Diego, Nuevo León, Mexico, in 1853.
- Soon after it was described as a species, in 1859, the Couch’s Kingbird was regarded as a subspecies of the Tropical Kingbird. It was only in the 1960s that ornithologists keyed in on the different calls of the two species. In 1980, Couch's status as a full species was restored.
- Couch’s Kingbirds share part of their range with Tropical and Western Kingbirds. Both of these species occupy more open areas, while Couch’s favors lightly wooded habitats.
- The Couch’s Kingbird is one of many western and Mexican species that offer an excellent opportunity for people to make pioneering contributions to basic natural history: there are still no studies of its diet, foraging, breeding, or general ecology!
- Song is the best way to distinguish Couch's Kingbird from Tropical Kingbird. The shallower notch in the Couch's tail and the greener back are difficult to detect. The slightly larger Couch's usually has a longer wing but a shorter bill than the Tropical Kingbird, but these differences are only detectable by taking measurements of birds in the hand.