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Merlin Bird ID

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    Eastern Kingbird

    ID Info
    Silhouette FlycatchersFlycatchers

    Eastern Kingbird

    Tyrannus tyrannus
    • ORDER: Passeriformes
    • FAMILY: Tyrannidae
    Basic Description

    With dark gray upperparts and a neat white tip to the tail, the Eastern Kingbird looks like it’s wearing a business suit. And this big-headed, broad-shouldered bird does mean business—just watch one harassing crows, Red-tailed Hawks, Great Blue Herons, and other birds that pass over its territory. Eastern Kingbirds often perch on wires in open areas and either sally out for flying insects or flutter slowly over the tops of grasses. They spend winters in South American forests, where they eat mainly fruit.

    More ID Info
    image of range map for Eastern KingbirdRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

    Find This Bird

    In overgrown fields near forest edges, scan for a large, dark-backed flycatcher atop a shrub, fencepost, or wire. Wait for it to sally out to catch an insect, and look for an all-white belly and white-tipped tail. On country drives you can also often spot them as they sit on fence wires; it also helps to learn their distinctive call note, which sounds like an electric spark or zap. You can see Eastern Kingbirds starting in March or April until they head south again in late July or August.

    Other Names
    • Tirano Dorso Negro (Spanish)
    • Tyran tritri (French)

    Backyard Tips

    Kingbirds may visit open yards with nearby trees, scattered vegetation, and lots of insects. Berry bushes may help attract them, particularly in late summer and fall.

    • Cool Facts