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Eastern Kingbird


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

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.


Male Eastern Kingbirds sing a complex vocalization from perches before dawn or occasionally in the evening. This sound consists of high, sputtering notes followed by a buzzy zeer, repeated many times, with each song lasting about 1.5 seconds.


Males vocalize more than females, but both give a variety of high-pitched, short, explosive calls with an electric quality.

Other Sounds

Adults and older nestlings snap their bills at humans or other animals that threaten the nest. They use the same bill snap in aggressive interactions with members of their own species. Adults make a whirring sound with their wings, possibly with notched primary feathers.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

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.

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.



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bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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