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Great Kiskadee


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Great Kiskadees are a treat for bird watchers who visit south Texas—and the birds won’t keep you waiting. They’re boisterous in both attitude and color: a black bandit’s mask, a yellow belly, and flashes of warm reddish-brown when they fly. Kiskadees sit out in the open and attract attention with incessant kis-ka-dee calls and sallying flights. Despite their small U.S. range, this is one of the most widespread flycatchers in the Western Hemisphere.

Keys to identification Help

Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    Great Kiskadees are large, blocky flycatchers. They have a large head, thick neck, and straight, very stout bill. The wings are broad and rounded and the tail is medium length and square tipped.

  • Color Pattern

    Kiskadees are an eye-catching mix of black, white, yellow, and reddish-brown. The black head is set off by a bold white eyebrow and throat; the underparts are yellow. The wings and tail are a warm reddish brown that is particularly noticeable in flight.

  • Behavior

    These are bold, loud birds that quickly make their presence known. They sit on exposed branches near the tops of trees, often above water, where they give a piercing kis-ka-dee call and dart out to catch flying insects or pluck food—often small fish—from the water. They also eat fruit and sometimes come to feeders.

  • Habitat

    In the U.S., Great Kiskadees live in thorn-scrub and riverine forests of southern Texas, as well as along scrubby irrigation channels, open or second-growth woodlots, and suburbs. They are also widespread from Mexico through South America.

Range Map Help

Great Kiskadee Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Adult

    Great Kiskadee

    • Large, stocky flycatcher
    • Stout, flattened black bill
    • Bright yellow underparts contrast with reddish-brown back and wings
    • Head boldly patterned in black and white
    • © Christopher L. Wood, Texas
  • Unknown

    Great Kiskadee

    • Large, heavy-billed flycatcher
    • Bright, lemon-yellow underparts
    • Large head patterned with black and white stripes
    • Reddish-brown wings
    • © Luke Seitz, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa RIca, November 2010
  • Adult

    Great Kiskadee

    • Stocky, large-headed flycatcher
    • Heavy black bill
    • Bright yellow below, warm reddish-brown above
    • © Laura Erickson, Texas, February 2013

Similar Species

Great Kiskadees are distinctively marked, so they’re fairly easy to separate from other large, yellow flycatchers in the U.S., such as Tropical Kingbird, Couch’s Kingbird, and Western Kingbird. These three species lack the kiskadee’s bold black-and-white head pattern and rufous wings and tail. The Brown-crested Flycatcher (and others in the genus Myiarchus) do show rufous in the wings and tail, but they also lack the kiskadee’s bold black-and-white head pattern. South of the U.S.–Mexico border, many flycatcher species (such as the Lesser Kiskadee) show a similar color pattern but can be separated by size, shape, and habitat.

Backyard Tips

Great Kiskadees readily come to feeders to eat fruit such as bananas. Watch out for these bold birds: they also readily steal other kinds of food, such as bread, peanut butter, and pet food.

Find This Bird

Great Kiskadees are loud, colorful birds, so as long as you’re within their range and in the appropriate habitat, you should have good luck finding them. Look for them in low, open woods particularly near streams and oxbow lakes, where they perch out in the open near the tops of trees. Look for bright yellow movement and a flash of rufous in the wings as the birds fly out after prey. You may not recognize their piercing kiskadee calls at first, but they’re hard to ignore—follow the sound to track down these avian extroverts.



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