Living Bird Magazine
Great KiskadeePitangus sulphuratus
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Tyrannidae
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.More ID Info
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.
- Bienteveo Común (Spanish)
- Tyran quiquivi (French)
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.
- Cool Facts
- The Great Kiskadee (so named for its three-syllable call) is one of the largest and most boisterous members of the tyrant flycatcher family. It has a big square head and stocky body like a kingfisher, and an omnivorous diet and bold behavior like a jay. They often eat small fish and snails.
- The kiskadee’s bold behavior and mix of foraging styles gave early naturalists fits in trying to classify it. In 1766, Linnaeus started things off by calling it a kind of shrike. In 1920, the naturalist William Henry Hudson wrote that the bird “seems to have studied to advantage the various habits of the Kestrel, Flycatcher, Kingfisher, Vulture, and fruit-eating Thrush; and when its weapons prove weak it supplements them with its cunning.”
- Great Kiskadees are aggressive. They will boldly chase larger animals that attempt to raid their nests, such as monkeys, raptors, and snakes.
- The Great Kiskadee has a black mask that works like the eye-black that athletes smear beneath their eyes—an adaptation to reduce glare and assist them in hunting in bright light or where light reflects off water.
- For U.S. birders, Great Kiskadees belong to a suite of South Texas specialties, along with Green Jays and Altamira Orioles—birds with mostly tropical ranges that extend just north of the Texas border. South of the border, Great Kiskadees are common species through Central and South America.
- The oldest recorded Great Kiskadee lived in Texas, and was male, at least 6 years, 11 months old.