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Monday, June 13, 2011

Kingbirds plus ID tips

Eastern Kingbird breeds across much of the eastern 2/3 of the U.S. and Canada

Western Kingbird breeds in the western half of the country

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, juv.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, female. They breed mainly in the south-central area of the U.S. but can wander far.

Fork-tailed Flycatcher is rare and breeds in Cent. and S. America and is a vagrant to anywhere in North America, mostly to eastern North America.

They have really long tails!

Fork-tailed Flycatcher in flight

Eastern Kingbirds breed on our pond here in NH, building their nest in the Buttonwood shrubs at the edge of the water. These big flycatchers sit on perches and fly out to catch insects in the air. We love to bring our binos in our canoe or kayaks and watch the kingbirds flying out over the water. Known for their fierce personality, they were given the scientific name, Tyrannus tyrannus, hence the joke that they are too (two) tyrannical.

If you live in the West, you will see their relative the Western Kingbird, which has a gray head and back and yellow on the belly. Amazingly, we once had a Western Kingbird show up on our property here in southwest, NH, way out of it's range, but they are know to wander far and wide.

Here are our Identification Tips to Kingbird Species ID, from page 477 of our new, best-selling, "The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America"

"Kingbirds are fairly large flycatchers that belong to the genus Tyrannus. Most have rather large thick bills and medium-length tails, and they tend to perch conspicuously as they look for insects. Two species, the Fork-tailed and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, have extremely long tails; four species, Tropical, Couch's, Cassin's, and Western Kingbirds, are similarly colored, with grayish heads and bright yellow bellies; the remaining three species, Thick-billed, Gray, and Eastern Kingbirds are mostly dark gray above and white below. In this group, look closely at the length and thickness of the bill and the patterns of colors on the breast and belly.

1 comment:

Emma Springfield said...

All of the birds you have pictured today look like they are standing at attention. Lovely pictures.